I have found a new way to meet smart and attractive women - admit yourself to the ER for chest pains. Yesterday afternoon Dr. Paul (yes, that is his name, and his head nurse is Paulette) met me for an appointment and said that you don’t mess around with chest pains, minor or major. That I should go straight to the ER, do not pass go or collect $200.
So I didn’t go home to get the laptop, the camera, a book, or anything. I wish I had, looking back. Instead I went to one of the top rated hospitals in the country. A first step into adulthood for me. And while it was scary to be there alone, my warmth and humor soon won over the entire staff.
The first thing they had me do was drink this mix of drugs they called a GI Milkshake (not the Yo Joe, GI stands for gastrointestinal.) Since I slugged back that concoction I have been fine, but the story continues.
When they tried to put a port in my right arm they couldn’t find the vein. When they went for the left hand (which I had encouraged them to start with) it took a while and I passed out. Yes, I am a wimp with needles.
The Tiger game was on in my nook, so everyone would come by to chat with me, check in, or check the score. Stupid Tigers lost. But, the hospital has more than three cable channels - a plus.
Next I went to a private room down the hall. It turns out that night shift people are not as out going or friendly as the ER staff, but they sure like to take blood. The first three samples coagulated before getting to the lab, so they took a fourth. Around three in the morning the attending doctor was sure to wake me up and let me know that the results came in (they were negative on everything and I was fine but there were more tests in the morning.) I should also eat a sandwich because this would be the only time I could eat anything for a while. My belly was empty with only a light breakfast and whatever that foul tasting concoction was from the ER. Nothing better at 3:00 in the morning.
Many will tell you that getting quality sleep is difficult in a hospital. I will tell you that one of the advantages of being Everywhere Man is that you can sleep anywhere. Buzzers, beeps, and bells are only the soothing sounds from a white noise machine. There was “that old guy” who talks really loud like he’s drunk and ringing the nurse chime every ten minutes (not the way to make friends in the hospital.) That “old woman who coughs” so you can hear every ounce of mucus in her lungs between the creaking lilt voice for more tissues and an afghan… she’s still there. But I am certain they could hear me, the Texas Chainsaw snoring machine cutting through the ward. I slept very well.
Morning started with an EKG. This looks like a fax machine but is connected to the body with a dozen dog leashes like wires. Those wires stick to the body with little tabs. So I now have a group of tabs from Dr. Paul, a set of these tabs from the ER, which have been on me all night, and a new third set for a wake up call. An hour after that EKG Adam the new guy from Sault Lake City came in for the hourly vitals. He noticed that many of my wires were connected incorrectly. Smart Adam, silly midnight tech guy.
Adam also has Cheerios and OJ for me. A few more people are coming in to talk to me this morning, but I will be doing a stress test at 11:00 am
One of the people who talks to me is a doctor who tells me that all of my tests are coming in fine, I am fine, they cannot find anything wring with me. I mention the words “blood clot” only because of the samples that went bad. A light bulb comes on over her head and she calls in a research doctor. The research doctor wants me to participate in a sample group testing MRI’s as a way of exploring for blood clots. It’s a free full body MRI, if nothing else I get to go in the big MRI donut.
At 11:00 am I get the most fun, the stress test. By now, word has gotten out on the ward that I am a fun guy, or a nice guy, and everyone has introduced themselves, or hung out for a while to chew the fat. As my wheel chair pulls out of my room, the fifteen people working the station wave, wishing me luck, break a leg (with a few laughs) and I am off.
The stress test works like this. First, they cover your chest with cold goo, and then use an ultra-sound echo to record the heart. Next, they put you on a treadmill and make you go until you can’t anymore while covered in the wires stuck on your body. Finally, while you are out of breath, nearly collapsing, they throw you down on a table and do the scanning all over again. The two young ladies who ran the room had very good senses of humor and were easy to get to laugh. Now I would imagine you had to have a good sense of humor to see me with my shirt off running on a treadmill. Plus, I had not bathed, brought deodorant, or brushed the teeth - I went straight to the ER like Dr. Paul said. (I should have gone home for a night bag first.) When I asked where I could buy a bottle of cold goo, “you know, for home use,” I had won them over. They enjoyed ripping all of the little sticker tabs off my body making me squirm. Of course we talked about the 40 Year Old Virgin and the chest waxing.
Naomi, another one of these really good-looking professionals (who I am sure were all married) stopped by to tell me again that they are not finding anything wrong with me. She also tells me, aside from my weight, I am in good health. (Better than smoking still I justify to myself.) She puts the 24 hours in this context “We know what is not wrong with you, which is more than we knew when you came in.”
Now the research doctor, who wants to give me a free MRI, stops by. As it turns out, this is her only task, find people to send in the MRI. Only a third of the people she approaches will be accepted to the program (run out of DC) will be accepted, and I have been accepted.
She tells me how happy I should be about this as MRI’s can take up to four months to book and get in. I just had to wait until 3:00 that afternoon. Others pay thousands of dollars to get these MRI’s, and this would be free. Well, not totally free it turns out. She heard from one of the other staff that I was this tradeshow guru. She had a side business owning a doll company. Basically I gave her a two-hour consulting session for her doll company marketing and trade show program in trade for this MRI.
The MRI people are super cool. And the ladies who work table number three are the kind you want to make it through the experience to see again.
Here is the deal - just in your scrubs or gown, you lay on a table with out moving. Not too hard. They tell you to breath in a hold your breath for 22 seconds. Not bad. All of this is done while you are shoved in a torpedo tube (which I barely fit in) hooked up to a tube pushing dye in your system that makes you want to puke. But there is that really cute nurse who is talking you through it, brushing your hair (the only part not in the giant machine) so you hold back the puke. The machine is so loud the whole time that they give you ear plugs. Interesting time.
Turns out I am the only one in the last two years who almost got sick from the dye. I guess I am pretty wimpy after passing out the day before and this sick thing.
What will they find? Most likely nothing. But I have this great baseline MRI 3D image of my entire body on file now. Kind of cool.
Everyone made a point and shook my hand good-bye, told me not to come back and they didn’t want to see me back here again. They just went to work for two days, while I walked away with so much more. I guess U of M isn’t all that bad.