Thursday, July 7, 2016

How Cyclical Vomiting Made Me An Introvert

In my most recent visit to the Emergency Room, my attending physician was at first only slightly interested in my predicament--which happened to be that I had begun vomiting 8 hours earlier and had yet to stop the recurrent episodes of intense vomiting that had been occurring every 15 minutes since then.  He inquired about my condition, then asked if I had used any street drugs or if I was a regular user of marijuana. I told him I did not use marijuana nor any other drug. I then said that I had Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome and I used to be a frequent flyer. However, because of my crazy MacGyver wits, I have abated most of my symptoms.
    Laying on my back in the emergency room with an IV. tube sticking out of my arm, I realized how idiotic I sounded at that moment. So I added, "Well, most of my symptoms. I am here."
    The doctor reacted at my statement in a way that I had never seen. Most people (I assume) aren't having exactly a good day when they are at the Emergency Room, but for me, my frequent visits were always pretty soul sucking.
    I've been belittled by nurses. "People don't have your symptoms! They just don't!"
    I've been treated by doctors like I was just another drug seeker. I've been told I either had to get out or get hospitalized, so I've left the Emergency Room while completely high on a cocktail of intravenous Benadryle, Zofran, and whatever else they happened to put in me. During this one visit I remember I was pretty delirious. When they finally got me to leave,  I remember having to use the wall in the long hallway from the Emergency Room to my car to keep me from falling. When I did manage to get to my car, it took me about a minute of attempted concentration before I realized I was too doped up on hospital meds to drive, crawled in my back seat, and slept. It. Off.

A lot has changed about the Emergency Room in the three years since they used to treat me then sweep me. For starters, the last time I was there I went straight into a small room and was seen by a nurse who hooked me up with intranvenous fluids and a dose of Zofran before I had even been seen by a doctor. Secondly, my condition now had a name and was known by everyone working in the hospital that day. Thirdly, my attending physician reacted very interested in my syndrome and for the first time wasn't looking at me like I was a giant unfixable inconvenience and just some frequent flyer who needed to be "Treated and Swept off the Emergency Room floor."

He wanted to know how I had stayed away for so long. Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome is barely treatable and incurable. I told him about my diet. I told him about my nutrition and enzymes. I told him about the exercise. His biggest reaction was my elimination of wheat from my diet, "How do you not eat wheat? It's in everything!"
   "It keeps me out of here," I replied. "Well, most of the time anyway."

For some reason, humans don't seem to recognize or acknowledge something that they don't understand or doesn't have a name. For years I just had symptoms. Symptoms that were nearly untreatable and so strange that MPs didn't even know how to treat me. Now, my symptoms have greatly lessened, my condition has a name, and doctors and nurses treat me like any other patient. Heaven on Earth!

Being belittled at by medical professionals and kicked out while even more vulnerable when I walked in, wasn't even the worst part. When a person is in the throes of dehydration and compulsive vomiting and finally gets plugged into fluids and the vomiting doesn't cease what do you think is the next logical occurrence? If you guessed that I totally would pee my pants in front of a room full of complete strangers, you guessed right. I have a drawer dedicated to sweat pants that have been gifted to me by the staff of the Emergency Room. Well, I can't say gifted. Most pairs generally costed between $1000 and $5000. Chronic illness is nothing if not expensive.

If you find any humor in my misery let me inform you, my medical chart clearly states, "Patient Has a Sense of Humor."

For some reason uncontrollable vomiting is not exactly pretty. Adults (as far as I'm aware) don't normally pee their pants. There was even an instance where someone asked me point blank, "What the hell is wrong with you?"
    "I think I may have been either Hitler or Stalin in a past life. Karma really has a way of showing up, doesn't it?" As my pants became soaked and my emesis bucket runneth over.

Because my illness is defined as an Invisble Illness, after an episode my life would pretty quickly return to normal. Quite possibly, however, my interactions with non-ill humans has caused me to be more introverted than even peeing my pants in front of at least five strangers. I've given up and even lost friends when I've happened to call the day after an episode to check in and see how someone is doing. Here's an example of several phone calls I've had with people after an episode. This is a generalization, but it's a pretty acurate one.
   Me:  "Hi (so-and-so) this is Tammy."
   Them:  "What the hell?"
   Me: "Suh, huh? I've been sick."
   Them: "I haven't heard from you in a week!"
   Me: "Yeah I had this weird stomach flu I get all the time. I feel a lot better now."
   Them: "I thought we were friends."
   Me: "Umm...we are? Or were?"
   Them: "I'm not talking to you anymore. People don't get sick like that."
   *Click* or silence.

I've been told that humans do stuff like this to feel more secure in a friendship and I was supposed to call them back and try and work things out. But I didn't. I get now that I'm a bit of an A-hole for not reaching out or calling back. The thing is though, I'm chronically ill. I don't know how many healthy days I have left here. I simply don't have time for that stuff. Dogs don't do that. I think anyway.

I've been told I'm extremely guarded. My question is, "If you walked a day in my shoes, had my experiences, wouldn't you be?"

I'm not guarded. I'm compromised. I'm chronically ill.

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