Sleepy me and the great medical adventure
Well. Today is a day of drafts, apparently. I keep trying to write a post, trying to move these thoughts from inside me to the screen in front of me but once I get to the point where I might be able to post it, I abandon the words and close the email I’m using to write in without saving. The one thought that keeps circling my head is that I quite want to be asleep. I’m tired and my eyelids are hanging even though I got ‘enough’ sleep last night. I managed not to sleep the entire weekend away like I usually do but now I seem to be paying for it. There’s a particular kind of exhaustion that overtakes me that I’ve ascribed to the medication I ingest daily, but, somewhere in the far reaches of my memories, it suddenly dawned on me that I’ve felt this way before and, more interestingly, it was long before the medication regime began.
Back in my early 20’s I worked several retail jobs to scrape together a living. One of these jobs was at the Gap and I was hired to process the merchandise as it came in and keep the floor stocked with a good range of sizes. My start time was 5:30 am and I worked 1:30 PM each day. The getting off early in the afternoon was great but that waking up at 4:00 in the morning to get ready and get out there to catch a bus wasn’t wonderful. Not only was I staying up late every night, sometimes even as late as last call at the bars, leaving me with only a few precious hours sleep before trying to get through a day at work. I worked that way for a few months until an exhaustion would overtake me … one I’d never felt the likes of before. It started as sleepiness and earlier bedtimes and kept getting worse until I was sleeping all the time. I would take my lunch break at work and plop my arse into a chair in the kitchen, take one sip of my coffee and would then nod off for the entire 30 minutes, snapping awake just in time to get back to work. One day I was standing in the registers, pulling floats of cash to take to the back safe (so much money, that place made! We would have to dump the tills several times a day into smallish safes at the cash point which would then be collected by keyholders (me) for transport back to the main safe). I had just pulled three floats when I the room started to spin and I passed out cold on the floor, hundreds of dollars in $20’s and $50’s still clutched in my hands. I came to almost immediately and attempted to jump to my feet but my coworkers kind of held me down so I wouldn’t hurt myself.
“What just happened?” I asked, my voice surprisingly small and weak.
“It looked like you got shot!” one of them chimed in. “Your head snapped back and you just fell to the ground without even trying to break your fall.”
Hmm. This happened to me one prior as well, in grade school. I’m just realizing this now.
In grade school I was outside at recess. It was a nice day in late winter and I had a relaxed recess…maybe watched some kids play four square or hand ball (do kids play those things these days?) The bell went off and we all went to our designated doors to line up before we went back in and I happened to make it to the spot first and got myself the coveted ‘head of the line’ spot. I was quite pleased. We all stood there waiting for a teacher to come let us back inside when I turned to look at something and whacked my elbow on a sharp finial that topped a two foot high, black iron fence that we were standing against in line. It hit my funny bone and I felt that horrible tingling numb pain traveling up and down my arm. I tried to shake my arm out but was alarmed to discover I couldn’t move it and the next thing I remember was my favourite teacher helping me up off the ground, telling me to move slowly and almost holding me down so I didn’t jump to my feet. I was crazy-dizzy and couldn’t stand so I leaned into him and he half-carried, half-walked me into the school and down the hall to the office where he sat me down on the nurses exam table and peered worriedly into my dead white face. He kept asking if I was okay but the words echoed and spun and trying to make them out was making me feel like I was going to throw up. I tried to close my eyes and pull away from him but he wouldn’t let me lie down. I was desperate to lie down though, fought him, slumped and slouched until my head touched the exam table and then I blacked out again. The next thing I remember was my principal standing over me, pulling at my eye lids and pinching my fingers and arms. He was trying to bring me around and I felt icy cold water being touched to my face, neck and arms. I mumbled to leave me alone; tried to yell it but only managed a slurred plea. They kept pulling me up to a seated position and I kept fighting back, trying to lie down. I was so dizzy that sitting up made me feel even worse. They tried letting me sit on my own and my entire body rocked from side to side, trying to find centre, and then I fell, face first, off the stupid table, landing on the floor and splitting my lip wide open. I remember the blood getting everywhere, the taste of it. I thought I had knocked a tooth out and kept poking my tongue around, trying to find the hole it left.
I heard the ambulance before it arrived and even though I clearly heard it pull up to the school, I had no idea it was for me. When the paramedics came in, everyone else moved out of the way and I was left with these two men who seemed to be bigger than anyone I’d ever seen. They were asking me questions that were annoying me.
“What’s your name sweetheart?”
“Do you know where you are right now?”
“What day of the week is it?”
“What’s your teacher’s name?”
I tried to answer the questions as I could hear them clearly, but the words that came out were not the ones I had intended. Some things I said seemed to be missing vowels, the words were sharp and senseless. They asked me to speak up and I tried to yell but even I could only hear a tiny squeak coming from my vocal chords.
The ambulance ride was uneventful and uncomfortable as they had me strapped into the gurney and I had a giant goose-egg bump on the back of my head where I was told my head cracked off the pavement after I seized and dropped. It was so painful, lying on it, that I spent most of the ambulance ride with my head hovering and the attendant trying to push it back down on the pillow. I kept trying to explain what was going on but he just kept telling me to lie still and that we are almost at the hospital.
Inside the hospital I tried to focus on the ceiling to make the world stop spinning. I felt terribly motion sick after the bumpy ambulance ride and I kept nearly throwing up when they would make a turn, throwing my balance off even more. Keeping my eyes closed made it so much worse. I tried to follow the lights as they whizzed by above me but it didn’t help and one of the orderlies who had joined my little entourage of medical staff finally noticed me struggling and told me that as soon as I was finished with the scan they were taking me to, he’d ask the nurses to get me something to make me feel better. Just knowing someone was paying attention seemed to settle me down a lot. It was about that moment when I realized I didn’t know where my mom and dad were. They hadn’t made it to the school after being called before the ambulance showed up and my confused state made everyone decide it would be best not to wait. I tried to call for her, my mom, but the sounds still weren’t coming out right. Someone, wiped a tear from my cheek and someone else ran their hand across my forehead and told me that my mom was coming and would be there soon. I must have slept then as it seemed like only moments passed and then I was inside an CT scanner….and not one of those nice ‘open air’ ones they use these days…one of those tight, claustrophobic machines that still gives me little tendrils of panic though my chest when I think on it too long. (I still hate MRI’s. I have had far too many of them in my lifetime and I manage, but I do not like them one bit. Last time I had a scan done (or maybe the time before the last) Dayne came with to offer support but we ended up arguing directly before I went in. I had a small-scale panic IN the freaking coffin-like machine and very nearly kicked and smashed my way out of there. I managed to hold on by a breath though, luckily.
After all the testing was done I was given some sedation, gravol and some pain medication through my IV and they kept me in overnight for observation thanks to a likely concussion. The swelling became huge overnight but it was all heading in the right direction, away from my brain. The confusion and disconnect slowly cleared up as I slept with nurses waking me hourly to be sure I was okay, and I was discharged the following day with a tentative diagnosis of migraine headaches and a series of follow up appointments with a pediatric neurologist. My mother was really angry with me because she had planned a luncheon with some of our neighbours (it was common to have a single income family back in those days and the wives would get together while the kids were at school) and she had just taken the quiche out of the oven when she got the call. Then, once we were in the hospital, the pediatric neurologist who saw me initially scolded my mom for not realizing that I had migraines and needed some help. My mom said it made her feel terrible, like she’d been doing a bad job of raising me. In truth, I suspect that doctor realized that there was a lot more than a headache wrong with me (I would have been peppered with bruises and I remember them trying to get consent to examine me more fully from my mom, which she denied because she was mad about being insulted.
This all brings back more medical memories that I don’t write or think about often. When I was born, I was very premature (three full months early) and weighed only 2 lbs 8 oz. My lungs weren’t working very well and my skin was nearly see through. I was teeny tiny and, it being the 1970’s, preemie’s my size didn’t have the best of odds. Being a ward of the Province (I was fostered until adopted and stayed in several homes prior to landing) the CAS insisted I be carefully followed by the Children’s Hospital until my 12th birthday. I was followed by psychology, cardiology, respiratory, dental, and general medicine and had to endure many function related tests over the years, many of them harshly performed, which was difficult for me, always. I was such a terrified little thing, harsh words made me fall apart and the constant, difficult, embarrassing demands of the medical team were difficult for me. They either would not allow my mother in with me or she choose not to come so I was quite on my own in there, trying to be brave and strong while they poked and prodded me, hooked me up to electrodes and had me run on treadmills until I thought my chest would explode so they could test my cardiovascular function. …. so many stories there. They are thoughts and memories that I avoid, which usually means they are something I need to deal with/process. I can’t really tell which memories are traumatic and which are not anymore. They all feel blank right now….which is (honestly) just the way I like them.