My Poor Bronchioles!

I am seriously motherfucking ill. Excuse the language, but my chest feels like it has tiny daggers in it that go just a little bit deeper each time I breathe. This has been coming on for a month now but the doctor said "it's just a sinus infection, viral, nothing we can do about it but it will go away on its own." That was something like two weeks before Thanksgiving. So for the past month I've been feeling congested, achy, and generally just shitty. Then, yesterday the proverbial shit finally hit the fan. I woke up after three hours of sleep with sharp pain in my left lung. Went to the doctor, who promptly sent me to the ER. With a medical history containing the words "pulmonary embuli", that's doctor-speak for multiple blood clots in my lungs, pretty much any chest pain I get, from a pulled muscle to bronchitis, is treated as if it could be life threatening. A very nice way to get through triage fast; I didn't even see the waiting room.

So my wonderful BF brought me my (brand new) PowerBook (that I'm entirely in love with)and some school work. Then he whisked the little man off to spend the night at grandma's house and came back to sit and wait with me. My mom came too, she rocks and her skills as a nurse came in quite handy when they removed my IV, gauzed and taped it, and a minute later I was dripping blood all over myself and the floor. One of the wonderful side effects of taking blood thinners is that you never know whether or not you're going to bleed like a stuck pig. I get blood-work done routinely and there's never more than a drop or two on the gauze when I take it off, but Jesus Christ, this big fat gauze pad and the tape that was holding it in place were a lovely shade of deep red, soaked through.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Something was obviously wrong. Beside the pain, which I'd reigned in with the help of my good friend Darvocet, my blood oxygenation level was below 90% (not good) and my heart rate was hovering around 130 beats per minute (also not good). So they drew what seemed like a gallon of blood to test the hell out of, gave me a nebulizer treatment, which never does a damn thing, gave me a chest x-ray, and followed that nice little dose of radiation with a massive dose courtesy of the CT scanner. The worst part was that I wasn't allowed to drink anything. I didn't give a shit about eating, but with my sinuses full of gunk, the constant mouth breathing left me feeling like my mouth was the Mojave. Their solution: ice chips. Now as any woman who's done the whole childbirth thing knows, ice chips suck. They are a poor substitute for actual hydration, which is what I was really craving. And the bag of saline that they were pumping into my veins didn't do the trick either. So it just sucked.

All of my labs came back normal. The chest x-ray and CT showed nothing. Diagnosis: Bronchitis with a secondary helping of pleurisy. Now bronchitis I can deal with, but pleurisy is one of those things that you'd wish on your worst enemy. From what I understand, the membrane surrounding your lungs has a gel-like substance between it and your lung tissue. Usually this is highly viscous and acts like a good lube when you breathe. Pleurisy is when that substance becomes sticky and creates lots of painful friction with each breath. Think about sex without lube. Not good. That's what this feels like with every breath.

So now, on the eve of finals, with my European history thesis still unwritten and much studying to do, I feel like shit. I did, however, get a paper revised while I sat waiting for my results, so there's a plus. I really must crack the doctors and nurses up in the ER though. I can rate my pain on a one to ten scale like a pro, I speak their language (bilateral PEs, lower left quadrant, palpate, acute pain, diffused throughout the lung), I can predict with pretty good accuracy what tests will be run, and generally know how to be a patient. Hell, I've had years of practice. But what they seem to like the most, and are the most surprised at, is my demeanor. I run down my medical history, my list of drugs, my symptoms, all of that, and all the while I'm friendly, smiling, helpful. It's something you just get used to after a while. It's like "Okay, I have chest pain, this is going to mean a 5 hour trip to the ER and there's no getting out of it, so I suck it up and deal." And I do. I see no reason to be uncooperative or unfriendly to the staff there, and I learned long ago that this is my hand to play, I can be miserable about it, or I can accept it with a smile. So that's what I do and let me tell you, it makes the whole experience far more bearable.

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