current mood: still somewhat sore, but better
current song: "Still Alive", Jonathan Coulton & Sarah Gavin
Last Friday, I started noticing occasional pain in my left ribcage and shortness of breath. For reasons I've explained at length before, these are worrying symptoms, but they were so intermittent that I didn't reach the obvious conclusion. I was also occasionally coughing.
Well. By Wednesday evening, the pain and the shortness of breath were much more undeniable and were accompanied by thoughts of impending doom--the embolism trifecta. So when I got home--after a very uncomfortable train ride from Grand Central--I informed supergee & nellorat that I needed to go to the emergency room. I had intended to drive myself, but Nellorat said, "Call an ambulance--I'm not going to have you stopping breathing on the way."
The ambulance was there pretty quickly. I walked in, laid down on the stretcher, and they gave me oxygen and asked me questions. The key question, that hadn't occurred to me, was "Does it hurt when I touch you here?"--with "here" being a muscle group immediately to the left of my left nipple. Holy shit, did it ever! And it was clearly muscle pain, not pain within the lung. Which, frankly, solved the entire question, as far as I was concerned.
On Monday last (April 15), my ear/nose/throat doctor gave me a steroid shot in the hope that it would reduce my allergic response. I'm strongly allergic to aspergillum mold and mildly allergic to rat urine. The injection was quick and painless, but I've been sore at the injection site, my left triceps, ever since.
What I hadn't realized was that the pain was spreading to other muscles on my left side, especially in the shoulder and the chest. When the EMT touched the muscle (pretty sure it's the pectoralis major), he made me realize exactly how much pain I was carrying through the surface. I was in pain, yes, and breathing shallowly as a result.
But by that point, I had started down the ER path, and it wasn't really possible to step off. N. met me at the hospital, for which I'm eternally grateful. I was checked in, put on a bed in a hallway, and then basically ignored until midnight, at which point I told N. to go home, since it was clear that no one, including me, thought I was in any real danger. The night dragged on; there were several screaming children over the course of my stay, and I can barely even recreate how horrible it must be to be in screaming pain and too young to communicate about it. But at least the screaming covered up any snoring I engaged in as I dozed on my hallway bed.
I eventually got an ultrasound reading on my legs and (far later) a CAT scan with iodine contrast, pretty much the same diagnostics I got during my last embolism scare. There was absolutely no sign of unwanted clotting, so I was finally released around 5:30 AM on Thursday with a prescription of "take a lot of Naproxen right now and then a lot of ibuprofen over the next few days while the pain persists."
A) Steroid shots: don't just blindly accept them.
B) If possible, don't go to an ER in the evening.
C) If I think I have an embolism, tell them to do a full-body CAT rather than letting them waste time with an ultrasound. If there's a clot in my legs, the CAT will find it.
D) Bring a mass-market paperback rather than a heavy trade paperback. My left arm was very sore from the muscle problems, my right arm was sore from the IV, and my phone battery ran low long before I was sent home, so I had nothing to read for long periods.
E) Everyone should have a pussycat to keep them company. Oh, wait, I knew that one already.
F) I am so glad I have health insurance. I hate living in a country where that's an issue.