This is so not the blog post I planned to write this week, but life happens. See that title up there? It’s true. It’s been true for as long as I can remember. For reasons I no longer try to understand, I am a magnet for weird shit — good and bad. The latest was bad. Decidedly bad.

If you follow me on Facebook, you might know that I spent a couple of fun-filled days in the hospital last week. I am about to tell you what happened.

Before I do, let me say that I am OK. And while my docs and I still have a bit of work to do — we know what happened, but not why (hence the weirdness of it all) — I will continue to be fine.

I will try not to stray too far into TMIland. Things were done. Invasive things. Things that you do not need to know about, and that I would dearly love to forget. Such is the nature of medical tests, yes? There are more of those in my future. Yay.

So. This is long; please bear with me.

Here goes.

On my way home from work last Monday, I picked up a most healthful dinner from a delightful establishment that’s open late. It’s called Taco Bell. You might have heard of it. Don’t judge.

That doesn’t really have anything to do with anything, except everything started after dinner.

I had curled up on the couch to color for a bit — my nightly habit — when I was struck by this intense pain in my left shoulder.

I had experienced similar pain — only not nearly as intense — in the same place a few days earlier. I had attributed it to my shoulder muscles being unhappy with the weird position in which they find themselves when I curl up on the couch and color.

Of course, this thought did not have time to coalesce in my head. No thought did. Because a nanosecond after that invisible knife stabbed me in the shoulder, it began cutting across my upper abdomen.

This was no, “Hey, that hurts!” pain, people. This was doubled over, drenched in sweat, nearly in tears, where is that moaning coming from, oh that’s me pain. Serious. Pain. I had a kidney stone years ago. It was the worst pain I had ever experienced. This rivaled that.

I could breathe, but it was extraordinarily painful.

After some back and forth with my mom, because Mom is always the first call in an emergency, I decided to call 911.

My brain was going not good places. Pain in my left shoulder. You probably already know what I was thinking, but I’m going to say it anyway. Heart attack.

I’m not sure why, but the thought of having a heart attack terrifies me. I don’t have a family history of heart issues, and I do not know anyone who has had a heart attack. But the fear is firmly rooted.

Four paramedics arrived at my house less than five minutes after I called 911.

It was a short visit. They took my vitals and decided I was OK. They were kind but mildly dismissive. I don’t think it was intentional. They agreed that I did not need an ambulance, but would call one if I wanted. We briefly discussed it, as much a woman who can barely express a coherent thought can discuss anything. They said they hated to take an ambulance out of service for a “real emergency,” and if I really wanted to see a doctor, I could get to Paradise Valley Hospital (now known as Abrazo Scottsdale Campus) faster in my own car.

Maybe 10 minutes after arriving, they were on their way, and I was back on the phone with Mom.

By then the pain was easing. I was just really emotional, relieved that experts had deemed me OK and feeling kind of stupid for overreacting.

But the pain was not through with me. Nope. It had had more in store for me. A lot more.

I eventually asked my mom to pick me up and take me to the ER. I think it was about 2 a.m.

The nurse on duty in the ER took me right back. First order of business was to hook me up to an EKG.

“Fast but fine,” he pronounced.

From triage, it was back to bed five. Jeremy was the nurse there. He set me up and handed me off to the doc. I wish I could remember his name.

He listened to my symptoms and said it sounded like a “classic case of pleurisy.” He said he has had it himself.

“It put me on my ass.”

The bad news is that there’s no specific treatment. The good news is it’s not dangerous. Just painful.

I was good with not dangerous. Really good. Yay for not dangerous!

Just to be on the safe side, the doc ordered a couple of tests, including a chest X-ray. It was the X-ray that changed things.

“You. Just got interesting,” the doc said to me.

My Brain: Oh. Crap. That. Cannot be good.

Also My Brain: Shut up and listen to the man.

“That’s not good,” the doc continued.

MB: See! I told you he said it’s not good. I was right!

AMB: Shut up!

MB: But he said it’s not good!

AMB: Shut. Up!

MB: But, but, but…!

AMB: Zip it! (Complete with hand gesture.)

While my brain continued arguing with itself, I focused on the words coming out of the doc’s mouth. He was asking me questions. Had I experienced any recent trauma? Had I been in an accident? Had I had surgery recently?

No. No. And no.

Was I perhaps wearing a bra when the X-ray was taken?


This is not my X-ray, but it probably looked something like this. (Source: Wikipedia)

This is not my X-ray, but it probably looked something like this.  (Source: Wikipedia)

“OK, then. You have air under your diaphragm,” the doc said, going on to explain what that meant. “This is the kind of thing we see in patients who have been shot.”

I definitely had not been shot.

Interestingly enough, the doc also said I did not look sick enough for what was happening inside by body.

Um… good?

Weird, right?

Bottom line. I had a hole in me. And not a figurative one. Air was leaking into places air had no reason or right to be. The human body, fine machine that it is, does not have an abundance of extra space on the inside. Hence the pain. And air rises, which is why the pain was in my shoulders. (A friend of mine who had a laparoscopic procedure years ago experience this and confirmed that it hurts like a bitch.)

Things began to move quickly then, and I watched my chances of going home to Figaro anytime soon vanish into thin air.

Jeremy gave me a pain shot, holding the large-ish needle like a knife to stab me. Y’all know how I feel about needles. And Jeremy had already taken some blood, not mention the routine labs I had drawn Monday morning in preparation for my annual physical later in the week. (That did not happen, by the way.)

Movely quickly, he then proceeded to set up an IV line, which he described as my “lifeline.”

“Let’s not scare the patient,” I said only half joking.

These blood culture bottles are not mine. i was in no position (or mood) to take pictures.

These blood culture bottles are not mine. I was in no position (or mood) to take pictures.

He took about a bajillion tubes of blood, including several culture vials that looked like mini wine bottles. Those were to make sure there was nothing in my blood except blood.

Then it was off for the first of two CT scans. Time to find that hole so somebody could go in and patch it up. Emergency surgery, it seemed, was imminent.

The IV proved its worth almost immediately. The contrast dye for the scan made me sick, but Jeremy, bless him, swooped in with some magic potion that fixed me up as soon as it hit my vein. (Feeling cold fluid flow into your vein is an odd sensation.)

So the CT scan was supposed to show the docs the exact location of the hole they were sure was in my body. Somewhere. Notice the use of the phrase “supposed to.” As you’ve probably guessed. It did not.

Weird, right?

(Source: Wikipedia)

(Source: Wikipedia)

By 6 a.m. I had been turned over to the lovely staff on the third floor, and another CT had been scheduled. The different was the dye. Rather that the IV stuff, they gave me an oral one. I was just thrilled to finally have something to drink! I was so thirsty, but with emergency surgery imminent, drinking anything was a no-no.

The second CT was as mysterious as the first one. No sign of the perforated viscous the doc believed to be the source of the pneumoperitoneum. (How do you like them fancy words? They aren’t frightening at all, right?) If you’ve ever watched a medical show, you’ve probably heard the term “pneumothorax” or maybe “tension pneumo.”

Now if you’ve ever watched a medical show, you’ve probably heard the term “pneumothorax” or maybe “tension pneumo.” Same general problem; different location, cause and solution. With a tension pneumo, air escapes from a collapsed lung. The solution? A needle or tube (Does anybody have a ballpoint pen?) is inserted into the chest release the air with a pronounced hissing sound.

The surgeon came in to talk things over with me.

“You don’t look as sick as I thought you would,” he said, first words out of his mouth. I heard that phrase from every doctor that found his or her way into room 326. Every. Single. One.

Weird, right?

So with nothing obvious to fix, surgery was no longer so imminent. The docs decided to let thing ride for a bit and see if I improved or got worse. The surgeon said he was holding off on more invasive tests because he didn’t want to blow a(nother) hole in me that he would then have to go in and fix. The next few hours would be telling.

Taking the surgery off the table meant something very important. Food! If clear liquids can be called food.

I improved. The pain became more manageable. (Thank you, Mr. Morphine.)

When I took my IV stand for a walk a Tuesday afternoon — doctors’ orders — I ran into the surgeon again. He told me that he had consulted with some other doctors who “have been doing this a lot longer,” and they were all “flabbergasted.” His word. And not one that is comforting coming from a doctor.

Weird, right?

The next day (Wednesday — I kind of lost track of time), I graduated to soft foods. Let’s hear it for chewing! Or at least gumming. But mostly chewing.

I continued to improve, and the pain continued to dissipate. Doc and I had agreed that if things kept progressing in a positive direction, I could/would go home Thursday.

And that’s exactly what happened. About 60 hours after I walked into the ER, I walked out the hospital’s front entrance. Yes, they let me walk.

So, the working theory now is that I have a peptic ulcer somewhere that perforated and then resealed itself. It’s apparently not terribly uncommon. Usually, it’s visible on a CT, though. Doc is fairly certain the problem is in my stomach rather than my intestines. And if it’s not a peptic ulcer? Not. A. Clue.

“When you hear hoof beats, it’s horses, not zebras,” he said.

Which is true. But then again, I have found myself in a herd of zebras before.

Because weird shit happens to me.