After the Party It’s a Doctor Party
IF YOU CAN believe it, that Sunday of the wedding was the 19th of July. I didn’t end up going to hospital until the 27th. I lived a lot in the 8 days leading up to it. I was dying and I had no idea (not to beat a dead horse but let’s beat that dead horse). To this day, I still believe I really and truly had no idea. And I was misinformed. I go to work on Monday morning, the 20th of July. And I’m really a hurting unit, so I write a Gchat to my friend Al, I have to go to the real doctor. The trouble was, I didn’t have a GP. So Al suggests that I try this place her friend goes to that is basically for people who need a gyno or go for yearly check-ups and they just want a nice calm atmosphere when they walk in and water with fresh slices of lemon in an oversized mason jar and couches from a Swedish design shop that isn’t Ikea but basically has the same furniture at a higher price point and some sweet Norah Jones or Jason Mraz or Coldplay or Tibetan gong music playing in the waiting room. Like not cool music, but not waiting room music — you know? It’s basically bougie as fuck and you have to pay a membership to be a patient there. They promise you better service, no waiting for appointments and more attentive treatment. It’s dumbfounding to me that this is what healthcare has come to in America, but they have a great website and I love easy listening so I bit, I chomped down hard on the proverbial Kool-Aid. I was desperate and so I pulled out my plastic and made an appointment. Also, since I didn’t have a GP, I couldn’t get any appointments for the same day on ZocDoc and at least this place came recommended. I have since got my money back for this membership because of the part they played in my care, which I honestly have to say was negligent.
‘Of course, they could fit me right into the schedule, no worries, come on down.’ I got an appointment for 3 pm that day. I went into my boss’ office and said listen, I have to go to the doctor, and she said ‘Yeah, you don’t look so good. I can see you’re unwell.’ So I stay at work until about 2ish and bust out of there and hop down to 23rd street on the subway (it’s weird that the most distant memory for me in this story is not the actual memories but what it’s like to take the subway anywhere. So fast. So efficient. So germ-infested. So many pizza rats). I was so half-baked at this point that I didn’t realise that I was going to see a Nurse Practitioner, not an actual doctor, not someone who had years upon years of experience, not someone who would recognize jaundice as a serious sign of trouble or say definitively ‘BITCH, GET YOUR ASS TO THE HOSPITAL RIGHT NOW’. I have since pictured people going into this clinic for when they have something like acid reflux or multiple yeast infections or UTIs or Athlete’s Foot or genital warts or Verrucas or a papercut or some other (admittedly annoying) but a largely innocuous health issue. They’re not the people you go see when your liver is about to fucking fall out of your vagina. I am pretty sure that’s not how it works I would have to check with my doctor to make 100% sure but you know what I mean. But they’re who I chose as my health professionals. I felt pretty angry at the woman I dealt with there for a long while. I oscillated between, well, she didn’t know me, I walked in as a stranger with yellow eyes and she didn’t know me from Anna. (Yeah, yeah the expression is from Adam but #girlpower). Who knows, maybe I scared her.
I don’t want to say she was incompetent, because the woman really was not. I am confident that she is good at her job but I don’t really know if she deals with this sort of thing all the time. I think it was a perfect storm for me and just bad luck that that’s where I ended up. I walked into her office, after sitting in the lovely, gorgeous waiting room with huge loft ceilings, sipped on some artisanal lemon water and listened to some trendy easy listening across from a well-manicured Flatiron woman who had most likely just come from Dry Bar or is one of those mythical creatures that gets her hair blow-dried 3 times a week and was rocking the next day blow out. Either way, I was in a place where health problems exist, but we can make it all better with interior design and making it seem like we’re at Soho House. EXCEPT NO BUT YOU CAN’T DO THAT AT ALL NOT WHEN YOU’RE REAL FUCKED UP. I went in to present the facts. Bear in mind, this is the second time I’m repeating the Bali story, because this is only the second medical professional I’m seeing.
I tell her what’s up and I tell her my theories (at this point I had a bunch of theories cooked up in my head, some of which I never shared with medical professionals, some of which I did). This woman is newly pregnant and just starting to show, I was so excited for her! I had just come from seeing my godson and nephew and how far along is she and does she have another kid or is this her first and you know just the normal small talk. Nothing. Woman gave me nothing to work with. It was pretty much like getting blood from the stone. She was so chill and nonchalant that I was truly thrown by it. And I hate chit-chat, I don’t love small talk, let’s get down to business for sure 24/7 if I don’t know you, let’s not waste time talking about our lives. I don’t care, you don’t care, neither of us care so let’s just get down to what we’re here for. But something about her attitude was so bizarrely asleep at the wheel that I was like, I have to get human with you on some level. I need your help and you are not giving me anything here so I need to endear you to me SOMEHOW (more on how I was the most charming and loveable patient NYP has ever seen later).
So I move on from the small talk, I was pretty painfully aware that I wasn’t going to be buddy-buddy with this person: so let’s do this thing. ‘Basically, I went to Indonesia for 2 weeks, I started vomiting not this past Friday but the one before and it’s been pretty steady ever since.’ (UH, HELLO THAT’S OVER TEN DAYS WHY DIDN’T SHE TELL ME TO SPRINT TO THE HOSPITAL LIKE DON’T TAKE A CAB JUST FUCKING RUN RIP ALL YOUR CLOTHES OFF AND SHOW UP READY FOR TESTING), ‘and I’ve now developed this jaundice; I’m exhausted and I just can’t shake it and it’s strange because at first, I thought it was jet-lag but now it’s just lingering and I don’t know what to do. Also, I think it has something to do with my ovaries so if you could check those that would be great.’ I had this bizarre hunch that there was something wrong with my ovaries. Let me explain.
I had this guy, Pak Durit do this very intense massage on me in Bali. He’s friends with my friends and he is an older guy, a healer, a medicine man (Pak means Mr. in Bahasa Indonesian, but it’s a respected way to address someone, it’s mostly for an older person. The female version is Ibu). He comes to your house. The whole story is much longer than what is intended for this post but the first time he did it he touched on a point in my shoulder (from which I had been healing from surgery for the previous year) and I completely lost my shit. He pushed on an emotional portal or something and I started uncontrollably crying for almost two hours. I got on my scooter to drive to dinner with tears streaming down my face like just bawling my eyes out in the rice paddy. It was wild. Needless to say, I definitely scared the children: ‘Aunty No-Wa, why are you so emotionally unhinged?!’ Just kidding they didn’t say that they are both under 3 years old they don’t know how crazy I am yet. Anyway, I saw him again before I left because dude is really a miracle worker, the above anecdote notwithstanding (for what it’s worth I thought that emotional release was so rad and just what I needed). When I was lying on my back he went up to my abdomen area and touched on something there. He goes ‘Sakit disini’ I say ‘Sakit mana?’ And he points. Pak Durit doesn’t speak English and I do not know the words for any of my insides in Indonesian. He was saying ‘You’re sick here’ to which I answered ‘Where?’ THE NEXT PART IS MY BAD. So I can’t exactly remember but I think I somehow worked out that he was pointing to my ovaries. And to be fair, I did end up having cysts on my ovaries which is actually very common and nothing to worry about.
But I just couldn’t let the ovary thing go. I remember it being the morning of my transplant or maybe the day before and asking my surgeon ‘Is someone going to listen to me about this ovary thing or WHAT?’ No one would let me have a goddamn ovarian ultrasound because they basically knew for a fact that I was dying of liver failure. But I couldn’t let go of it. I was like YO MY FRIEND DURIT SAID IT WAS MY OVARIES AND DUDE IS NEVER WRONG. I didn’t end up getting that ultrasound until after transplant (when I insisted on it) and ooh buddy it was painful with a gaping Mercedes Benz scar in my middle and having had a catheter in me for days on end. Insert Kelly Clarkson lyrics here. But Pak Durit also looked pretty scared when he was telling me, and he maybe was feeling something wrong with the liver, too. And maybe he could feel that I was in for an absolute world of hurt. And if I had been staying in Bali, I would have been. I would probably actually have been dead by the 6th of August instead of getting a second lease on life. So I think that’s what he was so scared about. I can’t wait to see him again so I can ask him what went through his mind. I am going to have to learn the words for liver, intestines and ovaries in Indonesian by then which I think I can do and also where the ovaries are in relation to the liver. No, I know that second one now so that’s one thing I’ve learned from this experience. Basic human anatomy which I think you’re supposed to learn when you’re 12 or 13. I’ll get back to Durit in another post he is a wise man and an absolute legend. I have wondered, so often, if he knew right there and then what was going on. If it could have saved me all this to-and-froing from Urgent Care to nurse practitioners. I don’t know why neither myself nor Claire thought to call the guy in between. Oh well, spilt milk and all that.
So the most nonchalant, lackadaisical Nurse Practitioner on the planet gets an earful about how I think I have something wrong with my ovaries (Why? Oh, just because, I just have this feeling, you know I’m in touch with my body. No I did not tell her that a Balinese medicine man told me so now I have accepted it as truth). I know she was pregnant so this is probably not the case but she honestly looked like she had taken a massive rip off a bong before she saw me. I just was not interesting at all to her. Or maybe I terrified her because she was pregnant and I could have some insane tropical disease. Indonesia was, after all, an obsession of every single doctor I met. There was indeed the possibility that I had Hepatitis E and that’s what she presented me with. She ordered some labs, she asked for me to send her the blood work I had done at the Urgent Care place and she prescribed me some Compazine (an anti-nausea medication that I would come to know and love with the utmost affection and gratitude, shout-out to Zofran too, love you buddy, thanks for getting me through the first 6 months post-transplant).
Meanwhile, I asked my mother to drive me back to Brooklyn because for one, I was just staggering around like a goddamn drunk and also because I hadn’t seen her since I got back from Bali. So she picked me up in the car on 21st and 5th and we drove back to Greenpoint. I asked her to stop at this pie shop called The Blue Stove and I got us some apple pie and some other cheese thing and some iced teas. We sat in my back garden and we each smoked a cigarette (best way to quit smoking — go into hospital for 30+ days and don’t leave at all and have a few surgeries in between). She cleaned my pool because she has a compulsion to clean things and make everything ‘nicey-nice’ as she would say. Anne and Barrie were having dinner at a place down the road from me and we went to meet them to say hi. I picked up the Compazine at CVS but they didn’t have it so I went to a different CVS down the road which did have it and then I spent another night hugging the toilet bowl. My poor roommates. I don’t know how much they could hear but it wasn’t pretty, the auditory section of my nighttime routine was not the most calming environment to be in. I remember Keenan sending me off to work everyday ‘So you’re gonna go? You ok?’
So the Compazine doesn’t work and I’m going for more blood work and urine testing in the morning. And it’s only Monday night. We have another 7 days of this shit. God only needed 7 days to create the world and I only needed 7 to realize that I was in a world of trouble, one foot in the ground and knee-deep in horse shit and more importantly, needed to get myself to the Emergency Room STAT. Oh, wait sorry I needed 17. Guess I’m not God after all. The next morning I would go into their testing facility and pee in the cup. The results would show up as ‘Cloudy’ and ‘Abnormal’. So many Abnormals in that test report. So many. One thing is for sure, I only have the medical degree I received from being in hospital for over 30 days (they give one to everyone once you reach a certain amount of days + procedures), but this urine does not look like the urine of a healthy person.