Triggers

This morning I woke up an hour before I needed to be up. The building was quiet. Extremely quiet for the time of day. I looked at my clock. It was 7:45. Well, actually, it read 8:15 because I have my clock set 30 minutes ahead so I never sleep in. Math is awfully hard to do when you’re half asleep.

I laid there in bed staring at the ceiling wondering what on earth had woken me up. I had been in a deep sleep and I think slept hard from 2:00 am to that point. Which is unusual for me.

That’s when I felt it. The twinge and the deep ache in my forearm. I had forgotten about that injury – almost wiped entirely from my mind. But every now and then, I feel a deep ache in my bone. And it brings up all these feelings of that day. I remember everything I did. I remember everything I felt.

When I felt that twinge this morning – all the rage and humiliation that I felt returned. I can honestly say – that this morning – I was triggered.

Backstory 

I lived in my last condo which was a very large complex that consisted of 188 units for nearly eight years. There were always people coming and going. It was always noisy. I never seemed to be able to rest well. False fire alarms due to a faulty sprinkler system seemed to be a weekly or bi-weekly occurrence.

I remember one winter night that year I came home. My condo was dark. It was cold outside. I had been standing right next to the fire alarm when it went off. The strobe lights nearly sent me into a seizure. Of course, it had been another false alarm. But when you’re standing in a daze in the dark, and alarms and lights start flashing around you, well, I almost had a mini heart attack.

Flash forward – a few weeks later.

Emergency Alert – December 30, 2013

It was the day before new years. I remember it very well. There had been a bitter cold snap for a few weeks and the temperature had dropped to -35 with the windchill for most of that week. It was midnight. I was on the computer chatting with a friend on Facebook.

I stopped for a moment when I thought I smelled smoke. I thought nothing of it though because my neighbour often lit up joints. The building was so large that there smells of all kinds coming from all directions. You got used to it.

When the smell grew stronger, I told my friend to hang on a sec. I put on some clothes and grabbed my phone, charger, and my purse – and a jacket. I looked out in the hall. There were people standing in the hall with a puzzled look on their face. That’s when the alarm started going off.

I shut my door and followed everyone down the hall. It was too cold to wait outside so we huddled close together in the back entrance near the stairs. People looked at me funny. I didn’t have makeup on. My hair was a matted mess. I mean – come on. Who likes like a super model at midnight anyway?

Long story short – it turned out that my next door neighbour caused a grease fire. At midnight! We weren’t allowed to go back into the building until the firemen had checked for damage and got rid of the smoke.

My number one allergy in life – is smoke. It’s a migraine trigger. I immediately felt pressure in my lungs and started feeling woozy.

I called my friend that I had been chatting with and let him know what was happening. He offered to come pick me up and I stayed at his house for the night – and new years eve as well.

Yeah – that’s how I spent my new years eve that year.

The Accident

When I got home on new year’s day, my head was stuffy. I was dizzy and I knew that I had a full blown sinus infection or cold. It was from inhaling the white smoke. I know my body well when it comes to things like this.

I slept for the next couple of days – I felt awful. I remember getting out of bed at one point to get a drink of water from the kitchen. When I walked back into the bedroom, I stopped and caught my breath. I rested my hand on the wall of my walk-in closet.

The room started spinning. My head felt enormous. There was this intense pressure on my ears. It felt like I had dived into the deep end of a swimming pool and waves were crashing over my head.

I started towards the bed and lost my balance. That’s what ear infections do to you. It was a slow motion fall. I saw it happening but I couldn’t stop it. I went down and hard.

I bashed my forearm onto the corner of my wooden dressed and it landed on top of me as I hit the ground. I was lucky that I didn’t hit my head.

I laid there on the ground for a few moments just stunned. I wasn’t sure what hurt more. Luckily, my dresser was small and so I managed to push it off me. I climbed back into bed, took some pain killers and passed out.

The Urgent Care Centre

A few days later, I was still feeling like utter crap. My arm was really starting to hurt and I thought it might have been broken or fractured. I hailed a cab and took myself to the urgent care centre (UCC).

A UCC is like a smaller version of the emergency room. They have less equipment and less beds. But this is the place to go for Xrays, blood tests or non-life threatening emergencies.

When I got inside, I breathed a sigh of relief. There were only two people in the waiting room. I checked myself in. My vitals were all okay.

I was called in quickly and placed in a small room towards the back of the floor. There was no bed. It was just a table, a chair, and a curtain. Which I thought was really odd.

A nurse came up to me and said, “Give me your finger!”

I looked at her and said, “Why?”

She pulled my hand and poked my finger without my permission.

“I have to test your blood sugar!” she said with a thick Indian accent. She was rude, brisk and I was immediately put off.

“Hey!” I said. “I could have told you that I don’t have diabetes,” I said in anger and pulled my hand back. I watched as a small drop of blood fell onto the dirty white floor.

The nurse instructed me to sit down and ordered a round of blood tests and told me to wait.

“Why do I need blood tests? I’m just here for an Xray. You know. For my arm. To see if it’s broken,” I said.

The nurse didn’t answer me. She walked away and I didn’t see her again for a long time.

Two hours went by. I was still waiting to see a doctor. My arm had been poked a few times for blood. I’m a terrible patient when it comes to lab work. I guess that’s standard procedure but still. I had been to several doctor’s appointments in recent months. If they had just looked up my file they could have seen my entire history.

They could have avoided using tax payers dollars to complete a bunch of tests they didn’t need to. If they had only just listened to me! Two hours of tests that I didn’t need!

The doctor finally came in into the corner and closed the curtain behind him. I could hear another doctor talking to the women in the chair across from me.

“So, you say you fell?” he said.

I nodded- not sure where he was going with this line of questions.

“Are you sure you aren’t being abused? You can tell me the truth,” he said. “No one falls for no reason,” he added.

At that point – I was done. I lost it. I completely lost my shit. I was tired, in pain from all the tests that I didn’t need. I was frustrated that not one person seemed to be listening to me.

“If you actually listened to patients, you would have known that I have a sinus infection and ear infection. I fell because I got dizzy. I don’t have diabetes. I’ve never had diabetes. Just because I’m not a size 2, doesn’t mean that I have diabetes.”

He looked at me in shock.

“You have no right to ask me about my personal life. But for the record – I live alone. Not every patient that comes in here is looking for a quick fix.”

He stood up quickly from his chair and pressed the pockets of his jacket as if he were looking for a pen.

“The nurse will come get you for that Xray,” he said and left.

Finally after another hour of waiting, I was placed in a small exam room with a bed. The doctor came back in looking extremely apologetic.

“Your arm isn’t broken but it’s bruised. I’ll wrap it up for you and give you meds for your infections,” he said.

I watched as he wrapped my arm. I was ready to cry at that point. All these emotions were building up inside and I didn’t know how I should even respond to him. I was upset. I was angry. I felt humiliated that he assumed I was abused.

“You shouldn’t assume that every patient that comes in here is abused,” I said. “That’s just unprofessional. You know, I work for AHS too,” I added.

It was sad that it had to get to that point. That I had to mention where I worked to even get the respect that I deserved. When he learned I worked for the same organization as he did – his entire attitude changed. He knew he was in trouble.

Triggered

It’s amazing. After all these years, thinking about this experience still makes me so angry. Never in my life had I been that humiliated. When I woke up this morning and I felt that dull ache, I was reminded of everything I felt that day.

As I was having a shower getting ready for my volunteer gig, I thought of all the things I should have said to that doctor.

Don’t you hate that? Days, months or years after a humiliating experience and you think of all the things you SHOULD have said. If I could remember his name I would reach out on social media. But meh. He probably wouldn’t even remember me. He assumed everyone in the UCC that night was abused or on drugs.

“Whatever cock-a-ney (it’s a British phrase but I don’t know how to spell it) idea you’ve got in your head – ignore it. It isn’t real. Not every patient that comes through this door is after a quick drug fix. I’m a professional like you. And I deserve to be treated with respect. Not everyone that comes through these doors is a liar. Maybe try listening to your patients and actually hear what they have to say. And if you can’t get me that Xray now – then find me someone who can.”

Yeah. If I could do it all over again – that’s exactly what I would have said.

This is to all the doctors out there who work in UCCs.

For the love of all that is holy and wise.

LISTEN to your patients. Treat them with RESPECT. You have no idea what they’ve been through prior to walking through your doors. Don’t assume that everyone coming through the doors is looking for a quick fix. And don’t aSSume that everyone over a size 10 – has diabetes.

I shudder to think how many tax payer dollars go to waste with every unnecessary lab test. I understand this is likely procedure – but you have access to medical records for a reason.

I haven’t been back to that UCC. And I made a promise to myself that day. Unless I’m near death – you couldn’t force me into one of those clinics again.

Jen

 

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