In the continuing saga of It Sucks To Be Me, I hit ground zero last Spring when I went on an impromptu tour of the new UCLA Hospital in Westwood. When the whole mess was over, I had a box of tea in my medicine cabinet and voices in my head… But, on the bright side, at least I wasn’t captured by pirates.
Before my Exciting Adventure, life had actually been getting better. I had come a long way since sobbing uncontrollably through the movie Wall-E (why were people laughing? – That poor little robot was pathetic and lonely – JUST LIKE ME). My walks-on-water therapist had exorcised so many of my demons, I felt ready to become Human again and The Jolly Roger was just a place to buy fish sticks. So, what was with the nagging lower back pain that I woke up with every morning – and why was Matt Lauer wearing an eye patch? It started out small, but after three weeks, it wouldn’t go away until I drank two cups of coffee and read BOTH morning papers – if this continued, it could cut into my Leisure Time.
But this morning was different: I could barely get out of the bed. Bent over, like Long John Silver with a two-ton parrot, I hobbled up the stairs to the kitchen, but the coffee didn’t work. In fact, it felt WORSE – ARRRR. After reading the LA Times, the New York Times, and three chapters of Treasure Island, it was time for Internet Doctor. I got on the net and discovered that my pain was right where my kidney was – either that or my internal organs were all out of place and it was actually a Migraine. EGAD. I KNEW I had been drinking too much wine lately. Wait, that attacks the liver, not the kidney…I think. What about Kidney Stones? I knew I never drank enough water – was my crusade against bottle-toting plastic polluters finally warping my own health?
Anyway, this was clearly my Waterloo, so somehow I managed to maneuver into some clothes and my husband and I started the drive down Pacific Coast Highway – PCH – to my doctor’s office. We scanned the horizon for The Skull and Crossbones, but all we could see were film crews and surfer dudes.
Now, I don’t know when you were at the doctor’s last, but when you’re in pain they like to ask you to assign it a number on a scale from 1 to 10. I had started the day as a tolerable 6, but on PCH I was hitting a Screaming 9 every time we crossed a surfer shadow in the road. As we approached the medical center, I realized that in Sunny California it’s not really cool to limp into your doctor’s office actually looking sick, so I put on a pair of dark glasses and we headed for the Emergency Room instead.
First, I’m happy to report that the new facility in Westwood is very nice, especially the flooring, which I had the chance to study at great length and extremely close range. And, lucky for me, Wednesdays are slow days for stabbings and such, so I didn’t have to wait too long – Lindsay and Britney: Take Note.
Endless undignified tests and two Vicodins later, I was wheeled off to the CT scan to verify the kidney stone that all the clues were pointing to.
Now, maybe it was the drugs, but this part was pretty fun. Going through two big auto-doors, I rolled from the relative boredom of the emergency room triage to the inner sanctum of Really Sick People. Gurneys and IVs, young medical students in scrubs: Stethoscope City. Suddenly I was guest-starring on ER. Even the CT scan guy was channeling George Clooney. And so flirty. I mean, c’mon why else would he ask me if I might be pregnant before he stuffed me into the scanner? We both knew it was code for: I just broke up with the hot nurse who wheeled you in, so maybe we could go for coffee later?
After the scan, I was treated to the CSI-Animal House side of life, going past the Ambulance Entrance where a HUGE, burly Asian policeman was shaking out the pockets of some so-in-trouble-with-mommy-and-daddy frat-boy baggy blue jeans. I guess Law and Order would say he was in the Discovery Phase…
Anyway, wheeled back to where I started, in Chez Chilly Cubicle, I received the results of my scan: No Kidney Stone. An Amazonian Blond Barbie Nazi Doctor said that all the CT specialist could see was that I had a large amount of fecal matter – so no latte date with him – but nothing that warranted all my pain. So, basically, I was full of it. Ms. Amazon, who looked like she ran marathons to wind down, gave me a lecture on Healthy Living and discharged me with a bottle of Vicodin and strict instructions to eat two trees and call my doctor in the morning. Bitch. I knew she had eyes for my CT Guy from the beginning.
Double ARRRR. Braving the High Seas one last time for the day, I slunk home with my Real Life husband and dug through my cupboards until I found the box of tea I remembered receiving as an amusing Christmas gift: organic Smooth Move, by Traditional Medicinals.
Now, except for head-colds-from-Hell, I have never drunk tea for medicinal purposes – and certainly not chewing-gum-flavored herbal concoctions. The only exception was twenty years ago, recovering in the hospital from my caesarian, after my daughter was torn free from my stomach. I’ll never forget that after finally excavating her – you’re putting that vacuum pump WHERE? – I couldn’t understand why my stomach was still so HUGE. I mean, a father by the nursery asked me WHEN WAS I DUE. So I was completely blind-sided by the puritanical nurse who reeled me in by referring to it as “air trapped during surgery” – leaving me to ask her the Dumbest Question On Earth:
“well, uh, HOW does it come out?”
The distasteful look on her face told me even before the answer came bubbling up… Yes, only 24 hours after the miracle of childbirth, the healing process had begun and I was once again capable of being embarrassed by my own body. Peppermint tea and lots of Alone Time did the trick.
Unlike peppermint tea and its charming name, organic Smooth Move is Get Down To Business stuff: it has Senna in it, which the box explains is an herbal stimulant laxative. So, two cups and five hours later, the tea had worked its herbal magic and I was finally able to fit into jeans I’d forgotten I even owned – hallelujah – but once the Vicodin wore off, the stabbing back pain was back, strong as ever…
ARRRRRRRRR To The Max.
PART TWO: how I got rid of the pain, but gained Voices In My Head – all while STILL successfully avoiding any plank-walking.