Here I sit. There my mom sits. We are two peas in a pod trying to make it by. My mom is a gimp at her hip. She has been in pretty much perpetual pain for over two weeks. I have taken care of her, and then yesterday my turn came. We had gone out to her chiropractor appointment, drove through our nearest Starbucks, and then went to Jimmy Johns to chow down on what was my sole meal of the day. When we got back to the house, my mom went into the bathroom, I took the boys – my sister and her boyfriend’s two puppies – out for a small walk and when I came back in, sat down at the kitchen island to begin tap, tap, tapping away on a new blog post. Turns out within thirty seconds of sitting down, it felt like my lungs had collapsed or that someone was squeezing my ribcage to a breaking point. When I tried to suck in a breath, I felt the air going in, but could not benefit from it. There is this moment in the book The Name of the Wind where the main character, Kvothe, tries to trick his teacher by “calling the wind.” In trying to make it look like he has, he bound his breath to the air outside, and when he blew a breath out, it looked like he controlled the wind. But when he tried to breathe in, he was incapable. That was the first thought that went through my head (yes, I am a literary bug, a book-worm if you will). Desperately trying to pull a breath in as it felt like someone was crushing my ribs. The second image I can come up with is what I imagine a victim of a boa constrictor goes through. Each time I sucked in a breath, it felt like the tightening of my muscles and rib cage sucked in further.
I tried standing up with the thought that maybe my sitting position was causing this (mind you, this all happened in about a fifteen second time period so far) and when I stood, I started seeing black dots and fell to my knees. At this point I managed to get out the words, “Oh shit,” although it hurt to even talk. I tried standing again and managed to make my way to the stairs, where I crawled up them. As this is passing, I begin to feel like an anxiety attack is starting (which, when you stop being able to bring in breath, you let me know if you don’t go into shock). I sweat profusely, turn white as a sheet, almost black out and fall down the stairs I was attempting to go up (I also felt like I was going to throw up hot blood, hence the progression to the upstairs bathroom). When I crawled the final few steps and made it to the landing the inability to breathe was at a “beyond scary” point. I checked my pulse, while mentally talking myself down from the ledge that are my panic attacks, and notice that my heartbeat has become frighteningly shallow, and rather than the beat speeding up, has dwindle to almost non-existent. Going into shock can do this. It can cause cardiac arrest. At this point I was desperately trying to pull myself out of the panic and concentrate on breathing. Getting the oxygen in. I manage to calm myself enough that I can call out to my mom.
Now, my mom has not been able to climb stairs. It sets off the pain in her leg to the point of unbearable. It precipitates the attacks that have caused us to take her to the hospital. But as soon as I called, she came. Love is a strong force. She manages to make it up the stairs, sees me and goes, “We need to get to you the ER.” I said, “Call 911. Just call.” “Do you think we can wait for Aunt Barbara?” “CALL 911, I can’t breathe. I CANNOT BREATHE.” She calls. The episode calmed down enough that I was able to move down the stairs and walk out to the ambulance. Once in the ambulance a second episode occurred and the EMTs told me I turned almost blue.
Once we got to the ER, they drew blood and did almost every test in the book to rule out heart attack (EKG), pneumonia, fractured ribs, lung deflation (x-rays), and then we had to request an ultrasound because my mom said my descriptions sounded like the gall bladder attacks she used to have. While waiting for these tests, they gave me Ativan believing that I was in the midst of a panic attack (although I told them I know how mine track, hadn’t had one in months and months, and I have developed the art of making sure they don’t inflict too much pain; I also told them that given the fact I couldn’t breathe, obviously panic and anxiety were going to play a part in the pain making diagnosis harder to decipher, but this was definitely NOT a panic attack). Even after the Ativan, I had another attack, not being able to bring breathe in. They were operating with the thought I was hyperventilating and could not understand why I was still turning white and blue with a high dose of an anti-anxiety medication in my system and going through hyperventilation exercises.
When I finally got my ultrasound, the technician seemed concerned with the area around liver and gall bladder. He took many pictures and then sent me back to the ER. The doctor came in about twenty minutes later to tell me the results of the ultrasound where he states I have a polyp and possible gall stone, that my gall bladder had constricted considerably and that there was a (for the non-technical term) sludge in my gall bladder that can precipitate further development of stones (so in laymen’s terms: a GALL BLADDER ATTACK). However, he then released me with a prescription for Ativan and diagnosed it as a panic attack for the records. I have never had a gall bladder attack (though my mom, my dad, my paternal grandmother all have suffered, so I am predisposed), so this is something that seems important, in my eyes, to diagnose so that I can work on maintaining a healthy diet and learn preventive measures. But rather, the doctor decides to latch on to the singular idea that I am a twenty-five year old who is on Lexapro for depression, so the only PLAUSIBLE explanation is a panic attack. The last two experiences my family has had with this hospital, it has been beyond reprehensible.
So here we are. Two peas in a pod. Gimpy and limpy, painful and sore. And the best part: I have to refine my diet yet again. I am a vegetarian. I cannot eat gluten. And now I have to remove even more from my diet to make sure I do not have repeat attacks. The worst loss: coffee. Those who know me know of my obsession with a fine cup of coffee, a jug, not just a cup of it, and a good book. That is the most devastating news. I also desperately want a referral to a nutritionalist because with so many limitations, I am afraid I will not get what I need. One more thing in the books.