One of Those Surreal Days

Tuesday, January 11th, 2005, 7:33 pm

I wasn’t going to write about this, but it has a bit of a poker punchline so what the hell. Woke up this morning not feeling so hot. Upset stomach, no big deal. I mentioned to my wife that I hadn’t taken a sick day since last April, when I ended up in the hospital for four days after getting chomped by a spider. Pride goeth before the fall, as the old saying goes. There’s also the fact that, as a temp, I don’t get paid for sick days. Or holidays. No vacation days either. Or benefits. Or profit-sharing. Anyone for Communism?

Got to work, took a Tums, felt better. I did my morning duties and took a second to see if Hank had posted the 2nd part of his Full Tilt P0ker tale, which I documented in my previous post. I went back to work, but I still didn’t feel good. It wasn’t my stomach, it was more of a general uggh feeling, like I was slightly out of it. I drank some water and went about the day, but I had this strange sensation in my head, like I’d just gone up in a airplane and my ears needed to pop. Actually, it was just my right ear that needed to pop. I reached up and twiddled my ear…and it was numb.

Now, I’ve heard of arms and legs falling asleep, but not ears. It puzzled me. It felt like my ear had been shot up with Novacaine. I was starting to wonder what the hell was going on when I touched my cheek–and it was numb too.

What was befuddlement turned to fear. Part of the right side of my face, my ear, cheek, down to the jawline, was definitely numb. Not totally insensate, but I’d lost a lot of feeling. Which scared the crap out of me. I typed “signs of stroke” into my browser and pulled up a medical page that mentioned “sudden loss of feeling in face, arms or legs” as a symptom.

I tried to get hold of myself. “You’re not having a stroke” I told myself, “it’s something silly and temporary. Relax”. I relaxed long enough for the pinky on my right hand to start tingling and I proceeded directly to full-blown panic. Was this psychosomatic? I couldn’t be sure, but I was sure that my face was numb. Plus I’ve had problems like this before. About 8 years ago I had a similar episode at work, but that time I got so lightheaded I nearly passed out. It happened on and off for a few weeks then went away. But no numbness, not anywhere.

So I did a little game theory exercise. What were the odds I was having a stroke? One in a hundred? A thousand? If I ignored what was happening it was very likely it would go away. If I ignored what was happening and it DIDN’T go away, there was a chance I’d die or be severly damaged. If I went to the hospital and it was nothing I’d just blow a few hours of my time, a ridiculous copay, and some embarassment. If I went to the hospital and it WAS serious I might save my life.

Scared properly shitless now I did something stupid. I got my coat, mumbled to my coworkers I was sick and leaving immediately, and headed for my car. There’s a hospital about a 5 minute walk from where I live, but like any dumb animal I instinctively fled toward what I considered a safe place–the hospital near my house where I went with my spider bite and where my friend Mark has his practice. I know that driving myself to the hospital while fearing I was having a stroke was incredibly stupid, but common sense was long out the door.

Got to the ER, and as I walked in I definitely felt awful. I’m sure a lot of it was nerves, but my arm and hand hurt, and my face was still numb. I told the triage nurse what my problem was, and as I filled out the admittance card I tried to gauge if my horrible handwriting was worse than before. Didn’t look like it. Nor did I have any muscular weakness, in my face or anywhere. Nor did my thoughts seem muddied or disorganized. The nurse who looked me over gave me a few basic tests to see if I was indeed having a stroke, and after I passed those she led me to an emergency treatment room for, well, emergency treatment.

I got hooked up to some machines and had blood taken. You know that you’re really sick when you could care less when they pull out the needles. When my leg ballooned after the spider bite they could’ve said, “Gene, we’re gonna shove this garden-hose-size syringe right up your ass,” and I would’ve been dropping my trousers with a song in my heart. I had much the same attitude this time.

The ER doctor came in, gave me a few more tests, and said that I probably wasn’t having a stroke. But to be safe they’d do a CAT scan to see what, if anything, was going on inside my skull. While I waited I called my wife and of course got her VMS, so I had to leave a message like this, “Now, don’t worry, but I’m in the ER because I thought I was having a stroke and I’m about to have a CAT scan. I’m sure I’m fine, and I’ll let you know what I find out”. Nice. About 10 minutes later the nurse brings me a phone, it’s my wife who tracked me down. I told her what I told her on the machine, I’d let her know how things went with the CAT scan.

About this time I started feeling better. My pulse, which had been around 85, slowly slid down to about 62. My blood pressure returned to normal. I think the realization that I wasn’t about to die had a calming effect on me. They wheeled me into the radiology lab and I got to have my first CAT scan, which was pretty cool. Amazing the technology we have today, and how banal and routine it is for the people who use it. I mean, while I was there I had an EKG, I was hooked up to a couple gizmoy monitors, had a CAT scan, and for the nurses and doctors it was like they were using a can opener. Whoopie.

They wheeled me back to my treatment room and asked if I wanted the TV turned on. Why not? It would take some time for my results to come back and I figured I’d catch some CNN. I dozed a bit, woke up, and started flipping channels. Incredibly, unbelievably, I stumbled across a broadcast of the Fox Poker Superstars. Poker is indeed everywhere it’s needed. My nurse came in to see if I needed anything, saw what I was watching, and he said, “God, I’ve gotten so hooked on these poker tournaments on TV”. And we ended up blabbing about the WSOP for about 5 minutes until the doctor came in with my results.

I hate to say this, but you feel a certain smugness when a medical professional tells you that your brain is OK. I thanked him for the compliment, and thanked him for his explaination that my symptoms, while scary, are somewhat common and often go away on their own. He told me to take a daily aspirin (which I used to do anyway), and seek help if the problem returned. Fifteen minutes later I was dressed, discharged, and back in my car.

It was 2PM. What to do? Well, I’m a temp, so I went back to work. When I walked into the office I got a few quizzical looks, as you might expect. People usually don’t go home sick and come back the same day. I told my boss what happened, showed off my bloody IV bandage, and…went back to my cube.

A very, very strange day. My itinerary went something like this:

  • 6:30AM-8AM– Wake up, dress, drive to work
  • 8AM-10AM– Work
  • 10AM-11AM– Start feeling bad, start worrying, panic
  • 11AM-12:30PM– Drive like maniac to hospital, get admitted, get blood taken
  • 12:30PM-1:00PM– Wait for and then get CAT scan
  • 1:00PM-1:45PM– Watch poker
  • 1:45PM-2PM– Learn I’m not going to die, I’m OK, get discharged
  • 2PM-5PM– Drive back to work. Work.

Strange day. I think this will keep me from bitching about bad beats for a few days at least. As I drove back to work I wondered if this whole episode had all been in my head, figuratively instead of literally. I did write recentely about my depression at turning 36. I thought it over, and rejected it out of hand. ‘Cause my ear was NUMB. And what psychological reason could there be for THAT? I’m not that complex, nor that disturbed. I feel stupid for going to the hospital, but at the time it was my only rational course of action. Why risk it?

Christ, I’m tired. Burned off a few kilowatts of nervous energy. Maybe a little poker to soothe my weary heart. Or maybe a nap.

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6 Responses to “One of Those Surreal Days”

  1. Human Head Says:

    You freaked me out a bit there….Glad to hear everything is OK.

  2. 4Flush Says:

    I think I was as scared as you at one point! Glad to here you are OK.

    Go win some money and get over it.

  3. Chris Halverson Says:

    Damn man…glad you’re OK.

  4. Maudie Says:

    Dang – glad you’re okay.

  5. Drizztdj Says:

    At least they didn’t do a full EEG on you. I was hooked up to one of those for a full week, I still gag from the smell of glue because of it.

    Glad you’re doing ok Gene.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Not that you have this or anything, but psychosomatic numbness has been around since Freud, and is called Conversion Disorder. Glad you’re ok. I always enjoy your blog. 36 hasn’t been bad at all, you’ll see.

    Mr P.

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