Ritual Confessions

February 8, 2008

Well, I spoke too soon

Filed under: Uncategorized — elissakaren @ 5:03 am

I think I felt so much better last night because I was comparing how I felt on Advil to how I felt without it. But things soon took another turn for the worse; the pain returned in full force and then some. I took more Advil, and it felt as if it were hardly making a dent in the agony. As if I’d developed an instant immunity to ibuprofen, which was hardly likely. I could only conclude that the malady was worsening at a rate that ever-increasing dosages of painkillers could not keep up with.

So right after picking Charlotte up from school, I went to a walk-in clinic with her in tow. The wait time was two hours. I contemplated sitting there with my daughter for two hours, while she played with the waiting room toys that dozens of sick kids had presumably been playing with all day. But I had enough to worry about right then, where she was concerned, without adding more into the mix. (If she gets what I have, I honestly don’t know how she’ll be able to stand it. I’m an adult, and I could hardly stand it.)

So I asked the woman behind the counter if I could go home and come back in two hours. She said yes, that she’d entered all my information into her computer and I was officially on the waiting list.

So I went home and counted the minutes until I could consult a professional and maybe even get some relief. I was back to spitting into a cup. I could hardly speak. The pain felt as if it were climbing into my ears. Also I had severe bodily aches, all over, but especially in both arms. It felt like forever before Nick came home, though it was really only about an hour and a half. At that point, I left the baby with him and went straight back to the clinic, figuring that it couldn’t hurt to be early.

The woman who had been behind the desk was gone. Two other women were there and they informed me that she had not waitlisted me at all. Yes, my information was there. But I hadn’t been assigned a number. I’d have to begin my wait then and there — and it would be about two more hours.

“But she told me I could come back and get right in,” I argued.

“She didn’t give you a number.”

“Well, where is she?”

“She’s gone for the day.”

“Then call her. Call her so she can verify what she told me.”

“It doesn’t matter what she told you. She was just filling in for today anyway. What she told you is against our policy.”

“But that’s still what she told me and that’s still the information I acted upon. She’s the clinic’s employee, so this is an internal mistake and now the clinic needs to do the right thing by me.”

“I’m afraid that’s not possible.”

If I hadn’t been in ever-mounting, nearly unbearable pain for three straight days, I would never have reacted as I did then. But like a child, I started to shriek and cry. “I already waited two hours! I can’t wait two more hours! I’m in excruciating pain!”

The two women exchanged glances. “Let me go talk to Jim,” one of them said.

Jim was consulted, and I was ushered into one of the offices. “It seems there was a misunderstanding,” he said as he took my vital signs.

“I’m sorry,” I sniffled. “I just did what the first lady told me.”

“I saw you when you came before. It’s okay.”

A few minutes later, the doctor came in. She was a beautiful woman about my age who had the most extraordinarily intimate manner. Not in any way that was unprofessional. She just made me feel as if we were the only two people in the world who got the joke. At one point she said, “The strep test is faster than a culture and it isn’t 100%…” and here she trailed off.

“Accurate?” I offered.

“Yes…! Thank you! It’s been a long day.”

“For me, too.”

And she stood there gazing into my eyes like a lover, smiling at me like a sister, for several long moments. I thought, she probably does this with each patient, and every single one of us concludes that we’re oh so incredibly special.

She swabbed at my throat and said the result would be ready in about seven minutes, but that she might be with someone else in the interim, so it was hard to say how long she’d be. I told her that was fine. She said, “On second thought, why don’t I just wait for your result, and see the other patient afterward.”

So: seven minutes later, she told me I had a whopping strep throat. I couldn’t believe it.

“I’m so surprised!” I told her. “I was sure it was just going to be a virus. Because I’ve had no fever.”

She pointed out that taking 800 mg of Advil — a fever reducer — every four hours around the clock could disguise the presence of a fever very easily. Incredibly, despite a lifelong loyalty to the drug, I hadn’t known it was a fever reducer. All I’ve ever taken it for is pain.

“But are you sure?” I asked again. “I haven’t had strep throat since I was a kid. You said the test wasn’t 100% accurate.”

“We see some false negatives,” she clarified. “There’s no such thing as a false positive.”

Ironically, I was heartened by this information. It is vindicating when suffering is diagnosed as something concrete, identifiable, and unmistakably present. 

So now I have my penicillin and every reason to believe the worst is behind me. A heartfelt thanks to those who have wished the return of my health.



  1. Oh honey, I’m so sorry that you had to go through this, and I’m glad you went to the clinic. (I think it’s hilarious that you’re the child of two doctors and the sister and sister-in-law of two more, and didn’t know that ibuprofen is an antipyretic.) I hope the penicillin kicks in quickly, and also that Charlotte doesn’t get it (although if she does start to seem ill, at least you’ll know right away what it’s likely to be).

    I do know how you feel; I had strep when I was ten, and I still remember it, perhaps because I came down with it on the day when my mother and I and My Very Difficult Aunt started a driving trip to Canada. I was always highly self-conscious about any kind of illness, so I didn’t say anything about it. They realized that I seemed to be in a worse mood than usual (not surprisingly) but didn’t figure out that I was sick until I refused to eat dinner because I couldn’t stand to swallow. They didn’t know anything about strep, so this went on for about five days until my Very Wealthy Aunt Who Owns Half of Calgary arrived at my grandmother’s, where we were staying, took one look at me, and said she’d pay for me to be taken to the emergency room (our insurance at the time didn’t cover out-of-country medical expenses).

    The part of your story that rang a particular bell was the fact that after a couple of hours of waiting in a comparatively uncrowded lobby (God love the inefficient National Health System) I did something I never, never did, and played the Inconsolable Crying Child card, whereupon I was immediately admitted to the Inner Sanctum of Healing. Sometimes, you know, that’s just what it takes.

    Comment by davidrochester — February 8, 2008 @ 4:11 pm

  2. The difference, David? Is that you *were* a child. But you are most gallant to act as if these are comparable situations.

    Comment by elissakaren — February 8, 2008 @ 5:25 pm

  3. I think it’s always OK to play that card, in order to circumvent the idiocy of medical personnel. I can’t do it now,of course, because I’m a guy. But it’s always acceptable for lovely women to weep in extremis. Count yourself lucky.

    Comment by davidrochester — February 8, 2008 @ 5:31 pm

  4. (((Elissakaren))) Feel better soon.

    Comment by Shawn W — February 9, 2008 @ 3:46 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: