About ten years ago, I had my wisdom teeth removed. As I was in the salad days of still being on my parent’s heath insurance, I got to go to an oral surgeon, get general anesthesia and painkillers afterward rather than trolling the internet for the cheapest medical care I can find or just crossing my fingers and hoping whatever it is goes away, like I do now.
Early in the morning I went to the oral surgeon, and the doctor (who has the largest hands I’ve ever seen on a human) cut out my three wisdom teeth while I slumbered peacefully. After that, as I was coming out of anesthesia, an incredibly annoying women wearing garish scrubs tried to keep me awake by telling me that Days of Our Lives was on.
“You have to stay awake,” she told me, “Look–Days is on!”
My memories of this experience are naturally hazy, but I remember being unable to speak thinking, why the hell would I want to watch Days? I hate that show. If I just quietly close my eyes and go back to sleep, she’ll never know… Finally she got so fed up with me, she forced me to get out of the bed and sit on a bench. Then the doctor came in and told me that the EKG from when I was put under indicated that I have an irregular heartbeat. Despite the fact that I was nearly unconscious, couldn’t speak and was still under heavy sedation, he asked me a number of pointed medical questions and advised I get myself a specialist.
When I woke up two days later, Map Fleece reminded me of this new and exciting medical condition to explore, and I set out in search of a cardiologist. After echocardiograms, and discussions that included questions like “Do you get short of breath climbing stairs quicker than other people do?” and my response, “How in the world would I know how quickly other people get short of breath climbing stairs?” and laying out my entire travel history (this heart condition may be Mexico’s fault) it was concluded that, yes, I do have an irregular heartbeat.
I waited for the cardiologist to expand on this, and he simply shrugged and said, “We have no idea why. Your heart is shaped correctly, nothing’s amiss there, you’ve just got this thing and we can’t figure it out. If it doesn’t cause you any distress, then I’d say don’t worry about it.”
Always comforting words to hear.
Since that time, I’ve been kicked off my parents’ insurance and have not spent much time with doctors. There was the stress fracture in my foot incident, which cost way too much money to have diagnosed and which completely soured me on medical treatment of any kind. Thankfully, aside from a broken toe, and torn calf muscle, the last few years have been pretty uneventful. Until the other morning when I was stumbling bleary-eyed through the bathroom on my way to make coffee and noticed that my face was twice its usual size.
My entire jawline was swollen in a way that made me look like a cartoon character. I also had a splitting headache, earache and general sense of unease–though that may have been a symptom of the impending doom of paying for medical treatment again. I immediately asked the internet what was wrong and learned that I’m probably fighting off an infection of some kind, or it could be cancer–have to wait and see. As my ears hurt, I assumed that I just have a simple ear infection that a bit of amoxicillin can wipe out handily, but as my face has never grown to twice its normal size before, I was still a bit alarmed.
Gentleman Scholar kept giving me worried looks as I sat on the couch all day feeling sorry for myself and watching The Office, and finally after three days of large face I went to the University Health Center at my job (where I can go for free and get a $13 throat culture!). By the time I actually made it to the health center, my face was back to its normal size, and the Nurse I spoke to was very disappointed in me.
“So it was swollen, here?” she asked.
“All through here, yeah. I guess it’s gone now, but I couldn’t tell because I feel like I was getting used to it.”
“And this has never happened before?”
“And you have no other symptoms?”
“My ears hurt a bit, and I had a headache, but that’s gone now.” I was starting to feel like I should have taken pictures to prove that I wasn’t making this whole thing up.
“If it happens again, you should come in while you’re still symptomatic.” She said, in a way that sounded like she was chastising me, even though the health center had been closed for the holiday weekend.
So yet again, I am a medical mystery. Every time I approach a health care professional, he or she lectures me about not having health insurance, and then tells me “I don’t know what’s going on with you.”
They are not making a convincing case for spending tons of money insuring myself.
My grandfather went to the doctor about three times in his life. He was a farmer who presumably got injured all the time (farming seems dangerous to me), and finally, when he was 88, his leg turned black for mysterious reasons and my grandmother forced him to go see someone. I have no clue what was actually wrong with him because that wasn’t the important part of the story, as my grandmother told it. The important part to me–he lived til age 95.