On Monday, I met up with two dear girlfriends I have known since I was four for breakfast. We’ve missed each other on my last few trips and I was really looking forward to catching up-Ashley just added a baby girl to her house full of boys and Andrea is dealing with the joys of a teenager so their stories tend to be pretty entertaining.
They called our names to be seated and as I stood up, I felt a little bit nauseous. I figured I was just hungry although that didn’t really explain an odd pain in my lower back. Andrea looked at me funny and asked if I was ok. I said I wasn’t sure and peeled off my coat and scarf thinking maybe I was too hot. I tried to concentrate on the menu but this side pain was pushing everything out of my brain except a rising feeling that I wanted to be lying flat somewhere.
I went to the bathroom, threw my guts up and we all agreed it was time to call my mom. When she answered, all 34 year old independent woman went right out the window, and I started to cry. She told me to go straight to the ER. It’s a good thing all my girlfriends are super bossy because Andrea and Ashley took my keys, forced me into Andrea’s car and off we went.
I haaaate the thought of being really sick. I have never been in an emergency room and I couldn’t stop crying in the car. I was scared and embarrassed and in more pain than I have ever felt in my life. Ever the event manager, I still managed to call my insurance company to make sure the hospital we were going to would take my insurance. When I told the agent no I actually didn’t want to hear about how to go paperless with my statements as I was on my way to the ER and just wanted to check my benefits she said, “honey if it’s an emergency you really shouldn’t worry too much about this part, just go!”.
We got to the hospital and Andrea was helping me walk in, trying to convince me to let her go get a wheelchair but that sounded so awful and embarrassing I said I wanted to walk. Which I did until a fresh wave of pain swept in and I doubled over in the street. I looked up and my cute sister-in-law Tasha had suddenly appeared with a massive orderly and they scooped me into a wheelchair.
I realize that I do have a flair for the dramatic but I typically don’t like to make a scene. All I can tell you about the next ten minutes however, is that I was crying hysterically, I definitely told the entire waiting room that I desperately needed to take all of my clothes off and then I threw up in the bag that the unflappable admitting nurse handed me when I said I needed to get to a bathroom. Apparently vomiting in the ER waiting room is no.big.deal. The whole time my brain was screaming, “get it together Clifford!! Stop acting like a Grey’s Anatomy guest star!!” But everything hurt so much all I could do was be that hot mess that bursts in the doors just before the first commercial break.
I will say this though, the way to get seen nearly instantly at the ER is to arrive sobbing. I was gowned up with an IV in about five minutes flat. There was a parade of people asking me what hurt and for my social security number and if I might be pregnant (I am not, a fact that another parade of people confirmed awhile later). And then the guy taking my blood apparently said, “my name is Barlow and I’ll be your nurse,” but I promise what I heard was, “does it bother you that I’m your nurse?”. We had watched Knocked Up the night before and there is a scene with a male nurse that I guess was stuck in my head so I said, “why would it bother me-because you are a dude?” Andrea and Tasha looked at me like I had three heads and Barlow was definitely NOT amused.
The doctor came and took a look (favorite moment, I’m mostly naked and being poked and prodded and he says-“hey where did you go that you got so tan?” So at least someone got to appreciate my lovely tan lines.) and my mom arrived just in time to hear that more than likely it was a kidney stone.
A KIDNEY STONE! Of all the reasons I could end up in the hospital day, a kidney stone is absolutely the unsexiest thing I can think of. “Kidney disease” has been part of the family vernacular for pretty much my whole life. Everyone in my Grandma Clifford’s family died of a hereditary kidney disease and my dad did his damnedest to check out on us 13 years ago when one of his kidneys gave up. His new one turns 11in February. So all apologies to my father, anything kidney related feels like something that happens to old people. Not 34 year old women who ride bikes and run races and drink water all the live long day. The control freak within feels decidedly uncomfortable with the notion that my body can and will play tricks on me even when I try awfully hard to treat it well.
It’s been a really nice holiday but an odd one as well. I saw a lot of people I hadn’t seen in ages and it seemed like there were more ghosts floating around in Salt Lake than usual. I can run around downtown Salt Lake and not think about the Olympics or hang out in Holladay and not have high school on the tip of my brain but for some reason this trip, all those sort of memories were out in full force. I got some weird news on Christmas from someone I didn’t want to hear from-I just spent quite a bit of the week feeling like I was in a bizarre time warp.
I got some prescriptions and some advice and Mom and Tasha and I went to Noodles and Company and they teased me a little more about poor Barlow the (hot) male nurse and I felt like a human again. We stopped at the Rite Aid on the way home and I ran in to get my precious bottle of percoset.
I was waiting for my pills when this old lady came in complaining as she approached the counter about pain in her leg. I kept thinking-please please please don’t sit next to me, I do NOT want to talk about pain and medicine, I just want to get my drugs and go home and try to get Morgan to play with me before I leave. Sure enough, she sits down next to me and tells me all about the difficulty of getting a doctor to see you at the holidays. But she was nice and she had a slight New York accent so I listened. She asked what I was getting and I told her about my little kidney stone adventure and she told me she had one once too and then suddenly my mean brain clicked over into “be nice” territory and I asked where she was from. “The Bronx. We came here 56 years ago for school.” And then she told me her first husband left her for another woman but at least she had her master’s and her two babies and her second husband had been wonderful. She lost him twelve years ago but she still wears her ring. And then she said, “and you know, I believe that when you are feeling the very worst pain is the moment right before you get an answer.” I don’t know if it was whatever they gave me at the hospital or being tired or spending most of the day scared and tense but I started to cry. And she looked at me with these big sweet eyes and said, “oh honey, I hit a nerve, I’m so sorry!” She asked me how old I was and when I said 34 she said, “come on now, you are just a baby…just a baby.” And it’s funny when a complete stranger feels so familiar but I asked her name and of course it was Stella, because 77 year old Stella from the Bronx WOULD say something that felt like just exactly what I needed to hear.
What I also needed was a little perspective. Things have been a bit rough the last couple of months but geez-how many things can one person be thankful for in 24 hours? That I was in Utah with friends and not alone or on a plane when the attack happened, that I have good insurance, to have family that could rush to the hospital, for nice nurses and doctors and all the modern technology that helps figure out what's wrong and then fixes it pretty fast, for a generally healthy body that meant I could get on a plane home later that night. I know I am really blessed, even in those stretches of time where I can get lost in waves of, "why is this happening to me?" I remember reading an interview with someone who had been really successful but had also been through some terrible stuff saying that if you ask "why me?" when things are not going well, you have to ask that same thing when things are going well. And personally I would rather not throw into question all the great things in my life that I have by no means earned, nor do I deserve.
I was nowhere near death on Monday and what I had turns out to be something that dozens of people I know have been through as well, but for a few hours I was straight up terrified that something really serious was happening to me. That sort of has to get your brain counting it's blessings and being thrilled that you will indeed get to climb another mountain and get on another plane to Spain and maybe, just maybe, be in a hospital someday for something way more fun than a kidney stone (you get that I mean a baby right?).
Not a shabby way to end a year says I.