About the fatigue.
I'm always fatigued. I have theories about the fatigue that pinpoint its source in my head rather than my body, but sometimes the body is actually at fault.
After the conference, I felt the kind of fatigue that comes from the body. At first, it isn't discernible from the usual fatigue of letting my mind work me like a speed bag, so I didn't pay attention. The pain in my lower abdomen started to take greater portions of my attention. I thought it was gas, but it wouldn't go away and walking made me think I had a water balloon bobbing about just where your appendix or ovary like to live.
"Why don't you call the doctor?" the Gentleman Companion asked.
"Because I'm a new patient and she probably can't get me in for something like six months," I said.
"Why not your lady part doctor?" he pressed.
"Because I don't think this is her area," I said.
"How about the critical care clinic?" Now he was frustrated.
"No, no," I said, wincing as I forced myself to stand up straight. "It isn't quite that bad."
You sort of had to be bleeding or screaming with pain or have a bone sticking out to go to the doctor when I was growing up. That, or the state required it. Heck, once when I was a really small kid and probably should have had stitches, my mom just slapped on a butterfly bandage and a mound of band aids because she didn't want to have to go through holding down a very strong squalling tottler while the doctor sewed up her chin yet again.
My brothers all but performed surgery on themselves. "Don't tell Mom!" they whispered, as blood spurted from a knife in the foot or a gash in the arm, acquired through some shenanigan involving homemade ramps, smoking pot on the roof, or "shit you don't want to know about." "Yeah, don't tell Mom. She'll take us to the doctor and we'll have to get a shot!" "Get the Bactine and the Band-aids. Shake that shit off!"
For three days, I wandered around bent over, yoga breathing through the spasms, and telling myself that one good passing -- perhaps one that might fill up a hot air balloon -- would provide sweet relief, and all thoughts of doctors and clinics would seem silly. I might even write a funny children's story about it to amuse my nephews, who take after their grandfather in thinking that flatulence is the highest form of humor, and thereby seal my role as the Great Goddess Aunt in their imaginations.
Then, I woke up in the middle of the night shivering. My skin detected no cold, yet broke out in goosebumps while my muscles jittered and jangled themselves sore. No amount of yoga-breathing could calm them down. Eventually, I fell back to sleep, but awoke the next morning drenched in sweat. At least the pain had subsided. So, I went about my business for the day, but couldn't take a step further by noon, and had to lay down on the sofa.
The shivering started again. An hour later, wondering if all of this muscle activity might give me some good tone and burn off a few calories, I told the Gentleman Companion that I was ready for the critical care clinic.
As an aside, they really should have cots of some sort in clinic and er waiting rooms, at least for the children. They should also have some sort of sensory stimulation in the examining rooms so you don't lay on your back counting the holes in the ceiling tiles and wondering if Charlotte Perkins Gilman will creep through them any minute as you await the next person to poke and prod you.
Anyway, they poked and prodded and since the pain had subsided, they really didn't have much to go on in the way of me screaming "yes, there, THERE!" They also found that I no longer passed urine but great flowering gardens of bacteria. The shivering -- which commenced yet again on the way to the clinic -- was the result of fever. The fever was trying to kill the gardens. Neither the fever nor oral antibiotics were going to deforest my urinary tract, and the gardens didn't explain the pain, which they thought might be something else, so I got a nice ambulance ride to the er downtown. Sadly, they did not turn on the siren. Not so sadly, I did not care. In fact, by the time we were in the ambulance, I was feeling really really really groovy and didn't give a damn about anything.
Of course, there is a price for not giving a damn, and in this case the price was a needle in my arm. I hate needles. It's irrational, I know. I know that the needle puncture feels like a fairy-sized pinch. I know that an IV is a flexible straw in your arm and not a metal tube. I have, in fact, had more than one very good blood draws that left no mark. IVs have a poorer track record. I've had one good one. The one before that, I did not know that the needle was not in my arm and lay freaking out for an hour, which did nothing to cure the migraine that necessitated the IV in the first place. Then, I've had one that left me with what the Gentleman Companion dubbed "pipe arm" because my arm both looked and felt as if it had a pipe sewn into the skin.
In this instance, the IV began a chain of events that left me crying like a four-year old in the er two days later. You see, have seem to have difficult veins. Dainty, even. Why couldn't my butt be dainty? I'd have more use for a dainty butt and wide veins than a wide butt and dainty veins. I'll even take a wide butt and wide veins, just stop sticking me over and over and over and over and over trying to find a vein that works! Later, in the er when they came in to take blood, the nurse kept sticking me and started to panic, out loud, half a foot from my face, about my "weird" veins and her inability to get blood out of them. (Although I know this is impossible and she would never have done this, I swear that she wiggled the needle about in my arm.)
To deal with this, I take deep yoga breaths, find a place in my head in which I can isolate the experience of the pain to the tiny fairy-bite that it is, and console my brain that none of the medical horrors that it imagines, spurred on by copious viewings of er and House, are happening. I try to think about the whole sticking and pain and blood-letting and fluid-giving as the scientific process that it is and observe it as a curious scholar. I can go to that place, and sustain it for some hours (especially if they do what they do to make me feel groovy), but I haven't had much practice so it can become mentally exhausting.
At the er, they fortunately put me in a room. Perhaps the privilege of an ambulance gave me preference. Later experience demonstrated to me that this is not always the fortune of patients. Two days later, back in the er, sitting in the waiting room, people gripping closed the peek-a-boo nighties and wheeling IV staff and monitors were escorted into the sometimes unavailable chairs to wait their turn. At least they got a t.v. and magazines. Still, I would rather the bed.
Also at the er, they sent me to get a CT scan of my innards and two ultra sounds, one on the outside and one on the inside. Yes, I got a transvaginal ultrasound. The device looks like something you might buy in Amsterdam's Red Light District, and they use a condom and lube. It wasn't that big of a deal; but, let me tell you, if the state were forcing me to undergo the procedure in order to get another perfectly legal procedure, I think I would have been so angry and tense that I would have used that muscle down there to break the damn device. Then I would have charged the technician the going rate for a sex show.
Again, I digress.
They found nothing wrong but a few lady-bit things that are benign and, as the p.a. put it, "just what happens when you have a uterus." I seriously would like to send it to those Republicans who are so interested in uteri and let them deal with the thing, but that's a whole other digression. Meanwhile, I am otherwise healthy and strong except for that whole bacterial garden taking over my insides. So, they launched biological warfare on the garden with three raids of antibiotics and sent me home where I drifted in an out of fever for about 12 more hours and pretty much found myself incapable of anything but lying on the sofa and watching whatever the hell that was on t.v.
This would be the end except the stomach pain started again.