I'm trying to figure out where it all started. In hindsight, I think I was having muscle spasms in my low back all day yesterday. But I was tossing and turning last night, having trouble getting to sleep. I decided that it was my costochondritis that was the primary cause of the problem and decided to take a pain pill. It was about 2 a.m.
I went back to bed but the pain was getting even more intense. I started to feel like there was something super tight wrapping around my torso from my arm pits down to just below my rib cage. I moved around trying to find a comfortable position, but just got worse. I thought maybe I needed to be propped up in bed, and moved the pillows around until I was mostly sitting up.
The pain started to make it difficult to breathe. I found myself gasping, and moaning with pain with every exhale. I felt hot and my mouth was dry, so I tried to go into the bathroom to get some water. Moving across the bedroom was just excruciating, and I couldn't manage to get a cup of water. I tried lying on the bathroom floor, which has nice cool tiles, but lying flat just made everything hurt worse.
I managed to get out of the bathroom and bedroom, onto the landing at the top of the stairs. Scott had earlier responded to a call from Ellie and had dozed off in her room. So I was lying on the carpeting, writhing with pain, making noises I'd never heard myself make before, and trying to call for Scott loudly enough for him to hear me but not to wake Ellie, who I didn't want to see me in so much pain.
I don't know how I got downstairs, but I knew I wanted to be in a recliner. I asked Scott to call my internist's practice and request the on-call doctor. Neither of us was really thinking clearly, so of course he said he couldn't diagnose me over the phone and we should call 911 and/or go directly to the hospital.
Scott asked if he should go wake up Ellie, but I really didn't want her to hear/see me like that so I suggested he call our neighbors and see if her beloved "Auntie" Joan could come take care of her while we went to the hospital.
She came and helped us get organized enough to find a list of all the meds I take. And she was awesome about holding my hand and talking to me to distract me. That's always a huge help when I'm in super bad pain. Unfortunately she's had some practice doing monologues to distract people from pain. :-/
We called 911, with Joan's encouragement because she was afraid I'd end up having a heart attack in the car with Scott driving. The firefighter/medics came in and set up shop. It was a little intimidating and overwhelming to have them here, but they were able to do an EKG and determine that my heart was not doing bad things other than its usual tachycardia.
Meanwhile, Ellie woke up and when Joan tried to comfort her and keep her upstairs, it wasn't working. She wanted to see that I was ok and didn't want to be at home if Scott and I were leaving. So the three of us headed out for the hospital about 3:20 a.m.
Luckily, it was a slow night at the ER, so I got triaged immediately and taken into a room, where they did a repeat of the EKG to confirm that no, I wasn't having a heart attack.
The doctor discussed a variety of possibilities, including that I had a pulmonary embolism. But somewhere in this journey, I think when the paramedics got there, the pain meds kicked in, which brought my pain levels down to "normal" high levels. At the worst of it, the pain I was having was way beyond anything I'd ever experienced or even imagined.
I liked this doc, who apparently learned something along the same lines as Doctor D, who has blogged about the fact that all the cool new technology that can help us figure out what's wrong with us can also hurt us by exposing us to radiation, etc. The ER doc I saw was willing to do the tests to be absolutely sure that I didn't have a pulmonary embolism, but that would have required IV stuff my body doesn't like and significant amounts of radiation. And since neither of us really thought that was the cause of my problem.
So, he did a chest x-ray just to be 100 percent sure my heart wasn't oversize or anything. Truthfully, I don't think I needed that either. But he kept talking about "standard of care" and "this is what we do when people present with your symptoms."
After the normal x-ray, he sent me home and told me to follow up with my internist. Oh, he also had me drink something that had some numbing drug to it to see if my problem was esophageal spasms. Didn't affect my pain one way or the other. Also gave me 1mg of Ativan despite my reluctance to add it to my drug cocktail. It's definitely a happy, relaxing pill.
Unfortunately, my internist is totally booked until June 25. (And I'm probably lucky to be getting in at all because she's taking almost the entire month of July off and all her regular patients are trying to squeeze in.) In the meantime, I plan to take my pain meds as needed, and take Flexeril, the muscle relaxant I'm allowed to take up to three times a day, at its maximum dosing.
Possible causes of the weird event:
- Side effect of Adderall, which can cause panic attacks
- A severe esophageal spasm
- Muscle spasms that wrapped around my torso (which is my theory since I can detect some of the spasms I'm having, such as the muscle on the left side of my neck is spasming right now.) I just have no idea at all what would have caused it.
Anyway, here's a not-very-good photo of it from Sunday night:
Yeah, it looked more weird in person than it showed up in the photo. By Monday a.m., it had changed colors and, while it still doesn't look like a normal bruise to me --- it's kind of faded to a brownish gray -- it's not as freaky as I found it Sunday night.