365 Days of Horror, Day 12: [Undiagnosed Inpatient]


vertigo source: thevanguardclinic.com

As I type this, my hands are swollen, badly bruised from internal bruising, because my veins “have a tendency to blow up”. A light tap on most parts of my skin produces clear veins at which phlebotomists swoon, but I guess there’s that downside.

I flew back from Boston Tuesday afternoon, with a brief layover in New York; landed Wednesday morning. I took a taxi home from the airport, showered and went straight to work. Went out for a couple of drinks later; felt fine. Barely tipsy.

Woke up Thursday morning with my head spinning wildly, as if my head was a goldfish bowl and my brain was a LEGO rectangle made of jello and the two refused to coordinate whenever I would move my head even slightly.

Standing up was out of the question. I figured maybe it was just dehydration or exhaustion. I had no food in the house, so I ordered a delivery, but my appetite had been swiftly replaced by nausea.

I called 111 and they sent a non-emergency ambulance, even though I tried to decline (and later cancel). The paramedics were nice and refused my groggy attempts to pay them because I felt bad for “wasting NHS resources”, especially as I still assumed it was self-inflicted dehydration.

What followed was 8 hours of hurdles through A&E. Multiple blood tests (ouch), blood pressure tests and an ECG, plus some vision/coordination tests, and long wait for results. I was asked to give up my wheelchair because I guess it looked like I didn’t need it; when I got up I immediately fell and tried to pass it off as a wall-slump. Somebody else later gave me another chair.

People-watching is undeniably more interesting: a guy getting up to go to the bathroom and coming back to realise some dude had just helped himself to his wheelchair; overhearing “I can’t find my guy; he’s gone”; aggressive defibrillator sounds. Because I couldn’t move my head, being wheeled past multiple “cubicles” (small rooms) and seeing a montage of patients in various states of injury was almost cinematic.

At 1:30am, the final hurdle doctor saw me and insisted on keeping me overnight. He said he could call a cab but he knew I wouldn’t make it to the door without falling and getting a head injury. I didn’t know what he was talking about – as long as I kept my head straight, didn’t make any sudden movements and didn’t turn, I could totally walk! I only almost fell down onto people a few times. ALMOST.

Nobody had been home earlier, so when I was on the phone with 111, I found myself crying out of fear that something new and unpleasant was happening to me and I couldn’t explain it. When I was shown to my bed in a stark room with the news that they still weren’t 100% sure what was wrong with me and wanted to keep me overnight, I again got quietly upset and almost AMAed. I was alone and a little afraid.

They gave me a pill and then a liquid form of said pill through an IV tube in my right hand. They left it there, hoping to hook it up to some fluids for overnight, but my vein was on the verge of exploding and had moved the needle INSIDE MY HAND, so she had to take it out. The test-fluid, plus the removal, hurt like a nail-covered motherfucker and it still hurts. I couldn’t help but cry out in pain in that dark room at 2am. I can’t imagine how disturbing that might have been to the other patients on the ward. The nurse tried again on my other hand, but my stupid veins were still not cooperating. Each time she took out the needle, the blackest blood oozed out.

Finally, she tried my left inner elbow. That one, plus the fluids insertion, hurt the most. I screamed again, but again I couldn’t help it, and I kept apologising for all of it.

By that point it was maybe 2:30am; the nurses managed to cobble together some food for me. That plus the meds make it easier to fall asleep. My phone had run out of battery and I hadn’t brought a book or a game. I’d thought the room’s bleak, eerie lighting was going to haunt me into staying awake. Thank fuck for those meds.

In the morning, they confirmed their initial diagnosis: labyrinthitis. No, it’s not an obsession with Jareth’s package. It’s a viral infection that screws up your inner ear and thus, causes poor balance and vertigo. I had no cold-like symptoms, and they still don’t know how I got it, but I imagine that being in airports for 24 hours at this time of year probably didn’t help. But it was so stupidly terrifying that whole night that I didn’t know what was wrong with me, and that I was completely alone.

So I missed day 12, and I’ll watch three things today to make up (yesterday I had just enough time and energy to watch a brief short). I’m currently swathed in my Chewbacca fleecy dressing gown, chugging orange juice and graze-snacking, now that I have my appetite back. I guess I’m not sure if this counts in my 365-day horror-a-thon, but I was more scared by that day and night than I have been during any (even genuinely frightening) movie I’ve seen.