Transient? I Don’t Think So! Part II: CT, MRI, EKG, and Other Cool Abbreviations

So, there I lay in a gurney in the back of an ambulance. The events of the previous 30 minutes seemed to run like a video tape at half speed.It felt like I was having a crazy dream. I mean, get a grip on yourself, Shane. Did you really have slurred speech and nearly fall on your grandson? That answer came far too quickly as the ambulance door shut and everything around me resumed normal speed.

I looked up and saw the EMT, he was putting electrodes on my chest to help track my heart rhythm. As he is doing this, he is trying to keep me engaged in conversation to help keep me at ease. I turned my head to try and look behind me because I could hear that my wife was also in the ambulance. I saw her get in the front of the ambulance but it wasn’t until the back doors closed that things began to sink in a bit. Things, as they say, just got real really fast.

As we were making our way to the hospital, I also realized that I was placed in the wonderful word of medical abbreviations. Mind you, I have worked in hospitals. I served as a US Navy corpsman and worked in several hospitals in the years after my discharge up until I was about 30 years old. The point being; I knew what all the abbreviations meant. Still, I can imagine how it must sounds to someone without such experience would think they were in serious need of a Babel fish to shove in their ear. In short, the EMT did an EKG and prepared to start an IV (set to KVO). He also let me know that as soon as I got to the ER, I would immediately be transported for CT scan to determine if I had a CVA.. In simple layman’s terms, the guy in the back of the ambulance did a trace of my heart rhythm. He then placed a tube in my arm to push fluids (but just enough to keep an open vein), He then informed me that as soon as I got to the emergency room they were send me for a central tomography scan to determine if I had a stroke. Needless to say, the abbreviations took much less time to say the same thing. Considering what had happened to me so far that morning, I appreciate having as much time on my side as possible.

Just as they said, I got to the hospital and was immediately taking to the radiology department for my CT scan. This is also known as a CAT scan so I always have images of a screeching feline being hovered over my head. That didn’t really happen. Instead, they stuck this space helmet on my head and then stuck my head inside this machine which made a bunch of whirring noise. I had hoped I was inside the TARDIS but when the CT scan was done; no River Song in sight. This was getting to be a really exasperating day.

I was then taken to my room in the emergency department where my wife and brother in law were waiting. My wife, Renee, had called her sister to inform her of what had happened. My brother in law, Kevin, came to the hospital right away. It was great to see him. My anxiety level was at an all time high and it meant a lot to have someone keep company for me and my wife.

A short while later, I met with a doctor who asked me the questions I would answer over and over again about what happened earlier that morning. Once that was done, I would be asked to push down on their hands with my feet then pull their hands up with my feet. Then I had to squeeze their fingers with my hands. Then, they would shine a small light and have me follow it with my eyes. Then they would ask me to tell them where I was (Strong Memorial Hospital), in what city (Rochester, New York), the current date (November 20, 2015) , the nemesis of Starchild (Sir Nose D’voidoffunk), the birth name of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr) and the original drummer for the Beatles (Pete Best). Okay, they really didn’t ask me for those last three items but it felt like they did given my fatigue, and anxiety. I knew something very wrong happened that morning. We just needed to determine what happened and what damage was caused as a result.

It was then determined that another CT scan was determined. This time they were going to shoot some reagent dye into my body to get more distinct images that may not otherwise show up without the dye.  Unfortunately, for reasons that I cannot recall, They put in a second IV line in my right arm to push the reagent dye. They took the fluid that was running in my left arm IV but left the line itself in place. So I now had two IV lines in the crook of each elbow, a space helmet on my head, and more whirring noises. Once again, I searched in vain for River Song. Perhaps some weeping angels detained her.

I was wheeled back to my room and told that another team came to give me a different test but left since I was getting the CT scan done. I was treated to a piece of papier machet on a bun they called “grilled chicken breast”. My kids all came in to check up on me. It was great to see them all. I had not seen my older son, Tom, since his wedding to his new bride, Christy. They even snuck in my grandson, Taelor, for a very brief visit.

If I had not had enough testing, I went in for a MRI. This test uses magnet so you can’t have any metal on you. My belt came off. My glasses came off. I then revealed to the MRI technician that my lower teeth shone like stars (they also come out at night).

I was placed on a sliding table, They placed a restraint over my head to restrict movement during testing. The table then slid me into this tunnel where everything from my head to about my waist was inside. I then endured a series of shrill pulsing noises that ran for about 5 minutes. The only way I could endure it was to count the pulses. One test has 15 pulses then a shrill noise that sounded like a broken dial up modem. In total, this went on for about 25 minutes.

When I got back into my room in the emergency department, the nurse told me that I would be moving up to an inpatient room on the neurology floor. Part of me felt relieved as I had been going at all this for nearly 12 hours at this point. I felt that some downtime was in sight. I would come to find out that the adventure would continue for a bit longer that day. I guess I had hoped that I could sleep and this would all go away when I woke up. Nope! It was still real and ongoing…

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Transient? I Don’t Think So! Part I: Pop Pop Weeow Weeow

I have been writing these pieces for nearly 8 years. I have been sharing my warped perspective with my random ramblings and mindless minutiae. In many of my writings, I am just being a bit goofy as I observe the world around me. Other times, while being goofy, I try to be educational as I teach about funny sounding words. Once in a while, I am placed in a position where my life takes a very unexpected turn which leaves me with a reeling mind a raw emotions. This piece, which is part of a series (consider yourself warned), falls into that third category. I share such stories to remind my readers that while I love to share stories that make people laugh, I am still quite human. I share such stories not only in the interest of being honest with myself and my network of readers. I also do it as a form of healing catharsis for myself. I also hope and pray that, is any of my readers can relate to such experiences, it may help us all realize we are not alone. It all started on the morning of November 20, 2015. However, the story really began the night before that morning.

Like many of us in the working world, I get a bi-weekly paycheck which goes into my bank account via direct deposit. This means that, every two weeks, I can expect my paycheck in my account at approximately the same time of night (which little margin of error). Like most other paydays, I went to my laptop and began paying my routine expenses. Once that was done, I then put on my shoes and drive to a local gas station/convenience store where I fill my gas tank and withdraw some spending cash. When I paid for the gas (and a late night snack), the cashier gave me a John Kennedy silver dollar as part of my change. I drove home and locked the house up for the night. My wife, Renee, was working on homework in the living room and had fallen asleep on the couch. I was the only one awake so I quietly made my way upstairs. As part of the routine, I left a note for Renee to let her know how much available funds were left over after the bills were paid (always good news). I took my sleeping pill and set aside the silver dollar to give to my 3 year old grandson, Taelor, in the morning.

Morning came and seemed like any other. I felt rather sluggish due to being up so late the night before. I put little thought into the rubbery feeling in my legs as I got dressed, grabbed my work laptop and made my way downstairs to get ready to leave for work. It’s at this point where I have had to rely somewhat on the memory of others involved as it’s a bit blurry for me.

Once I was downstairs, I heard my daughter, Brianna, and my grandson, Taelor, talking. Taelor and I have a wonderful bond. I call him Butter Bean. He calls me Pop Pop. I walked into my daughter’s room to give Taelor the silver dollar I got the night before. Unfortunately, when I got to Brianna’s room, I began having trouble standing. I was propping myself up against the bookshelf in her room. Brianna said: “Dad, you need to go sit down.” I responded: No, Baby Girl. I’m just tired. Brianna found something very wrong with the way I said “just tired”. Those words sounded perfect in my head but not at all to Brianna’s ears. She was also afraid I was going to fall on top of Taelor. She walked around me into the living room and woke up my wife, Renee. I don’t recall what I said to Renee but she immediately told Brianna: “CALL 911!” She then directed me to sit down in a chair in the living room. I do not recall the fact of actually doing this or needing assistance to sit in said chair. What I DO recall is that my wife and daughter looked very scared and had called an ambulance and I was presenting very strong reason for that concern and ambulance call.

I pulled my phone out of my shirt pocket and called a colleague from work. I asked her to cover some tasks for me as I wasn’t well and was going to a doctor. My colleague later confirmed that I sounded very sluggish, almost drunk, and that I specifically said “doctor” not hospital.

The ambulance arrived very quickly so I gave my phone to my wife to call my boss. I had never realized how much of a blessing it was to live walking distance from an ambulance hall. The EMT began asking me questions. Again, the answers sounded fine in my head. He flashed a light in my eyes. He had me touch my nose and touch his finger. I did this VERY slowly. This was when I began to feel a bit scared about everything. In 22 of marriage (as of this writing), my wife had never seen me as an inpatient in a hospital. It was usually her or one of the kids. This role reversal was really hard for me to process.

The EMT told me he was taking me to the hospital. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around how I went from just feeling a little tired to riding in the back of an ambulance. As I got into the ambulance, Brianna was holding Taelor. He waved and said: “Bye Pop Pop”. Taelor is fascinated with emergency vehicles. He calls them “Weeow Weeow”. Right before the doors to the ambulance closed. I heard Taelor ask Brianna: “Pop Pop Weeow Weeow?”

It was almost all I could take to have an EMT looking down at me, running an EKG, starting an IV line, all while keeping me engaged in some form of conversation. Renee was riding along in the front of the ambulance. Little would I know the ride was just beginning for me that day.