CW: illness, pain, hospitals, health uncertainty.
Hello again, Fatshion Hustlings readers.
This here is the next part in my Most Epic Story About My Acute Illness. Hold onto your clot-preventing socks as I delve further into this incredible tale of uncertainty, nervousness, excitement, pain, and a frequent need to urinate.
So, at the end of Part 1, I had just returned from Hospital/Doctor Visit No. 2, feeling reassured that I now had enough antibiotics and sufficient pain relief to deal with this infection. I was confident that it would all be over and done with in the next few days, and I would be on my way home to London by the weekend.
I spent those next few days in a fairly miserable state. As well as not being able to sleep lying down, I also could not stand fully upright without my abdomen twinging in protest. Things that used to come so easily to me (like, say, getting out of bed to pee) now took a Herculean amount of effort and often slightly more time than my bladder had accounted for.
I wet myself a couple of times, is what I’m saying here.
I wiled away the hours in bed, only leaving in order to use the bathroom or, occasionally, to locate and bother one of the cats.
By the time I got to Day 5 of the antibiotic treatment, I would not say that I felt better or worse, but the pain was different. The aching in my back was gone, but the sharp stabbing pain in my front was more persistent and had become tender. It now hurt very badly to press on it, which had not been the case before.
I felt that my condition should surely have improved more by that stage. I voiced my concerns to my parents, and we decided that I should call 111 again that day.
I ended up calling at around 11:30am, after taking some time to make notes about my illness up until that point. I was taken through a similar set of questions to what I had answered four days previously. The operator determined that I ought to be seen by a GP within the next six hours. The good news was that, now that the New Year celebrations were well and truly over, standard GP offices were back to their regular operating hours. How exciting, I thought, to be able to go and see a local doctor instead of having to drive for the better part of an hour to get to one of the major hospitals.
So I made the appropriate arrangements and Mum drove me to the local GP at around 4pm. I registered as a temporary patient and, after waiting around for a bit, was called in to visit the on-the-day doctor on duty. This commenced Hospital/Doctor Visit No. 3. I had to ask the nice lady sitting opposite me to pick up my bag, as I was in too much pain to risk bending down and picking it up myself.
This was the first time that I was being looked at by a doctor, rather than a nurse. I mention this because his check was considerably more thorough than the previous two checks had been. He tested my blood pressure (high), got me to hop on my right foot (excruciating), felt my tummy (also painful), checked me for hernias (none), took a urine sample (standard by that point), and looked at me in puzzlement. He instructed me to get a blood test done the next morning, the results of which would probably arrive at their office early the next week.
Another night of uncomfortable slumber followed. I was kind of getting used to them by that point.
Dad and I went to yet another hospital (this one closer and smaller than Hospitals 1 and 2) for my blood test the next morning (a Friday). I get blood tests done fairly often (par for the course when you’re insanely anxious about your health as a rule), and there’s something about the efficiency of the phlebotomists in the special blood test wards of hospitals and medical centres that I find quite reassuring. I was in and out of there within half an hour, making Hospital/Doctor Visit No. 4 by far the quickest. I figured that the next step was to settle in for a painful weekend of waiting before my results came in.
You can therefore imagine my surprise when I received a call from the local GP that afternoon.
It was a different doctor on same-day duty that day, but he had a similarly comforting, soft-spoken way about him. Anyway, he called me up because he’d received got my morning blood test results back already, and there was one marker in particular that concerned him. My inflammation levels, which are normally supposed to be between 5 and 10, were reading at 273.
‘Well,’ I said, ‘no wonder I’m in pain.’
‘Indeed,’ he replied, before instructing me to head over to his office as soon as possible.
I have to admit, at this point I was feeling pretty worried. I have Health Anxiety, after all, and here I was with massive amounts of inflammation that a simple UTI was not able to explain away. What could be causing it? Was something truly dreadful happening inside me? Something that could not be fixed? As I entered this doctor’s office for Hospital/Doctor Visit No. 5, I felt sweaty, uncomfortable, and scared.
It is to this doctor’s credit that his gentle and caring nature were able to soothe me. Also very soothing was his immediate ‘I really don’t think so’ when I asked him ‘this couldn’t be something really serious like cancer, could it?’ His belief was that it was something more like gall stones, or perhaps appendicitis. Something that needed to be seen to, but not something life-threatening. As I sat there, taking deep and slightly tear-choked breaths of relief at his assurance that I was not about to spontaneously combust, he said that it was probably a good idea for me to be admitted into hospital so I could be scanned and monitored. He called up Gloucester Royal Hospital (the location of Hospital/Doctor Visit No. 2), told them that I would be coming in, and handed me a letter to present to their reception. He also suggested that I pack an overnight bag, just in case.
As I write this, it occurs to me that being told that you might have to stay in hospital overnight may seem frightening to a lot of people. For me though, at the time, I think the main thing I was feeling was reassurance. Having been in pain for as long as I had been by that point, it felt really good to be taken seriously, and it felt even better to be taking solid, definitive action towards addressing the pain and discovering the source of it. I packed my bag quickly, and the journey back to Gloucester was quiet and somewhat contemplative, but not nearly as scary as it could have been.
Let it be known by all, here and now, that A&E is not the most exciting place in which to spend a Friday evening. It involved a hell of a lot of waiting around, firstly to be seen by the preliminary nurse, then to be taken to one of those warded off bed things in the main A&E hub, then to have your vitals checked, then to be examined, then to finally hear what is to happen to you next.
One thing I will say is that the nurse who checked my vitals was particularly lovely. A young woman, my size or bigger, with a huge smile on her friendly, charming face. As she prepared to take my blood pressure she asked ‘can I squeeze you?’, to which my incredibly witty response was ‘I think it’s a little early in the relationship for that, but if you insist’. I think she enjoyed that. I certainly did.
Anyway, I was eventually prodded and poked by one of the doctors on duty, who had a similar ‘hmmm’ reaction after she had listened to my story and completed her examination. She declared that more thorough examining needed to be done to determine what was wrong with me, and that I would need to stay there overnight before such examining took place. After another long and boring wait, I was taken to Room 11 in Ward 9A, which ended up being my place of residence for the next nine days.
Stay tuned for Part 3, where I reveal what happened during those nine days. I can assure you that the pictures in Part 3 will be far more relevant than photos of my cats.