(this is a pic I took last year while
waiting for Laura to get a bone marrow biopsy. Laura is way tougher
than I am.)
Backstory: I come from a long
line of stubbornness and procrastination. I have a grandma who only
cuts her hair when the moon is full and refuses to take Advil. She
once told me that “when Indian women had their babies, they went
out in the woods and tied themselves to a tree. They were quiet so the
wolves wouldn’t eat their babies. After they gave birth, they’d go
right back to working in the fields.” This little bit of info was
the cause of my refusal of epidurals during my three children’s
My dad is missing a finger, has
had hips and knees replaced, and has a useless shoulder, all from
working in the oil fields of Texas since I was 2. He hates
“pansies” who complain about their jobs with a/c or heat. He has no
patience for whining. This is why I hide in a hot bath when I would
really prefer to die from my migraine headaches.
My mom worked on farms and bucked hay when she really
should’ve been having back surgery. She hauled buckets of water and
grain with a broken wrist. This is why I did not present for
stitches when I flayed open my calf last summer.
I have another grandma who’s had multiple brain surgeries to remove tumors. A few years back she kept telling her doctor that her head hurt when she went to bed and she swore she could feel her pulse on the side of her head. He told her she was imagining things. She pestered her other doctor enough that he finally checked her out. It turned out that she had, in fact, a hole in her head. Her skull had died in that spot from all the intrusions and there was nothing separating her brain from the rest of the world except her skin and hair. She didn’t complain, she just asked them to please patch her up so she could rejoin the church choir.
“suck it up” is sort of a family mantra.
Also, I used to work in an ER as a unit secretary. I
know how nurses and doctors talk about their patients at The Desk.
I never wanted to be “that patient”: the whiny, over-reacting drama
queen who pesters the staff for blankets and snacks.
I got sick on Monday. My stomach
felt like fire and knives. My husband, a PA/RN//LPN/LabTech
strongly suggested I get seen by the ER. I ignored him, and all
those letters behind his name. Tuesday, still in pain and still
barfing my socks, I continued to ignore him. “appendicitis” was
Yesterday, I relented. We
went to the ER (the clinics were closed due to ice…my primary was
closed, too) and I did not worry about the wait or the weather…I
worried about being a wuss and about being That Patient.
My nurse was very kind and I said “please”,
“thank you”, and “ma’am”. I drank my contrast quickly and without
complaint. I didn’t ask for pain meds, but was given morphine,
Right before the CT, the pain began in
earnest. I cried as silently as I could, my feet back-pedaling the
sheet underneath me. My hands clenched and tried to tear the pain
out of my belly. Finally, with tears clouding my view, I began to
call. “Excuse me.”. “Hello?”. “pardon me.”…I’d not been given a call button… Until someone passed my
curtain and stopped. I asked for my nurse, please.
I was given Dilaudid (sp?) and that wiped me out. The
pain did not stop, but I was too drunk to care, limbs weighed down
too much to flounder. My husband sat next to me, holding my hand, helpless to fix anything despite all his letters. It was like a bad Alfred Hitchcock
The CT was negative. I was given a diagnosis of
“Gastroenteritis”: a term which here means “we don’t know what’s
wrong, your labs and CT look normal, please stop crying, stop puking, and go
home. Here’s some Tylenol.”.
grateful for the staff. I am grateful for the care I was given. I
think, from everything, I learned just how powerful the words of
others can be. I have suffered in order-not to please or impress
people-but to silence their words. I “suck it up” to prove their
words wrong…how dumb is that?!