One reason I’ve posted infrequently lately is due to an illness and subsequent hospitalization. Don’t worry – I’m in the process of recovering, but my prognosis is great and I’m feeling better daily. I won’t bore you with too many details; I myself seldom care to hear much about the medical maladies of others, and I assume everyone feels that way whether they admit it or not, so I have no expectation that mine will be of particular interest to those of you who did not birth me. Nevertheless, I do want to say something about my experiences, if only because I feel as though I’ve been the recipient of a minor (and I do mean minor) miracle.
One day, I noticed that if I applied pressure to a specific spot on my abdomen, it felt much as I’ve always imagined it would feel to be stabbed in the stomach. Being an adult male, I hatched the plan to Google my symptom to see what might cause it, and then ignore the problem. Google revealed to me that this particular symptom – apparently properly called ‘point tenderness’ – should lead one to call 911. Surprised by that revelation and having no other indication that I was suffering a medical emergency, I followed my original plan and ignored it.
Which worked for a day or so, but the pain worsened. I stopped eating, because that helped a little, but when I realized that simply driving over railroad tracks threatened me with blacking out from the torment, I called my doctor. She’s a laid-back and blunt woman (an odd combo to be sure), who casually dismisses misfortunes over which other doctors I’ve had would obsess. Our visit was short, and she was anything but laid-back, attempting to get me in to see a specialist immediately.
I saw the specialist the next day. He called my doctor, and they agreed that I most likely had a serious abdominal infection, but wasn’t in imminent danger unless the organ in question broke open and I became septic, which any fan of House, M.D. can tell you is very bad (and happened every episode…). So he scheduled some tests (on a Monday, 72 hours away) and sent me home with antibiotics.
24 hours later, I was in the ER with symptoms suggesting that the ‘unless’ had happened, and my condition was going to put me in the ICU or emergency surgery. Needless to say, I got my tests that Saturday instead of waiting until Monday, and while the tests were scrutinized, my condition stabilized and I was admitted to the hospital.
The timing here matters immensely.
My doctor had referred me to the care of a specialist, but over the course of the weekend, among the 12 doctors I would see would be all three members of that specialist’s practice. Each of the three has his strong suits, and I have to think that had I gone in for tests on Monday, I would have been reliant upon just the one specialist. Because I was brought in over the weekend, however, each ended up getting involved, which led to my minor miracle.
It turns out that my condition was as unserious as it was excruciating, and no organs did go nor ever were in danger of going supernova. What I had (or have, for a few more days) was an extremely rare malady called epiploic appendagitis which mimics a few very serious ailments without being much of a problem at all. It’s painful, but it fixes itself given enough time, and there’s no need for surgery or other extraordinary measures. Crucially, however, it’s so rare that most – and likely all – of my doctors had never actually seen a case, including two that have practiced medicine for 70 years between them. In fact, a few of them seemed to have never even heard of it, and it’s not at all uncommon for people with this condition to be subjected to unnecessary surgery since doctors frequently miss the diagnosis all together. In short, it’s a condition that basically doesn’t happen.
As I said, I was seen by 12 different doctors during my three days in the hospital, but let me assure you that you’ve never seen so many smiling and incredulous physicians in your life. After the diagnosis was made, some of them came by my bed simply to smile, shake their heads, and tell me how incredible it was that the specialist had even thought of this diagnosis. The doctors had no doubts whatsoever about it, but they were all in disbelief just the same.
This then, is what I view as my little miracle. I showed up to the hospital with a straightforward set of symptoms pointing to an obvious and serious malady, but just happened to have a different complaint that basically never happens but mimics those exact symptoms without being at all serious. Also, because my symptoms worsened at precisely the right moment (Saturday), the doctor who I’m relatively certain would have missed the diagnosis on Monday was on vacation, and his partner caught it in his absence. And all this happened after I sat in a specialist’s office that Friday, unsure of how to pray, finally settling on simply asking God to work it all out in the best possible way.
So that’s my little miracle. Not necessarily divine intervention, but a series of perfectly timed and improbable coincidences that just happened to take place after I prayed. If you had asked a doctor about my best case scenario on Saturday night, being sent home and given over-the-counter medications would NOT have come up. Not even close. But – after a few days in the hospital – here I am.