Thursday, September 24, 2009

Something Doesn't Feel Quite Right (Or "Things You Tell Your Doctor If You Want to Spend a Day in the Hospital")

I began the week feeling, well, weak. But I'm 8 months pregnant and most of my ailments could be explained by the big round belly protruding from my midsection. By Monday night, though, I felt a very different, distinct "Un-wellness" come over me. In the middle of the night, I broke down and sobbed over my various aches and pains as I climbed into a tub of hot water, hoping to alleviate some of the discomfort.

A dizziness had settled in my head and I found it hard to catch my breath. It felt like I'd walked a mile, though I'd only traveled from one end of the house to the other.

So, like a good patient, I called my doctor late Tuesday morning. "I feel dizzy and short of breath. I don't mean to be overdramatic. After all, I expect to feel this way a little - with 5 lbs of baby pressing on my lungs, stomach, heart, etc. But I just feel DIFFERENT." The nurse put me on hold. She came back to the line a few minutes later. "The doctor wants you to go to the Emergency Room now."

"Can't I just come to the office?"
"Can't I just go to the maternity floor?"

I pleaded for anything but the dreaded emergency room. They gave me no choice. "The ER will be expecting you," the nurse firmly instructed. With visions of swine flu germs dancing in my head, I dropped my son off at my mom's house and drove to the ER in a fit of frustration.

Mad at myself for calling the doctor in the first place.
Mad at the doctor for sending me to a germ-ridden department of a hospital instead of the quiet comforts of my OB's office.
Mad at my own body for feeling so "icky".

Upon arrival, I was greeted by big signs that confirmed my germy fears. Hand-sanitizing stations were set up at each entrance, along with masks that were to be worn by anyone exhibiting the long list of symptoms described on the warning placards. "Fantastic," I thought. "I am surely going to leave here worse than when I arrived."

I checked in, handed over my insurance and ID, then filled out several pages of information and medical history. When it asked me for my reason for the visit, I wrote: "Dizzy, short of breath (8 months pregnant)."

I brought my paperwork back up to the admittance desk. She reviewed it momentarily until her eyes fell on the magic words. "Oh, you're pregnant! You need to go to the maternity floor."

I explained to her that I would much rather be with my round-bellied comrades, but that my doctor specifically sent me to this department. I watched her tear my registration paperwork into shreds as she explained that, "After you are 20 wks gestation, all health-related concerns are handled by the maternity ward." So... armed with directions on how to navigate the back hallways of the hospital, I was on my way.

The elevator doors opened and revealed an inviting, relaxing waiting room filled with nervous and excited families. "Much better," I thought. I waddled toward the friendly woman sitting behind the desk and explained my symptoms again. This time, I was handed a new stack of registration paperwork, along with a big flowery pen (unlike those cheap miniature pencils provided downstairs). As I sat down in the big cushioned chair began to rehash, in writing, the reason I was there, a phone rang behind the desk. I overheard a hasty, frustrated voice on the other end. I picked up portions of sentences, including, "Why is she up there?" "What... symptoms?" "Baby o.k.?"

The staff member looked at me and asked, "Is your baby o.k.?"
"I hope so," I replied.
"Well, why did they send you up here from ER, then?"
"Um... because I'm more than 20 wks pregnant and that is apparently the policy of this hospital."
I set my flowery pen down as she relayed my information to the stranger on the other end of the phone.

A few moments later, a second call came in. The gatekeeper to the maternity ward looked at me and sighed. "You need to go back to the emergency room."

Unsure whether I should be amused or irritated, I set out on my journey down to the dreaded ER. I walked back up to the lady who sent me on my fool's mission. "They sent me back down here.
No, I am not sure why.
No, you tore all my paperwork up.
Yes, I would be thrilled to fill it all out again.
And yes, if I wasn't short of breath before, I certainly am now!"

Twenty minutes later, I was ushered back to a cubicle where I could overhear the cried (or laughs...?) of a patient in no small amount of mental despair. I listened as doctors discussed my neighbor's possible risk for another seizure. And I waited as my nurse hooked me up with stickers, probes, IVs and monitors. I was told that my symptoms had nothing to do with my pregnancy. I was asked hundreds of questions about my family's medical history of heart attacks, blood clots, hypertension, cancer, and anxiety disorders.

Each one of their theories was categorically dismissed as my bloodwork and heart tests came back normal. One test finally came back with "elevated" levels. The one that detects blood clots. The doctor came back in with the news. "We need to do a CT scan to rule out any blood clots in your lungs."

Unfortunately for all of us, I was still 8 months pregnant. And radiation exposure wasn't exactly on my checklist of things to do to "prepare for baby".

But neither was dying of a blood clot in my lungs. The decision wasn't easy, but it was the best one to make. Seven minutes later, I was lying under the giant circle that would scan my body for any malicious clots.

The CT technician who wheeled me in for the test had been explaining the risks and rewards as we maneuvered down the hall. I asked him to take whatever precautions he could to protect the baby inside my belly during the procedure, and he responded with the unfortunate news that they could do nothing to shield my child. The lead aprons they used to use apparently only served to trap the radiation, allowing it to bounce around in your body for a longer period of time. The only way they could perform this test on me was the same way they would perform it on any other person. Full-on exposure.

So, I had no choice but to pray. An image popped into my head of God's arms. So, I just prayed and pictured Him wrapping His arms of protection around my belly and shielding my little girl from those penetrating rays. (And I have to say, I'd rather have that kind of protection than a lead apron any day).

In addition to the picture and the prayers, a song popped into my head while I listened to the hum of the machine. It's the Newsboys song, "It is You", and the first lines were all I could recall. But they kept coming, over and over again for the next five minutes or so:

"As we lift up our hands, will You meet us here?"

(Interesting choice of words, because during the test, I had to lie perfectly still with my hands raise straight above my head, touching the outside walls of the machine... anyway.)

"As we call on Your name, will You meet us here?"

So, I sang and prayed, "God, will you please just meet me right here, right in the middle of this circle and protect this little girl with your own arms?"

And I was completely at peace.

The results came back quickly. No clots. They felt confident enough to release me. They had done all they could do, run every test they could think of. They decided that, in my case, the symptoms could only be explained by the fact that I was, indeed, 8 months pregnant.

And if we'd all been that logical from the beginning, I might have been spared the first 4 hours of my hospital stay.

But not the last four hours...

Because another symptom was becoming harder and harder to ignore. Those pesky Braxton-Hicks contractions I'd been experiencing since Sunday.

"I don't mean to be a pain. I know you're trying to get me out of here. But I've been feeling a lot more contractions in the last few hours."

A decision was made and I found myself back on the maternity floor within a few minutes. "Hello again!" I called out to the familiar face that turned me away hours before. "I'm back!!!"

I explained the sudden onslaught of consistent contractions and was handed that flowery pen and stack of papers (I can only assume that she, too, took my original paperwork to the shredder).

After waiting and breathing through the next half hour, I was finally in a bed, listening to the steady swoosh of my little girl's heartbeat. The nurse began asking me questions, and I tried mightily to answer despite what was now starting to become significant pain. During the course of questions (which took 5-6 minutes), the nurse informed me that I'd had 3 contractions ("Yes, thank you... I know").

Over the next 1/2 hour, those pesky Braxton-Hicks became the REAL DEAL every two minutes, gaining strength and momentum. The nurse came back in. "Oh my! We've been watching you out there at the nurse's station. I think we need to call your doctor!"

Long story short.. (too late), it was determined that I was in pre-term labor. It was subsequently decided that five weeks early is just a little too early for this princess to make her debut. And a shot of something very painful and potent was literally "what the doctor ordered" to delay her arrival. An hour after the shot was administered, the contractions had faded and become inconsistent again. I was topped off with fluids and given the green light to go home and rest.

So, after 8 months and 8 hours... I was headed home with my little family of three. Exhausted. Hoping that our fourth would be patient for just a little while longer.

And it turns out that calling my doctor because something "wasn't quite right", maybe wasn't all that wrong of a choice after all.

Oh to be in the right place at the right time. Whether that's the 5th floor of the hospital or the protecting arms of the Father, I am grateful that the experience left me feeling quite alright today.

So, how's your week been? ;)


Two Shades of Pink said...

Sister, you had more grace then I would have had to those gatekeepers. Pain and nicey nice are hard for me. I know...I am a Christian but I think I would have been less than stellar. Bravo to your patience and OBEDIENCE to your doc. So glad you and Meg-N (hee hee) are OK and plugging along. I am praying that she does not get bored for another 2 more weeks and stays put in her cushy, 5star womb.

Surviving 4 said...


Sorry, just had to get that out. I am just so frustrated for you even reading this. Seriously, what is the deal?!? Let the patient KEEP the paperwork, and for crying out loud - GIVE THE PREGNANT LADY A WHEEL CHAIR AND ESCORT!!! Nobody needs to be schlupping around a hospital feeling miserable when she's 8 months pregnant. That's so ridiculous.

I remember being in the hospital at 13 weeks with Ella. They ended up checking me in (after a 10 hour wait in a flu-infested ER waiting room). At 2:00 in the morning, the nurse came in to fill out the 18,000 forms required, which included the question (no joke) - Do you want your baby circumcised?

Hello???? If this baby shows up now, we're not even going to be able to SEE whether or not the kid has a penis! WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Whew! Must have needed to get that out of my system :) SO glad they were able to get things out of control and that you were indeed in the right place (despite some minor doubts on my part right this minute) at the right time. Tell Megan to enjoy a few more weeks in the oven... And you - REST, REST, REST

PS - I just sent you a present in the mail today. Yippee! Hope you like!!!

Anonymous said...

oh dear! i will try not to make this too long. But i have a VERY similar story except for the part about it NOT being a blood clot in your lung (a pulminary embolism) well, that part for me was different. I, in fact, did have a PE. I had all those symptoms, shortness of breath, like I had just run a marathon, tight pain in my upper back, dizziness. I also called my OB thinking it was nothing and just a fluke but they too sent me off to the wonderful ER. The whole CT scan was scary, like you said, knowing you were exposing your baby to those huge magnets isn't the easiest decision. But surviving with a blood clot in your lung isn't really an option either. I like what you said about God wrapping his wonderful arms around your belly during the scan...paints a sweet picture! To make a really LONG story short...I did end up with a PE and had to administer myself shots every 12 hours there on after (I was 26 weeks pregnant at the time). It was a that I almost didn't (literally) survive. When I was reading your post, all I could do was pray as I read in hopes it was not a blood clot for you and I am so happy to hear it wasn't! What a scary, scary thing! If it was, I would have needed your phone number and would have had to call you to share my story! It's a rare thing, but can happen...the blood clot issue.

I'm so happy to hear you are okay. I am sorry you had to go through all of that, though. Especially the icky shot for your contractions. That little girl will be here before you know it and how precious that will be!

Thanks for listening to my LONG story! I'm done now! he, he!

ChristyO said...

I am glad things worked out and will be praying for you. I had pre-term contractions with both of mine but they did not gain in strength. They were just very frequent moderate contractions (every 2-5 minutes). They gave me some medicine to take which slowed them slightly but since no dilation occurred until 36 weeks, the doctor didn't do anything more than oral meds and partial rest. Both of my babies were induced at 39 weeks.

SouthAsiaRocks said...

oh man! that sounds crazy! You don't know me, but I'm a friend of Emily's. I'm 7 months pregnant right now :)

I had my daughter 6 weeks early so I'm hoping this one isn't as early!! I ended up getting severe preecclampsia... but it came on really fast... I had weeks I would feel really short of breath at night or any time I laid down... I had no signs of Pre-e so they didn't think anything of it and thought it was asthma. Anyway, long story short, I ended up having an emergency c-section at 34 weeks... when I woke up I quit breathing b/c all the swelling and fluid had gone into my lungs... scary! Anyway, I wrote that not to scare you, but just as a heads up I guess...

I'll be praying for you! :)

Parents Alicia and Joe to three boys! said...

Hello Jenny - I know we haven't talked in years but I had to comment. :-) I'm a doula and am on my fourth baby now. I'm very familiar with BH contrax since I get them from 6 weeks of pregnancy. As you may know you get more with each baby. And things such as stress and lack of hydration can bring them on (as in being stuck in ER half the day). With my pregnancies after about 20 weeks they come every 2 to 3 minutes most nights of the week for 2 to 4 hours at a time. This ofcourse freaked me out in my second pregnancy and I was off to the ER. But I learned in that pregnancy and the third that they didn't mean a darn thing unless they are dilating you. I never dilate and go full term with all babies. BH are just a normal happening of pregnancy for many of us.

I also know going to the hospital with them can also mean subjecting you and baby to many interventions that are not necessary. My advice is to see if you are dilating next time. If you are not you are not technically in preterm labor. :-)

Happy Gestating! Hope you feel less winded but I know that is not exactly likely until you deliver. Yoga and swimming might feel good about now or a prenatal massage to de-stress!