Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Just an Ordinary Week Until I Almost Died.

(Not that I ever in a million years would exaggerate or anything.)

Last week was a blur. Like a big speedy blur of fullness. It started out ordinary enough. Summer days filled with sun and swim. Wednesday was a highlight when I got to go and see one of my dearest friends, Marianne. She's in the middle of a big battle and she's way ahead. Knocking cancer in the kisser and teaching me so much about life, grace, and love all the while. She is one of my favorite people on the planet. There's just so much to be said for being present in the right here right now stuff of life and she's really good at this. Refreshment:)

The next day was ordinary enough and I was enjoying the daily-ness. Ordinary is good. I have never underestimated the power of a calm life. All the same I really was focusing on enjoying the simplicity that is our daily schedule on this day. I met with the gardener to show him some stuff that needed tending to in our Big Ivy and when I walked back in the house and noticed that my head was throbbing. It hadn't seemed like a stressful encounter but I took two Tylenol and went about making the girls' lunch.

I noticed that my ankles and hands were itchy which seemed irritating but not a big deal. But when my hands started to be red hot with itch and I realized something was amiss. I gathered that some kind of allergic histamine something was happening though I don't have any known allergies. I looked in the mirror on my way to the medicine chest (plastic shoe box) and noted that I was as red as a beet. Like ruby were my ears and neck. My underarms were suddenly as itchy as homemade mittens. I saw that I was spotted like a red hot leopard all the way to my waist. I'm no doctor but I gathered this was abnormal.

I dug through our little stash of meds and came across a Claritin. I took one and thought that I'd be good as new in no time. But instead in exactly no time my tongue started to swell. I wanted to talk to Dirk about it. To see if my voice of reason thought this was a big deal or not. But I was reasonably sure I'd sound like Sylvester from Loony Tunes if I tried to speak so texted him my symptoms instead. He called immediately and told me to get my little red hot self to the Urgent Care or ER ASAP and yes, my suspicions were confirmed, my voice was as slurred as a drunk kitty. His colleague who is a friend of mine was near to the phone and told me to lock the door, leave the girls there, and he'd be home in 15 to meet them. Admittedly this instruction both comforted and freaked me out all in one exhale. I liked knowing another mom was in on the gig and was giving me calm instruction - but anyone who's going to suggest you leave your nippers to fly solo so you can seek medical attention must know something you don't about how grave your situation is.


I came out of the bedroom in a fake calm state and told the girls "Mommy's going to the doctor." Emie took one look at my tomato head and said, "Uh, yeah, you'd better go like now." She was brave as a lioness and told me they'd be fine. She'd answer the door to no one, would keep the phone handy, and would look out for daddy in 15 minutes. Oh, and would be glad to watch TV until told to do otherwise, of course. But seriously all in one instant she was seventeen and able. I felt relieved and ready to go all while trying to ignore that my throat was tightening up by the minute.

As I was driving out of the neighborhood Dirk called my cell and said he'd called Urgent Care to alert them of my impending arrival. They alerted him that any person with epidermis resembling a strawberry and an ever-swelling tongue does not belong in the Redi-Clinic attached to the grocery store. That person needs to go to the Emergency Room. Make a U-turn and head to the hospital, mama! Shame that it was exactly then that my fake calm rations were completely tapped. I felt the panic start to creep up from my toes all the way to my restricted airway.

Dirk calmly talked me down as I drove straight to the hospital. "Tell me where you are?" He'd ask. Followed by, "Are you okay to be driving?" I really had no answers to either question as I felt a bit like I was floating through the sky toward my sure death. Yet there was still a large part of me that thought all of this was an over reaction. I mean, how much danger could I be in if I was able to drive and get enough air to continue the conversation. Yet my symptoms were undoubtedly progressing. I arrived at the hospital ER entrance only to find that the parking lot was under construction. Great thinking. Why not resurface the area where the nearly dead have to park? Perf. I drove back down the hill to park and began to walk up the to the entrance. It's an odd feeling walking yourself into a place reserved for emergencies. As an under-reactor by nature I felt myself questioning my actions. Was this really an emergency? Did I really need to take up space where someone really in health crisis should be instead? But as I was walking my chest was feeling increasingly compressed. Like Large Marge was sitting on me eating a chili dog compressed. I tried not to do the panicky freak out breathing gasps but without success. Poor Dirk was on the other end of the phone wondering if I'd make into the entrance of the place alive. And I was really bummed to think I just might die in the parking lot while wearing the same old dingy American Eagle t-shirt I've been meaning to throw out for three summers in a row. Tragic.

I did make my way inside only to find the registration desk empty. Brill! Great time for everyone on super-important duty to go for a slurpie. When Dirk heard my report that the place was unoccupied he said he was coming straight there and would ensure I was seen by a live human with at least some level of medical training. Just about then a guy wearing a Baptist Hospital badge walked through the ER waiting room. He probably worked on the elevators there and was on his way to the vending machine. Never mind all that he had a badge so I quickly asked him if he worked there. He looked at me with clear alarm in his face. I'm sure he was trying the fake calm look out as well but he's not getting an Oscar that's all I'm saying. I was a frightful sight. He walked (ran!) behind the counter and grabbed a guy in scrubs, gestured quickly to the tomato head in the lobby and before anyone knew it I was a VIP in Trauma Room D.

They hooked me up to a blood pressure cuff and a little finger oxygen monitor and left. Yep. Left me there to die. Maybe I should retract my self-imposed "under-reactor" moniker about now. But I did gather that I couldn't have been in that much danger if they were glad to leave to have a little time to myself. And I was hooked up to the ol' vital organ checkers so they would have known if my heart stopped beating or if I stopped breathing. Nothing like facts like these to bring calm and peace.

The doctor came pretty quickly and after asking a few questions and looking over my fiery furnace road map surmised that I must have been bitten by something outside when I was with the gardener. Pretty as it is, the underside of Big Ivy is a haven for bugs of all varieties. I could almost see the wagging finger of the bug man who'd come to spray our house once before. He told me we'd need to tear all of the big ivy off of the exterior brick because bugs set up little compounds in there, cities, school systems and cannot be contained. I worked really hard not to roll my eyes to the back of my head in front of him back then. The ivy out back is one of the coolest features of the landscaping.


I love the touch of England we get to have right on the prairie and I wasn't taking it down for love or money. Guess he was on to something after all.

The doctor told me that some Texas-sized bug had taken a chomp out of me and apparently it was one to whom I was/am unknowingly allergic. It may have been me who called the bug Texas-sized. I mean seriously does a fruit fly take a grown woman to the Emergency Room? Anyway, he said he'd send someone in to give me some epinephrine, steroids, and Benadryl and all would be right with the world soon. Not to worry, I was in good hands. So he left. Apparently this is the ER drill, put people in rooms alone and leave just when their airway starts to reduce to the size of a sewing needle. But it was in my solitude that I realized that I was not well. I mean I knew that when the doctor was in the room but at this point I knew I was going to have to throw up. Oh, yes the big awful was impending and I only had a few inches of slack to move anywhere since they'd nicely hooked me up to the machines. Nary a bucket or canister in sight. What to do? I reached the button for the nurse and waited to see what that would do. Zippo Silence. Just me. I needed to find a receptacle and fast. So I stood up and unwound enough cord from the wall just enough to reach for the giant industrial sized garbage can on wheels.

Just a few minutes before I'd noticed the giant garbage can was there and wondered why one little place as small as Trauma Room D would need a garage can sufficient for the Staples Center. Although it seemed wildly out of place in that room I was so happy to wheel that big barrel of refuse my way and put it to good use. Just as I did the nurse came over the loudspeaker and asked, "May I help you?" Umm, sure. Now's a great time! I told her what I was up to and asked for a little assistance. Soon the words "Assistance to Trauma D" came over the loudspeaker and I felt reassured that indeed help was on the way. Except it wasn't. I got by just fine but I gather that my little troubles in Trauma D were trumped by the other people in emergency care in far worse shape than I. And I once again started to question my need to be there. Never mind that whole restricted airway thing, was I being a bother? Oh, the musings of being a recovering people pleaser.

It really wasn't all that long before a very kind nurse came in with all of the meds the doctor had prescribed. She said they'd added a nausea reducer to the mix. Apparently someone got the message about the trouble in Trauma D after all. And indeed my nurse was on the task and had someone wheel the big barrel of terrible right out of there. She told me that not only was she going to give me epinephrine there but they were going to prescribe me with my very own epi pen. One to keep with me so that if it ever happened again I would not be in grave harm. Oh, okay. So I was in the right place after all. Within seconds of her injecting the medication into my hand my redness started to fade and my tongue and throat returned to normal. The news about the epi pen was still filtering in and I realized that's for people who could die if they aren't given an antidote instantly. Okay. Got it. Enjoying each moment is not only refreshing, it's essential since we really can't count on the next moment. And just as I was starting to think more deep and profound thoughts (I'm sure they were on the way!) I also felt like I had narcolepsy and there was no chance in the free world I could stay awake another minute.

I felt like the mother of a newborn and could not wait to close my eyes. When the nurse left me with a blanket over me I suddenly loved Trauma D. Loved the quiet and solitude and sleep I knew would soon come. But just as I pulled the blanket (read: pilled flannel bed sheet) over me and started to dream of brighter days the nurse was back asking me who could pick me up because I was much too sleepy to drive. I'm also much too sleepy to leave this bed, I wanted to add. But she told me she would wait while I called my husband to come to get me because the party was over, it was time to go home. I was so hoping Dirk wouldn't answer or would be monumentally detained. But she stood and waited to hear that a ride was on the way and once she did she ordered a wheelchair to come for me.

In the meantime the doctor came back in, at least I think it was him since my eyes were closed and I was nearly asleep. I heard him say he'd gathered what he thought was the culprit to my troubles. He was reasonably sure based on the bite marks on my ankles that he knew what had bit me. I was ready for it. For the word scorpion or centipede or killer bee. But instead it was this. And for those of you weak in the stomach you may want to avert your eyes. He's a scary beast.


Yes, an ant or two is what caused all of the trouble. Fire ants they are called. And with that they folded me into the wheelchair like yesterday's news. I would have paid good money to enjoy just one good drug-induced sleep in a quiet room - but it was not to be. An ant almost killed me. The end.

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