Monday, September 7, 2009

The Worst Vacation Ever

I have relegated the last week of my time away from school and the first week of my husband’s vacation to the “worst vacation ever” category. It started out well enough at our beach house with a visit from my father’s little sister and husband. Although my mother got weird and refused to come to the house while they were there (my parents divorced when I was 18), we enjoyed two evenings and one whole day with them that included dinner out at the 42nd Street Café in Seaview to celebrate our anniversaries. The fun ended when we waved goodbye to them the next morning.

Even before my paternal aunt and uncle left, I had been called by my maternal aunt in Seaview to come to the house she shares with my cousin to try to persuade the cousin to go to the ER because she was in pain from a lower digestive complaint which reoccurs from time to time. I found her to be less than rational and totally unwilling to go get help so I walked her dog for my aunt who is frail herself and went back home. Not long after we’d waved goodbye to our company the next day I was summoned to my relatives’ house again for the same purpose. My aunt was clearly upset by the behavior of my cousin which was not rational, but clearly indicated that she was in great pain. My cousin suffers from a host of autoimmune diseases which had been somewhat under control, but had spun out two days before.

After forty minutes of cajoling and threatening to call the medics I got my cousin into the car and into the ER at Ocean Beach hospital. Thus began a stint of eleven hours at the ER waiting to speak with a doctor and listening to my cousin implore God for relief in between bouts of diarrhea. Every time a nurse or attendant came in to check her vitals I asked when we might expect a doctor and I received a shrug and the information that they had several critical patients and only one doctor. They took body fluids, some given freely and others by force, for testing and x-rays were taken. All the while my cousin seemed either a zombie or writhing in pain. Beyond calling her mother who was at home and her brother who was at work in Vancouver, there was little I could do besides read and pray that we’d get help.

Eight and a half hours into our ordeal a doctor appeared, cheerfully ticking off the list of tests he had ordered and the results which showed that my cousin was in good health. I starred at his unearthly white teeth which seemed too large for his mouth and tried to fathom what he was saying. I also knew that she was too ill to go home for my 85 year old aunt to care for.

It came down to that he thought her problems were mental. If I had as many illnesses as my cousin I’m sure I’d have mental problems, but I could not believe that it was her mind that was calling out for help from God. “What about the pain that she’s crying out for help with?” I asked him. He then questioned my cousin who seemed confused about the location of her pain, but finally she laid her hand on her lower abdomen. Dr. Power Smile left and soon my cousin was taken away for a CATscan. Half an hour later she was returned to the operatory and I learned it would be another hour before we received the results. I did manage to get a nurse to hook up some IV fluids for my dehydrated cousin who had had nothing by mouth for two days.
More than another agonizing hour had passed when Dr. Power Smile returned and informed us that my cousin had an inflamed bowel due to her Lupus. After eleven hours they had decided to admit this obviously very ill woman to the hospital and I could go home.

The balance of my time on the coast was taken up with seeing to my cousin’s dog until we could get him boarded with the Humane Society, visiting with her at the hospital along with her brother who had arrived from Vancouver, and meeting a very nice doctor who seemed genuinely to understand autoimmune diseases and to be willing to help my cousin recover. I was not able to return to Gig Harbor on the day I had intended to as I promised to take my aunt to do her first of the month banking and bill paying. My cousin was released from the hospital much earlier than expected and probably due to her desire to return home where she could smoke and to get her dog back with her. Murphy was overjoyed to see her.

All the while this was going on my husband was left to paint the North side of our house and feed himself and my daughter. In the midst of this we had dear friends arrive for the weekend and what a blessing their presence was! They helped me shop for my mother and aunt and buoyed up my spirits.

My cousin seems to be recovering from this latest bout with the ugly symptoms of her illnesses, illnesses that many doctors do not even acknowledge as legitimate. For now she and her mother are making their lives work in a drafty 100 plus year house from which they refuse to move and I am back at school and to a semblance of a normal life and finding time to write again.


Grandma L said...

I'll bet home never felt so good. I heard a doctor being interviewed this morning about his opinion on the health plan. He said he thinks people with imaginary illness should pay more deductable. What about the brilliant doctor that overlooks a serious problem as with your cousin. Who pays for his mistake?

Stephanie Frieze said...

That's the sort of thing that already makes people reluctant to address mental health issues which are just as real and valid as more physical ones.