Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Both Sides Now

     In everything I do, I try to remember that there are two sides to every story. I like to look at an issue from ever possible angle before deciding on a course of action so that I can make the decision that feels most solid to me. While I understand that this is a practical, sensible approach to take, it's actually much more selfishly motivated in my case; I loathe being wrong, so I try to figure out which choice of action has the smallest chance of resulting in that unfortunate outcome. The vast majority of the time, it works, so I'm pretty satisfied with my methodology. After what transpired yesterday, though, I'm wondering if maybe it's been sheer dumb luck that's been responsible for my success thus far, because I don't think I'm quite as good as I thought I was at imagining what the other side of the story is like.

     To spare you the gory, disgusting details, I'm just going to go the short and sweet route here and say that I was hit with the stomach flu yesterday at about 4:30 in the morning. Everyone gets it, right? Or at least has had it at some point in their life and can agree with me on the fact that it's a less-than-life-threatening ordeal. I've always been told to go back to bed, drink lots and lots of Gatorade to keep from getting too dehydrated and wait for it to run its course. I was pretty positive about my self-diagnosis, too, because I have this weird thing that happens whenever I have the flu; it's like a gross barometer of how sick I am. You see, I, um, black out if I puke hard enough.

     I KNOW! That's one of the grossest things ever, but it's true! And it apparently only happens when I have the flu, because that's the only time it's ever happened to me. Since it did, I knew what the problem was and stumbled back into our bedroom from the bathroom to share my diagnosis with my husband. I thought he'd be nonplussed when I told him that I woke up face-down in the bathtub and that it was something as simple as the flu, but he instead popped out of bed and immediately stated his intent to put my ass in the car and take me to the emergency room.

      I was not keen on this idea for a couple of reasons, the first and foremost being that I was still feeling all kinds of vommitous (yeah, I just made that word up) and had no desire to ride around in a moving car. What I wanted was to take a hot shower, call in to work and wait for the urgent care facility nearest our house to open so I could call my mom to come get me and take me there. (I have absolutely no shame that I am a twenty-seven-year-old woman whose first instinct when she's sick is to call her mother. None.At.All.) My other reason was a bit more political in nature; I don't believe in going to the ER for something that is not a true emergency because it clogs up the works and puts such a strain on resources that the people who truly need it have to wait for care. I could go on and on about the current state of our nation's emergency rooms, but that's a post for another day.

     Husband made it very clear that he was not to be swayed from his position of "Get in the car, we're going to the hospital." I tried to reason with him, telling him that the flu was nothing and they weren't going to do anything for me I couldn't do myself. Didn't work. I next tried promising him that I would call my mother as soon as an urgent care was open and she would come get me and take me there. Nope, that didn't fly, either. I finally resorted to whining, and I promise you, when I really get going, a spoiled toddler's got nothing on me. I'm pathetic and needy when I'm sick anyway, but then to be told I had to do something I didn't want to do? Forget it.

     Unfortunately, my tactics all failed and I had to go to the hospital. There were only two other people in the waiting room when we got there, so I got in quickly. I was hooked up to an IV to give me fluids and some lovely, lovely anti-vom medicine and blood was taken to run some tests with. I knew what the results were going to be and sure enough, four hours later the doctor came back with a diagnosis of stomach flu. Great, so I can go home now, right? My husband had left to go to work by that point, but my mom was there, so after the nurse unhooked me from the tubing, Mama took me home and got me settled in to watch PBS for the rest of the day. It was like I was seven again.

     As I lay there, though, I was thinking through the events of the morning, mostly because, hey, what the hell else was I going to do all day? As irritated as I was at my husband for making me go to the hospital for something I deemed trivial, I finally came to the conclusion that I really had no right to be. Not unless I wanted to be a hypocrite and there are few things in this world that I hate more than hypocrisy. I mean, is there a chance in hell that I would've let an incident like that go had it happened to him? Not in a million years. Especially such a freak thing like passing out while being sick. What the hell is that, anyway? (Actually, it's this - vasovagal syncope. It's a real thing, check it out.) Of course, we didn't know that until we went to the hospital.

     It's so much easier, in some ways, to be on the sick side of things. I know my body pretty well and that's a big part of why I dug my heels in so hard - I didn't feel like something was wrong in a major way. I trust my body to tell me if something is really wrong and I expect everyone else to trust me when I tell them that it's nothing major. If, like my husband on Monday morning, they don't listen to what I'm saying or insist that I get checked out anyway, I get irritated and resentful. Who knows me better than me, right? If I say I'm fine, then you should take my word for it, yes? I wish.

     I try to hold to that line of thinking when it comes to my husband and his disorder, because I know how much he hates running to the ER every time for every little thing. Truth be told, we don't actually  go unless it's something he feels is serious business. I have to trust him to know when to go, when not to. I also have to know when to push, though, when to trust my instinct to override his own. It's not a fun position to be in, the care-taker. I can't stand here and say I prefer one over the other, but I can say that I've got a bit more insight into what it must feel like to be my husband on those mornings when we venture out into the world of IV's and MRI's.

     The feeling of being not only helpless, but exposed to the world in such a state, is something I have distinct dislike for and can only imagine my husband feels the same. The waiting room of the ER is suddenly twenty times more uncomfortable when you know the other people in there are looking at you with wariness and thinking, "God, I don't want to end up like her, whatever she's got." And keep in mind that I was still walking around under my own power and looked mostly normal. There are times we've gone in when my husband has to be wheeled through the automatic doors to the ER in a wheelchair and he can't even pick his head up because he's in such pain.

     I may have a little bit more insight into what my husband's typical side of the equation is like, but I don't know that I'll ever fully get it.


Ms. B said...

WOW. I can really identify with your hubby. I try NOT to go to ER unless I am in a significant amount of pain. One such time was yesterday. But ER personell took care of me quickly. Maybe because I told them I was in the hospital less than 2 months ago with a colapsed lung. Anyway, this marfan business is no joke. Sometimes I get very depressed and other times I look at it that things could be alot worse. I am 52 and have had my entire aorta replaced with a graft. Also have the mechanical valve and am on coumadin. Then my husband and I were to go on a cruise that left from Rome. Well my lung colapsed before I got on the ship and we spent 8 days in an Italian hospital where we did not speak the language and very few of the medical staff spoke English So, I understand what you and your hubby are experiencing. Also, your blog helps me to understand a little more of how my husband must feel.

Kristin Lee said...

I'm really glad this allows you to view the Marfan's through another's eyes. I totally get why you don't want to go to the ER unless you feel it's absolutely necessary; my husband gets so tired of going there that many times he'd rather tough it out at home with muscle relaxers than deal with the hospital again. I hope your husband might be able to find something in my writing that resonates with him so he knows he's not alone in this.