I want to memorialize this as a reminder to myself to make 2013 and beyond better, to be more careful, patient, and most importantly: balanced.
This month started out pretty intensely busy, in the first two weeks I was only home three days, and there was a seemingly inordinate amount of stress from work and home life around the many unknowns for next year, it took a bigger toll on me than I was prepared for.
Just over two weeks ago I had a rash on my bum that got to the point of being too painful to walk around or sit comfortably and just a constant irritation. I haven’t been to a doctor (outside of a few stitches) since I had pneumonia over 10 years ago, but I eventually gave in and went to see one on Tuesday the 18th. Seemed pretty straight forward, he gave me some meds and sent me home.
It was an uncomfortable week mostly on my back, by Friday the rash seemed to have cleared up but there was a growing pain still, deeper and stronger. I woke Saturday with it having become unbearable and decided to go back and see what else was wrong, and being a weekend I had to go to the ER / “Convenient Care”. They saw that I was in a lot of pain and running a mild fever (which had been pretty constant all week) and couldn’t see any obvious source, so they ran a full gamut of tests, including X-Ray and CT (requiring an IV for the dye). The (younger) doc on call still couldn’t find a source, so sent me home with some more meds and painkillers, telling me to see a specialist as soon as I could.
Unfortunately the timing was really bad, Sunday, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day came and went and things continued to go downhill. I don’t even remember much from those days :( The first day the “Internal Medicine” office was back was Wednesday and I called first thing that AM, they couldn’t get me in to see the specialist until the end of January! I kept calling and explaining that this was urgent, the history, talking to different nurses, all the while I was crashing pretty hard with pain. I finally gave up mid-afternoon and went to the ER, a 30 minute drive of hell, to be followed by a couple hours of more hell. They did more tests, examinations, even an MRI (in a machine I swear is from the cold war era). And they sent me home again, a new set of meds and painkillers, no idea of the source and suggestion to see a specialist.
I don’t remember Thursday at all, but by Friday I was calling again and one of the nurses decided that if I can’t see a specialist that I should see someone, and got me an appointment that afternoon with one of the general MDs. I was happy to do anything at that point, but still nervous from my last two inconclusive experiences with the healthcare system. He was older and after just hearing a tiny bit of the history he stopped me and wanted to start with a normal checkup exam. We only made it partway through, he stopped instantly when he got to the source of the pain and told me to hold on while he called a surgeon over: I had a large abscess. I stood uncomfortably waiting, the surgeon arrived and with only a glance, put his hand reassuringly on my shoulder and so warmly said that he would help, and wanted to immediately admit me and that it would require surgery at this point to remove it.
I was very nervous since this was my first time going through anything like this, but it was the first sign of actual progress and remedy since the start and that felt wonderful at the same time. It took hours to get prep’d, loaded me up with antibiotics and tubes and stuff, and then it was finally time. I was curious what “going under” would be like, I remember watching the anesthesiologist start injecting it into the IV and that was it, don’t even remember him finishing. I was also worried that I’d awake in general pain yet, but when I came out of it I was gleefully chatty, I asked the nurse probably 50 questions in 10 minutes while she was finishing paperwork and checking on things :)
They had scheduled to keep me in until today, but the surgeon came in and checked everything out mid-day and released me early, always better to recover at home! I have a “modern” drain that will be in place for three weeks yet and some pills to give my systems a constant advantage. Every day has been an improvement, and I’ve been able to sleep solid 3-4 hour chunks (was lucky to get just one hour at a time since it started). I’m starting to feel like myself again, making jokes and laughing, able to think even.
I haven’t reflected much on what I could have done differently, but one thing resonated with me: the older more experienced doc that saw it immediately said that the younger ER one was depending on the machines and data to tell them and they didn’t use their eyes and intuition. That’s something that applies everywhere nowadays and is something I often fail at: don’t always trust the technology, use your own senses too.
The best explanation for the abscess/infection was that my immune system was so suppressed from the travel/stress that it got a foothold and grew. I’m going to focus a lot of my energy at finding some healthier ways to live and work in 2013, to find a better balance, and I suspect when I do I’ll be even more productive than 2012.
Thanks to my loving and supportive wife, kids, and friends, who helped me get through some tough times when I was not the most pleasant to be around, love you all!