Now to pickup where I left off in February. If you skip my previous post about the passing of Gregg Allman, my last update covered the end of January and the first couple of days of February. The girls were out of school, celebrating Chinese New Year, and enjoying different outings that Carol setup — Hello Kitty Land, LegoLand and a local water park. In the couple of weeks leading up to that point we had managed to apply for our new passports and I had been to the ER in Singapore when I woke up in the wee hours suffering from a kidney stone.
So February ended up being crazy, and not in a good way… We did manage to get our new passports but my HR department continued to flounder in their effort to get our new visas, giving lots of excuses for starting the process so late. In the end we got our updated visas and then all got new MACS passes so we can avoid additional stamps when just traveling back and forth to Singapore from JB. That’s about as far as the good news went – we got our new passports and finally were issued updated Malaysian visas.
Unfortunately the bad news overshadowed that little bit of good news… When I was in the ER for the kidney stones I was told that my blood pressure was very high and I needed to see a general practitioner about controlling it but perhaps it was only elevated because of the kidney stone and all the pain I was in that morning.
I took the recommendation seriously, and for the first time since leaving California in 2011 I setup an appointment to see a general practitioner. I’ve seen far too many specialists since living in Malaysia; respiratory doctors for lung infections, ENT’s for bad allergies and clogged ears that needed to be cut open, and so on.
Carolyn found a doctor that accepts our insurance and setup an appointment for me to see Dr. Lim the next weekend.
We all made yet another trip to Singapore that Saturday morning in early February and I met with Dr. Lim for what seemed like forever. She was excellent! It seems like quite often doctors try to see you too quickly and don’t give you much time and fail to answer all your questions, but Dr. Lim had a full discussion with me about my health for more than an hour. I told her the whole story about hardly ever seeing a doctor in California or Kentucky, but ever since moving to Malaysia I’ve suffered from several problems — mostly related to allergies that lead to lung, sinus and ear infections, but also rashes and feet problems which I attribute to the tropical (humid) conditions here.
She did a full physical and planned additional tests to determine whether or not I had any other conditions from a list of things I may likely have – diabetes, high cholesterol, other heart conditions, etc. She verified that my blood pressure was indeed still high and now I’m on diovan, which after almost 4 months has controlled my blood pressure wonderfully, keeping it much lower than it has been for years.
After blood samples were taken we left Singapore and headed home, where things were more of ok for a week or two until I needed to return back to my new General Practitioner for a blood glucose test, urine samples to see if the bleeding from the kidney stones was gone, and further discussions on what else I need to do.
I saw my new GP doctor early in the morning on a Saturday, February 25th, and after they took blood and I drank this sugary drink I went down the hall to give the urine sample, but while I was filling the cup I had the sharpest pain I’ve ever felt, right in my abdomen. It felt like someone was jabbing a sharp hot poker through my guts, and it was so intense that I lost my balance, felt like I was going to vomit and started seeing black all at once. I almost passed out and hit the floor, but luckily I caught myself. It took me about a minute or two to get stable, but I was shaking and not sure what the hell just happened. I went back into the lobby of my doctor’s office and asked a nurse if I could see my doctor because I had a really sharp pain and almost passed out in the restroom. She said I didn’t look so good – I’d lost all my color and was pale white and starting to sweat. Another doctor in the same office agreed to see me immediately, so I went back and met this doctor from the UK.
The British doctor told me that it was likely another kidney stone and I explained that the pain in my lower left back was there again but the sharp pain was in the front right. He said that if the stone blocks the kidney it is considered a medical emergency that needs immediate attention and that I should go directly to an Emergency Room. He suggested that I go to the NUH, National University Hospital of Singapore, because they’re equipped to handle emergencies like this. I told him I needed to go to Raffles, Gleneagles or Mt Elizabeth, all private hospitals, because those were the ones my insurance covered. He elaborated – NUH is a public hospital and even foreigners only pay a token fee, like S$150 per visit, but their ER is much better than those in the private hospitals because they regularly see medical emergencies. He did say the specialists at the private hospitals are some of the best in the world, but that’s not who you see in their Emergency Rooms.
I gathered up Carolyn and the kids and off we went to Raffles. I brought to the back fairly quickly and they started prepping me for an IV. For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve always had a fear of needles. I ran away from doctors trying to immunize me when I was a kid, requiring multiple adults to hold me down, and I almost passed out and fell onto the floor when blood was being drawn once in California. I hate needles.
Obviously I wasn’t looking forward to my first IV, so I pleaded with the nurse, asking over and over if it was necessary. I have never been hospitalized for anything in my 39 years, and never had an IV, so I was persistent. She went back and forth to the doctor and finally said it was required because they needed to do a CT scan to look for any kindey stones. She told me several times that it only hurts when it’s going in, then they secure it with tape and you don’t feel it at all. Well, it took her 3 jabs before she got it in there, and it hurt like hell. After she taped it up it still hurt, but when I complained she just ignored me and said “no, it doesn’t hurt after it’s in place”, even though I said over and over, “yes it does hurt!”.
They left me there in the ER bed for a couple of hours before we walked upstairs to the CT room. It’s a narrow table that slides in and out of a big circular machine. It wasn’t like the ones I’ve seen in movies where your body is completely inside, but the circle was only about 2-3 feet deep, so your legs would be out of it on one side while your head and shoulders were out of it on the other side.
It was only me and the technician in the room, so I was told to strip down and put on a gown, then lay on the table with my arms over my head so she could access my IV and I could hold the fluid tubes. Apparently when you have a CT scan they inject dye into you for contrast in order to better see whatever they’re looking for, and they inject it through an IV in your arm. The technician first hooked up my IV to saline in order to flush it out, but when she was connecting it there was a lot of pain in my hand and I complained to her. She was just like the nurse in the ER, telling my that it doesn’t hurt. I told her that it absolutely did hurt and so she called in a male nurse to take a look at my IV. He said that if it hurt for the saline it would really hurt for the dye because it’s “hot and much thicker” than the saline. He removed all the tape, re-positioned the IV a few times until it was hurting a little less (but still hurting) and then taped it back. By this time I had purple bruises on my head around the IV.
They hooked up the dye and told me not to move, saying that the only thing I should feel was a warm sensation from the dye, mostly in my groin. Well, that wasn’t the only thing I felt as the table I was laying on crept into the spinning and whirring circle while I held my dye tubes over my head. I could feel the dye pushing into my veins and my hand was hurting immensely, but I didn’t move at all because I didn’t want to repeat this. I was worried that it would damage my veins but the nurse had said it was ok because there would be a big lump underneath my skin if the dye wasn’t going into the veins properly. As I moved into the circle and back out again there was indeed a warm sensation, especially hot in my groin.
Once it was over I got dressed and headed back down to the ER to await the results. I asked several times over the next 2-3 hours if they could take my IV out because it was still hurting, but they wouldn’t eventually the results came back that they couldn’t find a stone so it was either obscured by my pelvis (meaning in my bladder) or I had already passed it and it was gone. They were about ready to send me home with some antibiotics.
While the nurse removed my IV she had a crazy looking expression on her face, one that would indicate surprise, but surprise in a bad way, like “oh, my, God!”. I asked what the problem was and she said “oh, nothing”, but I asked her a couple more times and finally she held up the IV and it was bent like 60 degrees. That was why it had been hurting all along… When the first ER nurse was sticking me over and over to get the vein she apparently bent it underneath my skin and then they ignored me all day long when I told them it hurt, until they removed it about 8 hours later and found it bent.
We got my medications and went home, arriving in Malaysia around 8pm. I was exhausted. From getting up at 5am to get ready and drive to Singapore so we could be at my doctor’s office at 9am, to unbelievable pain from another kidney stone, to an entire day in the ER with my first (and very painful) IV, and then fighting traffic back into Malaysia. I went straight to bed.
Unfortunately I didn’t sleep for too long, and the problems continued…
I will pickup in the next blog entry to mention how this problem continued into Saturday night and Sunday morning (Feb 25/26), but here are some photos from February and my time in various hospital rooms: