Wednesday, May 16, 2007

How to Get Immediate Medical Care

On Monday, I showed up to work feeling just fine, but around 10 a.m. I went to the bathroom and all hell broke loose. I suddenly became dizzy and faint and got chills and cold sweats and pain in my lower abdomen. It felt like food poisoning but I wasn't actually having any stomach issues.

I basically stumbled back to my office, closed the door (thank god my officemate was in a meeting), and lay down on the floor for a few minutes until I stopped feeling dizzy. I googled my symptoms and freaked out when I saw that they appeared to be identical to those of an ectopic pregnancy, which often presents itself between 6-7 weeks, which is where I am.

I went home and changed out of my suit, and then I went immediately to the urgent care doctor near my house.

The urgent care center was a strange place. I definitely got the feeling that urgent care was a side business. They had signs all over the place for weight loss and hair removal programs. (Maybe the sign outside saying "WEIGHT LOSS -- URGENT CARE" should have tipped me off.) But I felt better just being there, knowing that if my fallopian tube burst, someone would get me to a hospital.

The urgent care doctor drew blood and made an appointment for me to get an emergency sonogram that afternoon. In the meantime, that doctor's office tried to call my OB-GYN, who I'll call Dr. Degree From Grenada. Dr. Degree From Grenada will not see a pregnant patient until 8-10 weeks, under any circumstances. Dr. Degree From Grenada also does not seem to work a full week, but I went to her practice because it was convenient to my job (when I worked in Falls Church) and because there are numerous doctors there that I could see at her practice. I have never gotten through to a real person when attempting to call Dr. Degree From Grenada, which is why I went to urgent care instead of my OB-GYN's office.

Typically you have to leave a message and Dr. Degree From Grenada's office gets back to you at their leisure. The urgent care staff managed to get a real person on the phone twice to discuss my issues (ectopic pregnancy can cause DEATH, people), and they were disconnected both times during the call. The third time they called, like 10 seconds later, the "we're closed for lunch" message was on. The urgent care suggested a new OB-GYN and got me an appointment for the next morning.

I was at the sonogram place forever. They did a pelvic sonogram and an abdominal sonogram, and then they did an internal one (they stick the ultrasound wand up your va-jay-jay). They found the "sac," and it wasn't ectopic (whew), but the technicians told me that the embryo was measuring really small for what it should be. They wouldn't tell me anything else, even about the big white dot on the image of my kidney (was that a kidney stone? they wouldn't say), so I got the feeling they were pretty certain of the measurements.

I spent Monday night depressed, wondering when the miscarriage was going to happen. I told Steve and he hugged me and said at least each time things move farther along, so if this didn't work, maybe next time would be the ticket.

Tuesday morning, my new OB-GYN, who I'll call Dr. Mango, talked to me about what was going on. I recapped the symptoms of my illness from the prior day, and he comes up with, "you had an anxiety attack." I objected: "But I wasn't even stressed out about anything!"

Then I thought about it. Every time I go to the bathroom I look at my underwear expecting to see blood. The episode happened in the bathroom at work. Perhaps constantly steeling myself for theoretical blood is not healthy behavior.

Dr. Mango asked me all sorts of specific questions about what happened and whether we had anxiety disorder or obsessive compulsives in my family. (We do.) So he basically said I need to chill out and stop worrying about everything. He asked me why I was worried, and I said because of the prior miscarriage, and because it took my mom four years to get pregnant. Dr. Mango said for a 33 year old I actually have gotten pregnant pretty quickly, even if this is the first pregnancy.

(He thinks the one in February was not a real pregnancy at all -- I don't buy that, but I'll buy the idea of a chemical pregnancy. I'm going to bring him my chart from that cycle to show him all the signs.)

Dr. Mango said it's totally normal for it to take a year for a 33 year old to get pregnant and it's nothing to worry about. He said the sonogram technicians were working at the limits of the technology's resolution, so the estimate of the age of the embryo could have been off pretty easily. Then Dr. Mango did a vaginal sonogram, and what do you know -- I saw the little heart beating. For a second I caught my breath -- I was so surprised. It looked like a little bean flashing on and off.

Dr. Mango said the pregnancy seems viable but we'll know more based on blood tests. He's going to do a blood test every two days for a while and the hormone level should be doubling each time. He said that is the best indicator for whether it is viable or not. I have a blood test scheduled for Thursday and another sonogram for next week.

It's night and day compared to Dr. Degree From Grenada, who I wouldn't have even seen for another 3 weeks, and who would not run early blood tests. Basically, with Dr. Degree From Grenada, it's up to you to get your pregnancy to 8-10 weeks. THEN you get to have some prenatal care. They don't even mail you a leaflet on what not to eat or anything -- what if someone's going around eating sushi and deli meat and seared tuna and soft cheeses because they don't know to avoid them? (I admit it, I envy that person in theory.) You are on your own.

To be continued.