June 24, 2005

What We've Been Doing This Week ...

After more than a year of staying lucky, Shelby went into the hospital on Monday -- but she's back home now.

On Monday, Shelby started complaining about painful menstrual cramps. Shamefully, I didn't pay much attention -- because not only am I our household's agent for the Patriarchy, but because some degree of pain and/or nausea is an unfortunately regular occurrence in Shelby's post-heart-condition-onset life. Late that afternoon, Shelby was able to take a nap, so I figured that things were getting better. Then I heard the crash of breaking glass in the kitchen, and ran to find her collapsed against the kitchen counter, blood dripping (she'd hit her nose in the fall), with a shattered drinking glass at her feet.

Shelby was really out of it -- she didn't know quite where she was or how she got there, and wanted nothing more than for me to let go and let her lay down right there, in the middle of the broken glass. I coaxed her back to the bed; making it those few feet was difficult enough (and she didn't seem to be getting any more coherent) that I decided a trip to the hospital in the car would be too much; I needed to call 911.

We haven't called that many ambulances, but after getting off the phone, I fell into a role that I knew how to play. I made sure Shelby was comfortable on the bed, then I went to unlock the front door for the EMTs. I closed all of the windows and herded the dogs into the crates. I had Shelby take off her rings and her wristwatch, so that we wouldn't have to worry about keeping track of them in the emergency room.

The EMTs took us to Anaheim Memorial Medical Center, which happened to be our closest hospital. You can pretty much wrap all of my feelings about Anaheim Memorial Medical Center around a single interaction:

At 6 PM on Tuesday night, we had our first encounter with Dr. Badr, the internist who was supposedly coordinating Shelby's care. He came into the room complaining about how the nurses on duty the night before had called him at 10:30 PM and 2 AM to ask what should be done for Shelby's pain and nausea -- and he wasn't "complaining" in a ha-ha see-what-I-go-through-for-you kind of way; he actually seemed quite disturbed. Maybe if being on call makes you so upset, you shouldn't take the paychecks you get for being on call, Dr. Badr?

But things were just getting started. He began running down the list of various risk factors (Do you have a history of such-and-such disease? Are you pregnant? Do you smoke?), and when Shelby answered "Do you drink?" with "Moderately", he pounced.

"Okay, what do you define as moderate drinking?"

"Two to three glasses of wine, once or twice a week."

"Two to three glasses of wine? Are you sure that you don't mean four-five-six glasses? Two-three-four times each week?"


"Two or three bottles? Once or twice a week? Three or four times a week?"

"No ..."

"You know, there's a behavior called 'binge drinking', where people 'only drink on the weekend' -- but when they do drink, they'll drink four-five-six bottles at a time. Do you drink like that?"


After that, he seemed content to let it go, until he started reading down Shelby's list of medications and found one that had the possibility for addiction.

"It says here that you've been prescribed -----, to take one or two tablets 'as needed'. How often do you take -----?"

"Several times a week."

"I see. And ----- commonly comes in 5 mg and 10 mg doses -- which one do you take?"

"The five-milligram."

"So then ... you're taking two-three-four tablets of -----, the ten milligram dosage, one-two-three times a day, every day of the week?"

On that one, even I had to jump in with a "NO!!" At that point, I was pissed -- here Dr. Badr had in front of him a patient with an elaborate history of heart problems (and the fact that she's got a $30,000 implanted medical device should be good evidence that she's not a drug-seeking addict who's invented an elaborate tale), who's making a gastrointestinal/gynecological complaint -- and he appeared to be completely ignoring that in favor of going down the side road of his own fevered imaginings (she just collapsed because she's a lush!), in the most brusque and brash way possible.

Mercifully, we didn't see Dr. Badr again, except for one brief visit the following day; while his name stayed on the charts, he effectively gave up Shelby's care to Dr. Ho, the cardiologist who was the one bright spot of Shelby's stay. (Dr. Ho was a Berkeley grad, of course; we had a "Go Bears" moment where she confessed that she started out in engineering but switched to pre-med because medicine was less difficult!) Dr. Badr ordered up a panopoly of tests for Shelby, including two gastroenterologists, a Medtronic rep to interrogate Shelby's ICD, and a neurologist. All of these people with all of their tests eventually figured out:

  • that it wasn't Shelby's heart (in fact, her heart was doing better than it was at her last regular cardiology visit);
  • that it wasn't Shelby's head;
  • that her ICD hadn't fired (continuing its perfect record of doing nothing);
  • . . . that her fainting was probably a vasovagal response -- fainting as a result of low blood pressure and heart rate, triggered by the pain of her cramps.

(Note that the severe-enough-to-induce-fainting, worse-than-ever-before menstrual cramps weren't enough to order up a gynecologist while Shelby was in the hospital; I guess that Dr. Badr doesn't have an ob/gyn in his docs-who-need-work-thrown-their-way weekday lunch group. I'm surprised that he didn't have an AA/NA social worker come by to drop off a pamphlet or two, though.)

And that's it. The Beagles and I are very glad to have Shelby back home.

Posted by Kevin at June 24, 2005 11:03 PM

Gee, what a scare. I'm glad she's doing better.

Posted by: J at June 27, 2005 11:37 AM
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