I didn’t have a chance to sit and write yesterday, but this has been on my mind.
Sunday night was one of the worst nights I have ever worked in my entire career. I did over 20 exams in a 12 hour shift, and I was fully exhausted by the time I was ready to come home. I can hardly remember faces of most of my patients, let alone stories about them. They all seem to blur together.
However, there is one fellow that stood out. He was one of the last exams I did on Monday morning.
He came in through the ER with severe chest pain. The ER, of course, did a full Heart Attack work up, and then sent him over for a gallbladder ultrasound when everything was negative. As I was scanning him, he told me about the last time this had happened. He said that he had a stabbing pain in his side, and that it was too uncomfortable to ignore. “I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like someone was sticking a needle in my left side. I told my wife, and she said it was just indigestion, and told me to go back to sleep. So I did. The next morning, I woke up and it was worse. She still thought it was indigestion, and she told me, ‘Go to the hospital if you want. It’s indigestion. I’m going to work.’ I called my daughter and had her take me to the hospital.”
He went on to tell me that they admitted him to do some tests, and he ended up spending the night. After all the cardiac tests were done, the doctor came in the following morning and said, “You passed the stress test with flying colors. Your heart is working. But we’re prepping you for surgery in 2 hours.”
I was shocked! This guy was relatively thin, healthy appearing, didn’t smoke… I asked him what kind of surgery he had. They did a double stent in his heart, and then took him into an endarterectomy surgery on his neck – he had had a greater than 95% blockage of his left carotid artery. It was then that I noticed the massive scar on the side of his neck. I jokingly asked him if he has let his wife forget about it yet. He chuckled and said, “She’ll never live it down. But today, when I said my chest hurt, she was out in the car before I had a chance to pull my pants on!”
I finished my exam relatively quickly, and had moved him back out into the hallway, but continued to chat with him. He was telling me about his daughter and how she was interested in becoming a Sonographer. He asked me questions about how to get into the field. I cant exactly remember how we got on to the topic, but he then started telling me about how he’d had a stroke, and it took them weeks to find it. He said it started out with severe headaches, and seeing seven or eight doctors for it in the course of a month. Someone finally put him on a steroid and a pain killer for it, and whenever he took the medicine, he would have seizure-like activity on one side of his body. At that point, one of his doctors finally decided it was worth their time to do some diagnostic testing, and found that he had had a major stroke to the back of his brain. He went through months of rehab and has been on blood thinners ever since.
Around that time, the transporter had arrived to take him back to his room, and even though it was on his paperwork, I couldn’t believe all of the medical problems he’d had, so I asked him how old he was.
He said, “I’m fifty-five this year,” Dad. And for the last 24 hours, I couldn’t stop thinking about you. This poor fellow is sitting in the hospital trying to find out what’s wrong with him, and all I can think about is you.