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Some people will be amused to know that whenever I get a little too uppity and a little too proud of myself, God finds new ways to make me….compassionate toward others.
Over the last few weeks, I have been in the ER three times. Yes, this is a lot. No, I am not normally a hypochondriac. It has been a bit of a journey.
It all started when I found a clot in my leg. Now, as a bedside nurse, I am a physically active person at least three days of the week. I clock anywhere between 10K-18K steps in a shift depending on where my patients are located and if I bother to go down to the basement for lunch. On my days off, I am a bit of a lump because I have chronic fatigue issues (yes, I take my vitamins, I’ve tried yoga, my thyroid is being dealt with, etc, etc. No, I don’t need any more essential oils!) but overall, I’ve been more active lately. I’ve been working very hard on my garden, which is mostly clay. This does mean that I get a bit of a workout, even if I’m going slowly. Eight hours or so outside bending and digging is kinda tough on the back and the hamstrings.
For whatever reason, I have been found to have a fairly significant clot on my superficial veins. It’s superficial, so it’s not exactly life-threatening. However, I am not in a demographic that is likely to clot. As a matter of fact, I’m more prone to bleeding. All of this is a bit concerning. Add to this that I’ve had a monstrous headache for two weeks and you have a very unhappy nurse.
I ended up being put on anticoagulation. This is fine and well and I should be. Any clot greater than 2 inches should be concerning and should probably require anticoagulation (per the literature). However, the medication I am on is contraindicated with everything that I normally take or would be prescribed for my migraine. This has left me with opiates and muscle relaxants. If I’d like to work (and I would), I cannot take anything.
Because of this delightful little dichotomy, I’ve been in the ER more than twice. Once because we had to make sure I wasn’t now having a brain bleed from the anticoagulant and the second time because I was still miserable and convinced that I had a clot in my chest or jugular or a carotid artery dissection or something (I don’t).
All of this is to say that nurses are either awful patients or great patients.
I am both.
I am pretty good at self-diagnosis; I can tell you what I have, how long, what is likely the best course. I can do your job for you. However, I am also pretty prone to being nitpicky about my care and second-guessing things that do not concur with my own investigation and opinions. While non-medical folks use Google, us professionals like to go to JAMA or to Stanford or Harvard or Mayo Clinic and look at their documents.
“Doctor, don’t you think that this could be an atypical presentation of a venous sinus thrombus or partial occlusion?”
“Doctor, don’t you think it would be wise to look at an MR Venogram?”
Why yes, medical professionals are more likely to overutilize and underutilize medical resources. Why do you ask?
My doctor, bless her, took me in hand at our follow-up, “I think…just maybe….this time…. you might want to reduce your stress and…stop searching.”
While she is right most of the time and she is still probably right here, I couldn’t help but feel a little betrayed. Here was my doctor, my defender, my seeker and investigator, the person who has helped me get some answers over the years and has refused to take no for an answer…. and she is counseling me to give up.
I could have cried. I did cry. Later. Not there.
It took a bit of a look to really, really internalize that yes, doctors, nurses, other medical professionals are not immune to that inconvenient truth: human emotion. We are not immune to trying to see correlation and causality even when it does not exist. We are not immune to trying to tie everything up in a nice little package instead of thinking that three different things can, indeed, just be three different things that happen to occur in the same frame of time.
While I am still fairly certain that my self-diagnostics are in the right direction, I also am humbled to remember that I am a human and that I’m just as human as my patients. Yes. Even something as seemingly minor as a blood clot can affect everything. Even medical professionals can be just as freaked out about something randomly happening.
I am not immune to my own humanity, no matter how hard I try.
And yes, I’m working on healing myself.Published in