Thursday, February 1, 2018

ER visit reading "The Recognition Run" by Henry Vogel

This blog post describes the added value to ME of Henry Vogel's adventure story/exploding spaceships/ some smooching/ "The Recognition Run." It is NOT a review, however, but you will find the Amazon review by clicking HERE. Please remember to vote 'Helpful,' because I like that.

ALSO, read this spoiler, because it's important: I am okay, at home, happily doing what I like to do, and have no expectation that bad health things are in store, any more than any reasonable for a drop-dead gorgeous 64 year old white male under the care of a gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA.

But, it did get weird for a while.

Friends are lovely things under any circumstances. I recently have had the delightful occasion to have friends Brother Fred McAdams and Uncle Mylon Gramling help me replace a leaking hot water tank.

There are many other friends I have never met face to face; they write books. Thanks to Kindle technology, friend Tom Rogneby and his characters Daddy Bear & company have gotten me through some pretty AWFUL dental work in the past year. And yesterday, friend of three years Henry Vogel kept me company ALL DAY LONG as I waited in the emergency room at Cherokee Northside Hospital, where I was likely the only patient who wasn't there because of the flu epidemic.

I just had headaches.

Headaches, you say? Everybody has headaches! There's no reason to go to the ER for headaches! And under most circumstances, I would agree with you. However, these headaches were ...different... to say the least. Unusual. Even strange.

Started Sunday night, as I lay me down for sleep. Out of nowhere, I felt a stabbing pain in the top of my scalp. It felt like a bug bit me, or one of the kids had left a sharp plastic toy in the bed. However, there was no foreign object, and no blood on my scalp, and not even any swelling. I rubbed it (ouch, too much) then rubbed the area around it, and after some indeterminate interlude, it vanished. I tuned it out, as I put in my earplugs to listen to the Old Time Radio Researchers present  James Stewart's radio broadcast of 'The Sixshooter ' from September 20, 1953.

Monday morning, I'm fine. Until I go to bed! Then I get the same pointy stab in my scalp, but this time, in a different position. Now, it occurred to me earlier that perhaps my pony tail was too tight, but that really doesn't apply, since I sleep with my hair down. And there had been no trauma of any sort that I could recall. True, on Monday, Uncle Mylon and I DID replace the water heater, but my scalp wasn't involved. Besides that that install went perfectly. Not even any barked knuckles or scratched finishes. So, I listen to 'The Sixshooter's' next episode, ignore the pain, and drift off to sleep.
A note about listening to podcasts to go to sleep: this technique was given to my by my first-born son, SGT. Eli Jordan Patterson, US Army (retired). He even gave me some suggestions for content to start with, and it's worked GREAT. For a long time, I struggled with insomnia, but since I've been going to sleep with podcasts, I was able to first cut my Ambien in half, then dispense with it altogether. The only disadvantage, if you can call it that, is that I never know how any of the shows end, because I'm asleep by then.
Tuesday, same pattern. I wake up with no problems, go about my day. Tuesday night, tiny little pinpoint (or thumbtack point, or nail point) scalp pain. I say 'tiny, meaning the location; NOT the pain. It's the sort of pain you would expect to have a physical cause. And it also moves around. First at the back of my head, then at the side, then on top. And no, it's not my fat black cat SugarBelly sinking her claws into me to get me into a more comfortable position so she can rest easier. She usually refuses to sleep with people, and has her own lovely soft comforter on the bottom shelf of an end table, beside a heating vent. and there she spends her time when not screaming or eating or sitting on me when I'm trying to write.

But Wednesday morning, when I got up at 6, the pain was still there. Got my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, off to work, got the kids up, got them off to school, and started my day. But by 9:30, when I'm still getting stabbed in the scalp, and thinking of the example I am setting for my family, particularly my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, I decide to call my wicked smart, wicked talented, wicked beautiful primary care physician, Dr. Nkechi Mbaezue.
This woman is a genius.

I was only looking for advice as to whether I should get an appointment with her, or consult with my pain doctor. I wasn't expecting the Spanish Inquisition.


Image result for nobody expects the spanish inquisition gif

Okay, it wasn't quite THAT bad. She did, however, insist that I report immediately to the Emergency Room of the nearest hospital and have a cat scan done. I tried to negotiate: how about an Urgent Care center? Nope. Had to be a hospital. 

So following a consult with my insurance company to make sure everything was in order, I grab my Kindle, charging cable, phone, wallet, keys, pen, and a pack of post-it notes for taking notes, and (gulp) divest myself of firearms. This SHOULD indicate, to those that truly know and love me, the level of commitment I was assigning to the trip. I conceal carry EVERY TIME I LEAVE THE HOUSE, not because I live in a dangerous area, but because I refuse to ever be regarded as a prey animal again. However, I knew beyond doubt that at some point I was going to be asked to disrobe, and under that set of circumstances, concealed carry is not an option under any conditions I care to contemplate, and besides that, even my despised Kel Tec P3AT wouldn't fit in the same place Christopher Walken hid Butch's father's watch. So, I consoled myself with whatever folder knife  was at hand.
Parenthetical comment: at approximately 2:00 PM as I was writing this, I was getting increasingly uncomfortable with the scalp stabbings. I haven't gotten clearance from the pain doc to fill the script I was given in the ER for headaches, so I did what seemed to me to be the next right thing to do: I anointed my scalp with lidocaine gel. It's not the greasy kid stuff, and I shudder to think what an unsuspecting package delivery person would think if I opened the door with this coiffure and a Browning High Power in my hand. But, this might help, and if it doesn't, I'll just need a shampoo. End comment.
ADDENDUM: It's 8:39 PM EST as I am proofing this for publication, and I think the lidocaine gel has been working. I'm still getting stabbing pains in areas where I didn't put any gel, but I THINK the places on top where I applied the gel works. It's Aspercreme with Lidocaine, by the way.

 Most of the country is experiencing a flu epidemic, and Cherokee County is no exception. I walked into the ER at 12:09, and the place was at least 50% full in the waiting room, with people wearing masks. Fortunately, the admitting process was not long at all. I explained that my primary care physician had told me to come here and get a CT scan of my head, because of the headaches which were sudden onset, localized, not previously experienced, and I am 64 years old. Since Dr. Mbaezue is a part of the same medical organization, office procedure things were probably easier.

All is calm. Henry is with me, in the pocket of my photographer's vest. I sit; I wait; I read.  I grew adept at returning my Kindle to the pocket, when I am summoned to provide more information, give blood, get seen by the nurse, David the PA, the financial people. No problem. My Kindle holds my place! I finally get called back for the CT scan of my head. The scan takes only a couple of minutes, and they tell me it will be about 30 minutes before the results are in.

And as they are wheeling me back to the radiology area, I notice that they have sick people wearing masks on gurneys and in chairs in the hallways, and in any wide place where a person may be placed. Some have IVs installed, some have breathing machines. There are old couples, young couples, mothers with babies and small children. One brave young mommy had TWO very young children. Now, these are in ADDITION to the accumulating fellowship in the waiting room.

This is a facility which is under HEAVY, HEAVY stress, and obviously needs bed space. I imagine that any of you who have been in the hospital recently will testify to the same. It's like a scene out of Ringo's "Black Tide," except nobody is naked and bitey.

I feel sorry for them, and return to the comfort of "The Recognition Run." And time passes.

And then, I notice that it hasn't been 30 minutes since the CT scan, which should have been read in 30 minutes; it's been about an hour and 30 minutes. As much as I am enjoying my time in this library filled with people who are sitting miserably, and occasionally attempting to cough out a lung and a liver, I wonder if the doc had called my name when I went to the bathroom or to get some crackers from the snack bar. I decide to check at the desk.

No, I am assured, I have not been overlooked. They apologize for the wait, but they are just terribly, terribly backed up. I understand completely, promise them that I am not complaining, and return to friend Henry's prose, and am once again caught up in his story of intrigue and occasional smooches, all done tastefully between adults with good intentions and free will.

And then, at around 4:00, it gets really weird and really scary.

A painfully young orderly escorts me back to a ROOM (while dozens of people are still stacked up in the hall), and hands me a gown. The pleasant business-like look I have seen on all the other faces is gone, replaced by the look that you give when there is bad news pending. However, all he will tell me is that David the Physician's Assistant will be in to see me shortly, and that he will discuss with me the next medical plan, and to strip to the waist and put on the gown. He helps me put on the gown, compassion oozing from his eyes. I almost expect him to give me a hug, and honestly, I might have appreciated one at this point. However, he leaves, and I grab my tablet.

This time, though, it's not to return for more time with friend Henry. It's to Google I go, and I type in 'Sudden Onset of Scalp Pain." I skip past the couple of obvious wrong finds, dealing with trauma, head lice, and dandruff, and find a site called Symptom Checker. It lists the top 24 reasons, and number ONE on the Scalp Pain Hit Parade is: brain cancer.

Okay, this just escalated to an entirely new level.

I read all of the other possibilities, and they either don't match my other symptoms, or they are as bad, or almost as bad, as brain cancer. I start to place alternative explanations on the protracted time I've been in the hospital. Are they calling in specialists? Have they notified my emergency contacts and are my wife and first-born son on the way, along with my pastor?   

ASSURING COMMENT: This is the worst part of the story. It gets better from here on out! Also, briefer, although I still have 8 more hours to go.
David the PA comes in, and I don't recognize him at first, because he is dressed to go home, and not in his scrubs. He's just wearing yer average redneck end-of-day clothing: baseball cap, Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt (maybe not really Lynyrd Skynyrd, but you get the idea), jeans. However, I soon pick up from what he says that he's the same medical professional  David I had seen earlier, who told me that the CT scan would take about 30 minutes to read, probably longer because of the workload. And he gives me the GOOD and the bad news.

The GOOD news: the CT scan found no evidence of abnormality. Had there been a tumor, or a big brain bleed, it would have seen it. See? I told you it would get better. Things are almost back to normal, as in, things I know how to deal with.

The BAD news. There is a slight possibility that I may have a small subarachnoid hemorrhage, and that might not be detected with the CT scan they had done. So, they order ANOTHER CT scan, but this time, they need to inject some dye into my blood to get better contrast. So, they have to put an IV in. However, this is TINY bad news.

By this time, though, I'm hurting pretty good, not only from the headache, which has persisted, but from being on the uncomfortable gurney with no access to my regular pain meds. So, I ask, and he orders something. I'm looking forward to it, actually. Hospital meds into an IV take moments to resolve pain, and sometime come with a guilt-free buzz. A pain pill takes about 45 minutes to an hour to work.

The main thing is that I now have a Positive Finding, and I can notify my first-born son and my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, that I'm pretty much okay, and that they can start making preparations to come get me, since the hospital won't let me drive home after they give me whatever it is they are going to hit me up with.

Shortly, Esther the nurse arrives with the IV equipment. And discovers that what I told her was true: I am no longer an 'easy stick.' Up until about 2001, techs never had any problem finding a vein. However, twice that year, I was in the hospital for two unrelated conditions, and upon my next visit to the Red Cross to donate blood, they couldn't get a vein. I've had three hospital admissions since then, most recently last August, and it took five tries to get a needle in a good vein in my right forearm. I don't really mind the sticks; the worst part is the tape, because I am a hairy individual. I do have some bruising on the way, though.

And then the second worst experience (though far below the brain tumor fright): The drugs they gave me for pain were Decadron, a steroid, benadryl, an antihistamine, and a third drug I never had heard of before and still couldn't understand after asking Esther, who has a very faint accent, to repeat it several times. Och, that was awful. I felt almost nauseous, almost fainty, and not at all happy. Maybe I should have been more specific and asked for Pink Skamboozla, or whatever it is they keep in the vault for the people they really like.

I took a nap after the second CT scan with the iodine injection, and woke up with Vanessa and Jordan at the end of the gurney. They both hung out for an hour or so, then Jordan left to get ready for a weekend retreat.

And somewhere along here, I finished "The Recognition Run" on my phone, because my tablet had run out of juice, and my USB battery got hinky on me early in the week.

A little while later, the cute Dr. Alima came in (as I get older, all the doctors are cute) and gave us good news and bad news.

GOOD NEWS: The CT scan with the iodine revealed no problems! WOOT!

BAD NEWS: the radiologist couldn't QUITE make out the structures of my neck veins, and thought there MIGHT be some involvement there which could account for the headaches, and so she ordered an MRI. Only small bad news, though, because if there had been anything BAD, it would have shown up. And sometimes it's easier to order the test than it is to explain to patients and insurance companies why they don't need it.

And the MRI, though noisy, is now supplied with earphones and Pandora Radio, so I selected ZZ Top to listen to while taking the longish exam. I wish Pandora would play a lot more of the selected group before playing the alternatives. It was all good music, though; Allman Brothers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the aforementioned Lynyrd Skynyrd, and a couple of ZZ Top's work. It got me through the event.

And it was all anti-climactic after that. The longish wait while the radiologist read the MRI, pronounced me to be perfectly healthy in that respect, and then Dr. Alima chatted with us cheerfully a bit about the good news that I was clear of anything lethal as a cause of the headaches, and sometime after midnight, we walked free.

And we thanked God. Repeatedly.

Peace be on your household.


  1. Did the headaches stop?

    That sounds weird.

    Grateful you're okay - and that you got prompt medical attention, with them being good about the details. But I want to know what it is if your head starts stabbing you, and what to do about it.

    Thanks for the post - I've been checking FB.

    1. I seem to have gotten some relief with the application of the lidocaine gel to my scalp. I have also discovered that by massaging my neck, and moving it around, it interrupts the pain. It's STILL these bizarre, pinpoint localized pains, which range from uncomfortable to unbearable. Fortunately, they are brief in duration, now that I know I can do something to my neck to ease the attack.
      If it continues through this weekend, I've promised you-know-who that I will call the neurologist for an appointment.
      Thanks for caring!