… is the easiest way to meet Firefighters and EMTs at CVS. Oh, and it’s a great way to get recommendations for a new primary doctor, too.

So yesterday my day started off riding the train to work. No different than any other day these past weeks, but that morning I happened to have certain personal health issues on my mind. Like the fact I had been feeling like crap over the past few days; nauseated, hungry but no will to eat, vertigo.

I had left work early on Tuesday because of those same symptoms, all while people around me asked if perhaps I was “with child.” A matter I scoffed at, and then had to remind myself that I was around a new group of people. People of who didn’t know my struggles with IF over the past decade or so. And just to clear it up right away, for those that might be wondering … No, I’m not pregnant.

Anyhoo … When I got back to my place on Tuesday morning, I promptly plopped myself in front of the TV just long enough to watch history being made and then headed off to bed. Where I slept for five hours straight. Then I woke up, munched on something that might be considered dinner and promptly climbed back into bed for the rest of the night. My goal was to get up the next morning and make it to work, even if it killed me.

Which brings us back to yesterday morning on the train. As I struggled to keep my thoughts together (and my surroundings from feeling as if it was swirling around me … vertigo sucks!), I happened to look up at the ads directly across the aisle from where I sat. And there was a sign up above that advertised a local hospital system in the area. Yes, I remember thinking to myself, I really do need to start looking for a primary doctor. After all, I do have quite a medical history. Plus, this feeling sick is for the birds. And hmm … I wonder if this hospital system has some good docs in the area?

Despite the haziness in my brain, I made it to work safely and through half of the day. Until the nausea associated with the spinning room became too unbearable. An inner ear infection, I thought It was then that I decided I should probably go to an urgent care center of some sorts. But where? I’m too new to the area … oh, and by the way I have no car, so if I did go to one, it’d have to be close to one of the train lines. Then a co-worker suggested MinuteClinic over at CVS. You know, the Nurse Practitioner (NP)-run clinic that can diagnose and treat simple health-related issues like minor scrapes and bruises, upper-respiratory infections and … oh, I don’t know … ear infections! So I located the one closest to my place and close to one of the train lines, Google-Mapped directions* and headed out the door. All after emailing my staff and cc’ing leadership that I should be back the next day. Famous last words.

So I stumbled over to the CVS, signed in and was promptly seen by the NP. I told her my simple story (which, remember this … because I tell it over and over again); that I’ve been having dizziness and nausea for the past 3 days. I thought it was a simple flu bug, but since it was still lingering I thought it might have been an ear infection. After all, I’m prone to developing ear infections. And since I was new to the area and didn’t have a primary doctor yet, I thought I’d just get checked out at the MinuteClinic.

Then the NP looked at me with one of those sideways glances; asking me how many ear infections I’ve had over the past year. This would be #4 since the previous January. Then she tsk-tsk’d me. “I don’t think I can treat you here,” she said, clearly referring to her handy MinuteClinic manual. “I think we should send you to an urgent care center.”

Again, I calmly explained that I’m new here, I didn’t know where to go, I had no car. Oh, and 4 ear infections is a small number from the previous amounts I’ve had over the past few years. And in the mean time, I started to feel anxious. I thought to myself, “WTF? This has now been well over a d*mn minute, and all I want are my antibiotics!”

“Please don’t send me to the ER or Urgent Care,” I told her as I began to feel more and more anxious. “I don’t have anyone here to take me. My husband is more than four hours away and I’m new to the area.” (Cue tears now.) It seriously didn’t help that I felt like crap and I’ve been known to get over-emotional when I can’t think straight.

Without going into further detail, let’s just say that shortly after the waterworks began the NP decided at that moment to slap a blood pressure (BP) cuff on me. And because by then I’d been at the verge of hyperventilating from all the anxiety … let’s just say I broke the 2o0 mark with my Systolic and the 120 mark on the diastolic. Then the NP really freaked out, which in turn freaked me out even more. And when my BP didn’t go down after 1o minutes? Yep, that’s when she made the call to 911.

Okay, so the nurse in me knew that this was the only course of action to take. Especially for someone why was experiencing hypertensive urgency symptoms. But that didn’t stop me from just about begging the NP to let me find my own way to an urgent care center or an ER. “If I can just get back home,” I told her, “I’ll call my nearest family member (an aunt and cousins from my side, a cousin from Hubby’s side) to come pick me up.” But alas, the NP was smart enough not to listen to me … I mean seriously, what if I passed out on the train on the way back to my place? Or worse, what if I passed out alone at home without anyone knowing? So yes … the nurse in me knew, despite the supreme embarrassment of having the NP and the subsequent EMTs (from this fine city’s fire department) know that I’m an RN that can’t even take care of herself. That I had to be escorted to an ER to get checked out.

But … at least I managed to get cute firemen and EMTs to come to the CVS and literally pick me up. And even though I rolled out of the store, wrapped up in a silly blanket … they all had me cracking up as they insisted I do the “queen wave.”

I was subsequently taken to the nearest ER … with all the bells and whistles of the ambulance, to boot … where I spent the next few hours being looked over and treated by some wonderful doctors** and nurses. My lab studies were okay, which meant I didn’t develop any kidney (or other organ) damage from such high BP readings. And eventually my systolic BP came down to under 200 after having received some anti-hypertensive drugs through my IV.

It turns out that I was experiencing side effects from abruptly stopping a particular medication. A drug that I had stopped taking three days ago because I couldn’t afford to refill the prescription. Because the stupid frickin’ frackin’ Employee Services Department at my former employer (who happened to be a Health Insurance Company) decided to terminate my medical benefits … which, for an RN who has been working for them and helping their customers weed through the system to understand what can and can’t be covered … really pissed me off. And the thing is, I knew I had health insurance to the end of this month because I researched this before I left. And I knew that this was one of my employee benefits from working at this particular Health Insurance Comany. (Hello … not dumb here!***)

But more on that, perhaps in another post. Anyway …

Because of the panic that ensued during my trip to the (more-than-I-bargained-for) MinuteClinic … Hubby managed to book a flight out and arranged for his cousin (who lives in the suburbs) to come stay with me in the ER. He also managed to contact my parents who, in turn arranged for my cousin to sit with me until Hubby could get into town. And for that … I couldn’t be more grateful.

And seriously? It’s amazing how one moment I went from feeling all alone and terrified to feeling incredibly loved and supported. Just by being there to talk to me and keep me company, the two of them helped calm my nerves and soothe my anxiety. It certainly helped that Hubby’s cousin is also an RN who I could clearly trade medical jokes with … and that my cousin was all game for checking out the cute ER doctors and residents with me. (Hey, I was sick … not blind!) In any case, I can’t even begin to express all the gratitude I have for them in just a few sentences. Because seriously? These people proved to me that I don’t have to feel so alone out here … that they are available to help out while Hubby still wraps things up back home. I am truly lucky …

Hubby did end up coming in to town, except it wasn’t until after I was discharged from the ER. My cousin drove me back to our place where my Aunt and other cousin (her mom and sister) came to bring us dinner. The four of us sat around (in my furniture-less place) watching Am.erican Id.ol on the TV (and then Ir.on Man on blue-ray …. ooooh!) until Hubby drove in from the airport. And once I was in his arms … well, the world melted away. While I felt incredibly bad that he had to drop what he was doing to come be by my side, I was just incredibly happy and relieved that he was next to me.

Oh and remember that advertisement for a local hospital system I saw on the train? Well … of all places, the EMTs took me to that hospital. I guess seeing that ad yesterday morning was literally a sign of things to come. But hey, at least now I know a few good docs in the area!

~~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~~

* Google Maps is one of the greatest inventions for those that aren’t familiar with public transportation in a big city. This is has been a life-saver for me during these car-less times!

** Ironically, one of my docs name was “Trigger.” As in “Let’s come up with a trigger diagnosis. Or “That doctor is known for his Trigger finger when ordering labs and studies.” Or better yet, “The guy is trigger-happy when giving those IV meds” Seriously, the list could go on and on …

*** Okay, well maybe just a little … After all, who’s the idiot that ended up in the emergency room?