Let’s talk a minute about doctors, patience, trust, an accident, and an increasingly failing brain.
**Spoiler alert: it’s going to take more than a minute**
Let’s start where it feels like it started, though I’m learning maybe it’s been happening for a while. And, yeah, I could look back to see if I’ve told the whole tale before, but I’m not going to.
In May I was helping some good friends move into the house they’re renting. The house was left with a lot of things in it, deliberately. One of those things was a razor scooter. You remember being 10? Me too. Well, my friend dared me to go down his driveway faster than he did. Now here’s the key. I didn’t see him go down the driveway. I only saw him stop. I only learned later he didn’t go very far up the driveway in the first place. A very steep driveway. I told him, “No. I’ll break my face.” “I know,” he said, “but I dared you.” “You’re right.” I grabbed the scooter and goofy ran up to the top of the driveway. And then my greatest failing came. I pushed off. And immediately realized I’m heading for the moving truck. I don’t know how to stop. I should aim for the grass. How do you aim with this thing? HOW DO YOU STOP?! I tried to stop. Flash forward to me laughing getting up from the ground. One friend said, “Your shoulder is wrong.” The other “your elbow is not lookin’ good.” “Is my head bleeding?” I started to feel woozy. We went inside. I was handed some Cheez-its when it was learned I hadn’t eaten, and we were off to the hospital. Each curve of the roundabout budging my shoulder.
I didn’t cry. That’s important. I didn’t cry until the PA said “we don’t really do anything for collarbones.” That’s when I cried. Because my shoulder was next to my neck. They had to do something. I also remember this conversation. “Are you dizzy?” “Yeah. I mean, my shoulder is next to my face, so.” “Blurred vision.” “No.” But I thought “Who could tell? It’s blinding pain.” “Well, you’re not concussed.” Blood on my temple. X-ray after x-ray. Of my shoulder. From above. Behind. head on. Slightly angled. My elbow. Let’s move that around a bunch, especially if it’ll move that bone in my chest a bit more. That’ll be good. A sling. Out the door. My favorite sports bra ruined. The only one that I can wear to run. Coincidentally, the only bra I’ve ever owned that didn’t add any pressure to my collarbone.
A few days later they did do something about my collarbone. They knocked me clean out and cut into my muscle. Fastened metal to bone. Five screws across. 7 inch incision Dissolving sutures. Several weeks sleeping in a recliner. At my parents house. The cat and I in my old bedroom. A lot of Murder, She Wrote. A lot of wanting to grow up to be Jessica Fletcher. Angela Lansbury as a secondary life goal. But neither one ever with a broken collarbone. I’m already behind a step. Buzzing social lives at 60. Crying in my chair, hiding my tattoos from my grandparents. Left alone with my grandpa while he prays for me. Still crying. Quietly.
A month later, I’m getting eyeglasses on the cheap, because that blurry vision is finally here, and it’s not leaving. Worse at night. Worse when I’m driving. Motion makes everything worse.
Fast forward to last Monday driving down Parnell. Coming around a curve and realizing just in time that, “Oh yeah! I’m driving. That’s a utility pole. That’s a 9-year-old boy. And I’m in control of this car that needs to be further from the sidewalk.” I forgot. I forgot I was driving.
At work I’m stuttering on the phone. And forgetting sentences. Forgetting that I’ve just said things. We’ve all done it. But not with this increasing frequency. Stuttering for minutes at a time. Unable to shake it. Forgetting words. Forgetting what they are, but being completely unable to find a suitable replacement and just move on. Nope. I’m just stuck. Until I find the word. Not just in speaking. In writing. In thinking. In my very own insides. If I can’t find the word, I can’t move on. In some instances I can’t move. Because all of my processors are shooting and firing to find that one stupid word. Release. Release. Release. The word is release. Type it and go.
Thursday. The doctor. The quacktor. The most impatient woman on the planet. Let me say the nurse was concerned. I told her everything. She wrote it down. With her hand and a pen and paper. She didn’t use the computer. She looked me in the face. She left the room, and I cried some more. My friend waiting in the lobby. Patiently. Kindly. Undeservingly.
Enter the cruelest “care”giver. Each symptom met with eyeroll or sarcasm. Each symptom met with distraction. Never looking me in the eye. Never really looking at me at all. I knew this would happened. I’d stammered through it a dozen times the night before as I panicked. Every intention of walking out the damn door when she got this shitty to someone who’d taken time off work to pay her money for her to be a jerk. I must be lying. I’m a liar. All sexual assault victims are. That’s why the authorities never hear us. Why would a doctor about anything? This is a problem we all face. Never feeling heard or believed.
“Has anything happened to you in the last 6 months that could contribute?”
“Other than bashing my head on the cement when I fell?”
“When did that happen?”
“Five months ago. It’s on my chart.”
“I see you broke your clavicle.”
“And I hit my head. You don’t think a fall hard enough to sever a bone in two with a knock to the head is enough?”
“Your symptoms don’t make sense. It’s too long for you to still be concussed. And it says here you weren’t.”
“They never checked!”
“Says your neck was fine.”
“They never checked that either. I didn’t want to move it, because then my bone halves shifted.”
“It’s not a concussion. It’s not anything. At all.”
“So at 28 my brain is just failing?!”
“Then it’s something. AT ALL.”
silence. She’s not believing me. Alright, Hayj, it’s now or never. Get up. Leave. Find a new doctor now. Talk to that nurse again. Find someone. Scream. SOMEONE HEAR ME!
No. I just started crying.
With rolling eyes “Fine. I guess we could do a blood test to test your sugars. Not to be mean,” her lips purse. Her mouth looks like an anus as it doesn’t say, “But you have put on some weight so you’ve got diabetes.”
“We’ll try (SHE SAID TRY) to schedule you an MRI. And maybe you should see a neuropsychologist.”
I text my friend in the lobby. I text my friend in Chicago. New Jersey. The 07. I cry. I wait. I wait for 10 more minutes. A new nurse who has been told I’m dramatic and insane comes in. “You can get a blood test whenever you want. Your MRI is scheduled for the 12th at 7:30. Be there at 7:15. It’s all the way up north. Do you know where it is?” “Yes. This isn’t my first rodeo.” Tears. I’ve stopped the deep gasps for breath. “It takes 3-4 business days for the fax to be processed for the neuropsychologist. So you can’t call until after next Wednesday. But you should wait until after you get the MRI to schedule it. And PHP doesn’t usually cover either of these.” “Can I get the blood work now?” “Yeah.” She rolls her eyes. “Oh and here’s some information about concussions.” She snickers. They’re making fun of me. She wobbles out.
I wait for my blood test. I sit in a scary chair. The lab tech gives no warning as I watch a needle dig under my skin and into the only available vein.
My friend and I walk out. We get in the car. I explain myself. I call my mom. I cry. She tries not to. We curse the name of that stupid, horrible doctor. My friend and I sit in the parking lot of Pizza Hut. I sob into his lap. We go in. Tears all over my face. We’re seated. “The server thinks you did this to me.” “I know. That’s okay.” At least I’m not alone. He’s a good friend.
I go home and feel sorry for myself. I go to a comedy show to be around my friends. I vaguely describe to my buddy what has happened. He offers a hug that I accept, and almost cry on him. He knows. He hugs me tighter.
I go to an office at work to ask if I can print some checks. Instead they ask how I’m doing. And I’m tired of being polite. I tell them everything. One coworker’s daughter had the same doctor. The doctor put her on Prozac for five years. For what ended up being Crohn’s Disease. Now I’m terrified. They recommend their doctor. They recommend I schedule the neuropsychologist appointment immediately. As soon as I can. Just schedule it for after the MRI. It’s a good suggestion. They offer to go with me to any and all appointments. My eyes get full. I spend the rest of the day excessively and falsely cheery.
It’s all I can think about.
It seems important to document now, because I don’t know how quickly it will get worse. How important it will be to come back with news for that terrible doctor to throw in her face. Because she needs to know how terrible she treats people.
I am crazy, but not about this.
Several people suggest the same condition. Over and over. It’s been my fear all along. I mention it to a few people. Fear and nodding. I never checked the symptoms. Even I thought I was being silly. Last night I checked. It’s a lot of the same ones. I’m not going to let myself self-diagnose and scare myself. But I’m going to bring it up at every appointment. Because the symptoms have been around longer than five months now that I’m really examining it. The shaking, a thing I’ve been doing for ten years. Sudden shaking, in my hands and arms. Fatigue. Chronic pain. Joint pain. Spots, lighted spots. Flashes in my vision. Depression. Bladder issues, sort of always peeing. Muscle spasms. Stuttering. Losing words. Failing memory retention. I won’t say it. I won’t make assumptions. So many things could be happening. Maybe it’s 30 different things. Maybe it’s one. Whatever it is, I’m going to track it. As long as I still can.