Thursday, July 15, 2010

Suffering From Everything But Irony Deficiency

It's been a while, I know. Perhaps you are wondering how my ruptured disk is doing.

Much better. So much better that yesterday I ended up in Portland's favorite Level I trauma center (or as kdz 2day w thr txt spllgs mt pt it, ER@OHSU).

Quick recap: after months of suffering with nerve pain from my fabulous L5-S1 rupture, I've been feeling better. So much better that in the battle of desk v. disk, desk is winning. I can now sit for much longer at my new ultrarock hard desk chair (picture Aeron means Flintstone).

But still, I know I should get up and stretch periodically, and walk around for at least half an hour in the middle of the day. So midday yesterday, I left work for a short walk.

But first I sealed my own fate. By calling my sister and then another friend and telling both how I was feeling much better. Which anyone who has ever taken 11th grade English class (or just read the cliffnotes on the internet) can tell you means you have tempted the gods, who will strike you down just as soon as they get done reading some very compelling article or other on the Huffington Post.

Fate sealed, I head for the nefarious route known as Portland's riverfront walk.

Although in my case, the operative verb turned out to be fly.

I am walking along, listening to a fascinating audio file of a program about what education philanthropists can do to ensure schools better serve English Language Learners. So fascinating I stop to jot down a note on some bit o' brilliance shared by Eugene Garcia.

Which is when I suddenly notice that I am staring straight up at the sky.

No, wait, I'm lying smack down on the concrete.

Wait, piecing it together here . . . I have flown up and fallen smack down on the concrete. That thwacking noise was not in fact Eugene Garcia adding emphasis to his point. It was my skull, hitting the ground.

Although I am sure that if I were from Eugene Garcia's home state of Arizona, I could somehow blame this all on him. Or on any Mexican, really.

Are you okay? some looming head above me asks.

I think we should call 9-1-1 I answer, holding up my iPhone.

Which of course the looming head above me cannot figure out how to work.

Luckily, I am (as I learn much, much later) not the only lady from New York on the scene.

Enter Cara. Or Keira. Or Kayira. I should know this, after all she did introduce herself, somewhere between saying she knew first aid and saying her phone was out and she was already dialing 9-1-1 and where exactly were we anyway because she wasn't from Portland.

Which thank god she isn't, because then she wouldn't be from New York. And then I'd still be laying there waiting for some nice Portlander to have the chutzpah to figure out how to call 9-1-1 in response to my fabulous aerial show.

Once I determine that I:
  1. remember my name (even if I may not have exactly caught hers)
  2. have not lost consciousness at any point, and
  3. am freakin' terrified that I've got a spinal chord injury (a new one, I mean; the ruptured disk no longer being front page news)
I figure that I shoul at least assist Cara/Keira/Kayira by serving as associate director of the scene.

Could everyone who doesn't have to be here please move on? I ask, noticing now there are many looming heads.

So now we pare down to:
  • Cara/Keira/Kayira and her two adorable very young daughters, who are interrupting the 9-1-1 call to ask Mommy some pertinent questions. Why is the lady lying there? Why is it important that the lady knows her name? Does everyone in Portland know how to fly?
  • Brian, the bicyclist to whom I owe my entire aerial career
  • Some guy who says I think I should stay here. I'm trying to block the sun. Meaning, he is trying to keep me from enjoying too much of a post-flight fry while we wait for the EMTs.
Mr. Homo Sapien Sunblock really is concerned for my well-being. You should be wearing a helmet he lectures.

I was just walking I say. Although I now notice that the bottom half of me is lying on top of the bicycle, which may help explain the confusion.

You should be wearing a helmet
I tell Brian. 90 percent of all cyclists who are killed are not wearing helmets I add. Which is true. Although technically Brian doesn't have a scratch on him, helmet or no.

Still, we all seize the teachable moment. See girls, Cara/Keira/Kayira intones to her adorable offspring, it is so important to wear helmets. Doesn't Mommy always wear a helmet on her Scoot?

Our little course in bicycle safety is alas interrupted by the arrival of the EMTs.

What happened?
they ask. Which sets everyone talking at once.

Let me tell them I say They need to assess my cognitives.

This is the one advantage I bring to this scene, garnered from the year of living brainjurously. That is, the exciting year in which my sister had a brain aneurysm and then my brother, not to be left out, had a brain bleed from a cavernous hemangioma. Which means I know just what medical professionals want to know about my brain.

And I kind of want to know it too, just as soon as they tell me that my spine is fine.

Fine spine
brain pain

pretty much is the four-word poem that is my condition.

But wait, there's more. Spinning. Which is what the whole world--EMTs, unhelmeted cyclist, Cara/Keira/Kayira and kids, human sunblock, etc.--does, if I try to sit up.

Which leads Morgan the EMT to ask the single most critical question a healthcare provider can ask: What's your insurance?

Healthnet I answer. Then I have to explain that my arm didn't lash out due to a spasm from my injury, that was just the automatic impulse of any Healthnet subscriber: call for pre-authorization.

The EMTs don't bother with preauthorization, happily. They just load me onto the gurney, delighted that I weigh only about a third of their average patient. And off we go, with Cara/Keira/Kayira calling after me, make sure you put arnica gel on anything that feels sore, as soon as you get home. Girls, doesn't Mommy always put arnica on your bruises?

Speaking of Cara/Keira/Kayira, at some point during my riparian layabout, I've had the good sense to ask her to call my office and let them know that maybe I am not headed back there today. And to have the office manager call Cheez. Who then calls Cara/Keira/Kayira before taking a quick run through the streets of downtown Portland to find a cab.

I got a Middle Eastern cabbie he reports later thank Allah. Because man, could he drive fast.

So fast that Cheez arrives at the hospital before my ambulance. Which apparently didn't bother putting on its flashers and sirens for the ride. Causing Cheez, who actually had thought I was hit by car, to reason as he watched the ambulance backing up to the ER that either my injuries weren't bad and I would be fine, or that I was already dead.

As you can guess, it was not the latter.

In fact, by the time they wheel me in, I'm cracking jokes with the EMTs, and lecturing the intake nurse about how she could improve her approach when asking the standard intake questions. You shouldn't say, "No illegal drugs?" because it assumes what the patient's answer will be I scold. And You should make an excuse to send the partner out of the room before you ask about domestic violence.

This is the point at which Cheez whips out his phone and starts calling everyone who knows about the accident and is worrying over me, to tell them that I seem to be back to my usual self.

Except that I still can't sit up, lest the room start spinning.

A nice young resident comes in to do my exam. This is the joy about being at the best hospital in Portland. It's a teaching hospital. Which means my brain is once again a teachable moment.

Now, if you think there is even the tinsiest possibility that you have the tinsiest hemorrhage in the tinsiest area of your brain, knowing your fate is in the hands of a twenty-seven-year-old who hasn't had a full night's sleep since 2008 can be slightly unsettling.

Luckily, I'd already had the foresight to have Cheez call our neighbor Justin. And not because I wanted to hear some 80s tunes or ride in some 80s car. It's because although Kevin, the boy-face resident examining my brain, may been born the same year that Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall and Emilio Estevez were Wang Chunging it through detention, as Justin's fondness for that year suggests, he was a tad older by then.

Which makes him old enough to be a many years of experience full on ER doc. The very one as it turns out Kevin will be training with on next month's rotation.

And luckily, Kevin, Justin and Dr. Macaronimanaic all agree that CAT scans are for people who don't have a healthy fear of brain cancer.

Makes you wonder that they can ever do them on Jews.

So I'm just sitting around with an IV-drip of sodium, wondering whether I'll ever sit up again, when some guy who pulls back the curtain on my ER cubby and begins scrubbing up.

A guy, I should mention, who looks like he's just stepped out of an aftershave ad and (this being Oregon's premier hospital after all) who's dressed like said ad appeared in Sports Fishing Monthly.

Er, who might you be on today's medical odyssey? I ask.

He claims to be the supervising physician. I'm a little leery because I've seen Kevin talking to his supervising physician, and she doesn't look a thing like the braced-chin-and-civvy-wearing fellow before us.

Check his i.d. I tell Cheez. Who does. Actually they both do. We all agree it isn't the most up to date shot, but yes, it tells us this guy, whose last name could be Jewish but let's face it, we all know what ads they put Jews in, and manly is not the term for them.

After establishing that the previous supervising physician has gone off duty, Dr. Not-Jewish offers me the juice of my choice and asks Cheez are you a reliable person?

To which my reliable mate answers I am Canadian.

He wants you to make sure I don't fall over
I say.

And I don't, as I ease up to a sit, well juiced.
Things are more teeter-tottering than spinning. I can't close my jaw. But the team determines that's about muscle, not bone, and I think we all know there's arnica gel in my future anyway.

Before you know it, I'm taking my second flight of the day.

On the aerial tram down from the hospital (note safety-conscious Portlanders wearing helmets--apparently during my time on Pill Hill the earlier riverside chanting has had time to truly take hold among the masses).

This is way cooler than the ambulance I tell Cheez. Maybe they out to have a trambulance.

It's a weak joke, I know. But hey, I am concussed! Plus, some guy standing next to us laughed anyway.

Cheez and I then walk about three miles home, during which time we recite all the things we're happy about. Happy it was a bike, not a car. Happy my skull did its work. Happy that, amazingly enough, my ruptured disk actually seems a little BETTER after the flight-to-full-on-concrete-fall.

Think of it as the ultimate chiropractic adjustment says Cheez.

And I do. I just hope Healthnet covers chiropracty without pre-approval. At least when it's administered by a moving vehicle.