CommunityPam's House Blend

My AM in the ER

[If you don’t like medical crap, just pass this post by…]

I spent the last several days feeling sucktastic, but I’m on the tail end of recovery from the flu bug. Unfortunately, I guess misery wanted to pay another, more entertaining visit today. I woke up and felt increasing pressure just under my left rib cage, with pain radiating toward my back. It was dull almost dismissable pain, so I dressed to go to work. I hadn’t eaten anything (thankfully, in retrospect). After going to the bathroom I sat down at the laptop to queue up posts for today and all of a sudden the pain ratcheted up to about a 7 out of 10, with sharp pains on my side/back under my rib cage when I breathed deeply.

Kate drove me to the ER and they did a CT scan, which revealed a few things, none of which the doctor said would seemingly cause the severity of pain in this particular location.

I was given an IV and two doses of morphine and one other painkiller I can’t recall during my 5 hour stay in the ER, though none of these drugs got my pain below a 6. They also did a chest X-ray to rule out pneumonia. No problems showed up there. Blood work that was performed didn’t indicate anything either.

The likely culprit: stones in my left kidney (forgot how many or what size), though none were dislodged/in a position to pass, which is usually what causes pain akin to childbirth, so there’s not much to do at this time (see my 2001 ridiculously detailed kidney stone diary). [The photo at left is a 4mm moon rock kidney stone that scraped its way out of me in 2001. Yipes!]

I already knew the other bit of business he mentioned — my gall bladder needs to go, something I’m going to have to face later this month after I speak to the surgeon in a week or so

I was sent home with a prescription and told to take it every 6 hours for pain. So I have basically to treat the pain itself without a clear indication of what the underlying problem is. The doctor noted that about 40% of women who come into the ER with abdominal pain do not get a clear diagnosis by discharge. Reassuring, huh?

I also asked the doctor about travel, since I am scheduled to go out of town tomorrow night (flying to Vegas to speak on a panel!), and he didn’t seem concerned about it, barring the inability to control the pain. I’m to rest today.


One interesting discussion occurred early on after Kate and I went back into the examination room of the ER. The financial services person (checking on whether/how you’re insured and to get that co-pay!) asked me the routine questions, including marital status. I said “partnered, but married if you count our Canadian marriage not recognized here.” She said, “I’ll put down married, and they’ll have to deal with it.”

She asked about where our marriage is recognized fully as a civil marriage (nowhere in the U.S., but in NJ, it’s legally viewed as a civil union; it’s likely the case elsewhere with that reciprocity), and thought it was absurd and wrong that same-sex partners might be barred from being with their sick spouse at a time of need.

We told her that Kate and I do have health care power of attorney for one another, and have taken other legal steps to ensure, to the extent we can, that our rights are clearly outlined.

We’ve both been in the hospital (in this case, Duke), either for operations or ER visits, and not once have we been treated differently than opposite sex partners, so we consider ourselves fortunate in that regard. That’s not true in many places around the country.

Anyway, as you can see by the fact that I’ve typed this out for you all, that I’m not sitting in the ER, I’m home and woozy, still in pain, but ok. [Apparently I freaked out some Facebook friends when, in my boredom waiting this AM, I changed my status to “Pam is sitting on a gurney in the ER.”]  

Now I’ll go lie down.


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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding