Given the last ten days I’ve had, I feel it warranted a blog-post (or two) of my experiences dealing with sickness while pregnant and dealing with the US medical system. This one is a more journal-esque account of what happened, for those of you experiencing similar symptoms, whether pregnant, or not, I’d say call a doc – just to be sure!
I’m the first to admit that I have had a particularly easy pregnancy to date, but, even the best of us have our days.
My pregnancy symptoms have, for the most part, hit me one at a time. The occasional ache here, the occasional pain there, and my pregnancy blog posts tend to be restricted to once a trimester unless something particularly fun happens (like a gender scan).
Let’s talk about the last couple days, shall we?
Two nights ago, I woke myself from my dreams – shouting out loud. I went to the loo (it’s what you do when pregnant!) in the dark, and whether I had dreamed about it or not, I was convinced there was blood in my pee. Unhappy, I climbed into bed, told myself I was dreaming, and tried to settle.
Out I got again, turned lights on and peed again – no blood. I’m guessing it was a dream, but it totally messed with my mind and got my heart racing!
Once I got back into bed, the next upset happened. I felt like someone had dropped a breeze block on my chest. I googled the symptom, and, apparently it’s pretty common during pregnancy, especially in the last trimester. Baby shoves everything upward an inch or two, pressure in the chest and shortness breath is common at this stage in pregnancy.
Over-educated, I fell back in to a fitful sleep…trying to stay on my left side, as always, only to be struck by the worst acid reflux and heartburn I’ve ever felt, any time I even looked left (slight exaggeration, but you get the idea!)
I was excited when morning came cause surely moving around would help. Right?
Actually the day went in fine, we deduced that compression (IE bending over) made my chest ache worse, so when my crappy pregnancy depth perception knocked something off the shelf in HEB, I guiltily left it be and spent the evening propped up by pillows – enough to stave off reflux, but not enough to bother my chest.
Last night wasn’t any more fun than the previous night, the vaporizer doesn’t seem to be helping much, so I’m still struggling to breathe, my left side didn’t bring me reflux, instead it worsened my chest ache and I this time I woke myself up at midnight, yelping in pain.
More weird dreams.
Weird sharp trapped wind pains.
More weird pregnancy dreams.
Today, I thought would be better, but it would seem that my 3rd trimester and I are just not seeing eye to eye just yet!
I ached all damn day!
My chest aches and occasionally my breathing is restricted and shallow – which is a barrel of laughs. Not.
My back hurts.
I feel like I could drain Missouri City of all it’s water. Dehydrated like crazy and feeling like a shriveled prune!
I climbed into bed tonight and just burst out crying. Just frustration I suppose? Col came upstairs and said I looked ‘worse’, I cried harder, he panicked, thinking something was wrong. I told him I was, ‘just crying’, to which he replied that I don’t ‘just cry’, ‘I do now’ I grumbled.
I can only surmise that bubble is going through a growth spurt in there. My normally placid pregnancy, with paced out, occasional aches and symptoms, has disappeared for the moment and I’m being hit with new aches, pains and trials all at once – which, pain aside, is quite scary in itself.
Col tells me that my bump is ‘bumping out’ and way more noticeable than it has been and bubble has been a lot more active in the last few days, I’m just naively hoping that his growth spurt levels off soon and we can go back to my nice, enjoyable, kumbya pregnancy!
Aaaaand the pain persists. I’m pretty sure it’s all ‘normal’ and there’s nothing wrong, but it hurts, ok? It freakin’ hurts. It’s like there’s a weight on my chest, it hurts to cough, sneeze, breathe deeply, poop and I’m getting breathless quite quickly. It could be muscular, or I could be dying an agonisingly slow death.
Ok – that’s melodrama for sure, but I’m not a doctor, what do I know? And, although the internet is quite a helpful resource for reading about aches and pains in pregnancy (and other times of self-diagnosis), most of the people on those forums, aren’t doctors either.
We fought hard to get this baby, I’m not taking any chances and the pain isn’t getting any better. If something (God forbid) were to go wrong, I’d never forgive myself – ‘but the non-medical professional strangers on Google said it was normal!’
So, for the first time in 30 weeks – I called my OB’s nurse today, with a pain/concern and left a voice-mail. Let’s be frank – we all thought I’d be that neurotic momma who called every time *something* hurt, and, in truth, I’ve occasionally texted a friend or two asking if they’ve gone through something that has occurred with me.
Voice-mail essentially said, chest pain, probably normal from my rib cage and diaphragm being shunted up, but just checking if there’s anything she can recommend to help ease the pain.
Couple hours later, I get a call back from the nurse. ”Are you sure it’s not heartburn?”, Man, if I’d a fiver for every time someone has asked me that today, I’d be bloody loaded. Lady, I’ve had heartburn and progressively worsening acid reflux for about 20 weeks now, I know that this is a new pain – it’s NOT heartburn, it’s NOT acid reflux and I’m not a freakin’ idiot. I’m not calling you because I have heartburn!
When I told her it was, categorically not heartburn, that it felt muscular, or different to heartburn. She told me to go see my family doctor (GP) or go to the ER. Well, so much for ‘it’s a perfectly normal symptom of your 3rd Trimester, try ice, heat and pain killers’. Nope, go see another doctor.
But…but? Whut? YOU are my pregnancy doctors…so surely I should come and see YOU, right?
I fumed for a little while after the call, texted a friend who said to go see my GP, or try and get in earlier than my next weeks appointment – so I called back. The receptionist told me that the nurse usually gets her advice directly from the doctor, so put me back through to the freakin’ nurse.
I asked her if her advice came from the doctor directly and where the rationale behind it came from. She said ‘it’s not a pregnancy related pain, so we can’t help you, you need to go see a family doctor’. To which I replied that it was, indeedy a pregnancy pain, because it’s a direct result of me being pregnant!!!!!!! And, I had heard, and read, that it’s a very common thing among pregnant women – to which she said it wasn’t and according to their protocol I needed to go see my GP.
Pissed off. Again. I hung up. Now it was a *thing*, it hadn’t been a *thing* before, it was just me making sure that I wasn’t going to drop dead any time soon and hoping for some magic cure to fix the pain. But she made it a thing, ‘it’s not normal, go to the ER’. Well crikey, thanks for the pep-talk.
I chatted briefly to Col and decided screw it, if something is wrong, I’ll feel guilty for not having just gone to see the damn doctor – even if it doesn’t make sense to me to not see my *pregnancy* doctor, so I called. She’s booked up through the month of February. Well, I don’t want to go to the ER. So please, PLEASE find me something. 2pm tomorrow? I’ll take it!
Once I’d hung up with my GP, my OB called – I guess the nurse told her I was pissed (I didn’t try to hide it on the phone) and she asked me what was going on. I told her. She made those ehhh, uhmmm, and errrr kinda noises and wasn’t happy at my replies. I told her it hurt more when I cough/sneeze, she asked if I’m doing that a lot (cracked rib? infection?) I told her it was just becoming a right annoyance now, 2-3 days of chest pain, hurting to bend over, interrupting my sleep etc and she said she wanted me to get an EKG and rule out a *real* problem.
I appreciated her calling, I did. Hearing it directly from the doctor helped, but I feel a bit like I had to pull teeth to get there, y’know? It’s quite an American thing, the doctors here are afraid of malpractice claims and will eliminate everything before they say, ‘oh, it’s normal, you’ll be fine’. So it’s now officially a *thing*.
I mentioned it to a few people and got the same replies/questions – have you checked the internet? Are you sure it’s not heartburn? Are you sure it’s not the baby just lying funny? Try lying down til he moves, try walking. Breathlessness isn’t normal in pregnancy etc etc etc – and my favourite, are you sure it’s not ‘stress and anxiety?’ Surely if I was going to suffer from an anxiety attack, surely it would have been during Christmas week when we were due to leave the US and had the rug pulled out from under our feet – wouldn’t you think?
I realise that people think that pregnant people freak out over little things in their first pregnancy, but I’ve tried everything the interwebz and people have told me to and the pain is still there. I don’t feel like I over-reacted, I haven’t run to the phone every twinge I’ve felt or ache that’s appeared, but I was raised with a ‘don’t f*ck with chest pain’ mantra, and this bugger won’t leave.
Lying, walking, bathing, heat, cool, heartburn and gas medication, two mums and my hubby told me to call the doctor and put my mind at ease – without question, judgement or ‘what about?’
I’m kind of torn between feeling a little foolish for it going so far, cause I really am almost sure that it’s all OK and that my EKG will be normal, but also quite proud of myself for standing my ground, asking for answers and not assuming Google is right. I really didn’t just call the doc on a whim, I’m in pain, I hurt and I wanted advice on how to fix it cause I’m fed up not sleeping or being able to pull up my knickers without crying out. If that’s freaking out over a little thing, well then, tar me a first-time mum.
Thursday was a fun day. If by fun you mean an utter nightmare.
I woke up to a voice-mail from my GP’s office, my doc was sick and wouldn’t be able to see me. So, after some deliberation and conversation, we decided it was better to get the testing out of the way and, after some research online of the clinics/ER’s in the surrounding area, we opted for the Emerus emergency room at HWY6 @ HWY59. I literally walked in and got seen – I was amazed, but didn’t ask questions (I suspect it may have had something to do with my range of symptoms!)
We walked in at 2.04pm (I made a note for my yelp review LOL!) by 2.35pm they had checked me in, taken my temp, pulse, blood pressure (which was elevated), urine, blood, connected an IV and taken an EKG.
Then, we waited. Test results trickled in. A combination of my symptoms, high blood pressure and a specific blood test anomaly (D-dimer) gave cause for concern. On one hand, my blood pressure could have been elevated cause I was mildly freaking out, but it was also elevated last week in the dentist’s office. D-dimer is typically raised during pregnancy – but by what amount? How much is an elevated amount from pregnancy?
On one hand, these tests could be easily explained away – on the other, it could mean blood clot(s). So all hands on deck. The doctor in the ER called my OBGYN, they decided to admit me for further testing and observation, but Methodist had no beds and is the only hospital where my OB has privileges. She said she’d get back to him after she’d checked if there were any beds available on the labour and delivery ward.
The waiting was the worst, but after a couple hours we were told that a bed was ready and that I had to be transported by ambulance. Which, considering the hospital was only a mile away, seemed a bit much, but, a clot could strike at any time and I wasn’t going to argue. I think we were both a bit stunned, the hospital was about one mile away from where we were, and it seemed a bit ridiculous to us that they wouldn’t just let Col drive me over the road, but whatever, insurance I suppose?
We got booked in to labour and delivery triage and had a barrage of tests lined up like dominoes, which mostly happened in a quick succession. A repeat of my D-dimer levels, a CO2 test (which, for the record was absolutely excruciating to get done as it’s taken from a vein – in your wrist – and I’m pretty sure the guy taking my blood was utterly clueless, to the point that he exclaimed ‘yay I got it’ when blood came forth!! WTF???) a chest x-ray and a doppler ultrasound on my legs to check for blood clots (which, it needs noted, is also friggin’ painful!!) For the morning, they had me scheduled to have another EKG and an echocardiogram, before consulting with a cardiologist.
Bubble was originally put on continuous monitoring, my blood pressure was taken every 15 minutes for a few hours, then 30 minutes, then every hour (I have the bruises on my arm to prove it). My pulse was also under continuous monitoring.
After a few hours, we were both reduced to stats being taken every 4 hours – which, at least meant that I could get a good 4-hour block of sleep, that, and the fact that the on call OBGYN prescribed me an ambien before bed, so I was able to get over to sleep ok.
By the time they were done with me, for major testing at least, (around 8.10pm) we were starving – we hadn’t eaten for over 9 hours and I’d not packed an overnight bag (cause it wasn’t supposed to be a thing!!!!!) so Col left me briefly to nip home, pack a bag and grab dinner.
With a hard freeze hitting Houston and with an almost guarantee of no-sleep for any of us, I sent Col (somewhat unhappily) home to get a decent night’s sleep. I popped my ambien and we were both asleep by 11pm. I got a solid 4-hours of sleep, woke up for some tests, slept again for 2 hours and was woken up again by the ‘old’ nurse leaving and a ‘new’ nurse arriving.
New nurse asked the exact same set of questions that everyone who I’d seen before did – I was getting proper peeved. NO, it’s not heartburn. YES, I’m sure. NO, it’s not my cold (that just arrived this morning). Regardless of my answers, she covered me in hot blankets to try and take away my cold – even though I told her heat packs weren’t helping – but, whatever, I left her be and sweated through it.
Col arrived just shy of 9am, in the middle of my second EKG and uncomfortable echo-cardiogram (they tunnel through breast tissue to get a picture of your heart) which took like 40 minutes to get good pictures. When she was done, my OBGYN came by, and, thankfully she had a suspected diagnosis (based on personal experience, not common pregnancy issues) called costochondritis – a condition where your rib and chest muscles are swollen and inflamed, but she wanted the cardiologist to talk to me to be sure.
Ironically, the only thing to take for costochondritis, is an anti-inflammatory, like ibuprofen – which you can’t take whilst pregnant. Damnit!
Cardiologist came in, a lovely man he was and told me that my ticker was fine and that he suspected it was muscular-skeletal problem. Good news!
OB ordered an hour of monitoring of bubble and my pulse and then I could go home – and go home I did!
Aside from being terrified that they were going to find something *actually* wrong with me, feeling like crap and some of the medical staff assuming I was an over-reacting pregnant lady who was suffering from heartburn, I can’t complain much at all about my experiences (that is, of course, until the bills start to trickle through). The two facilities we used were excellent, and, if nothing else, we got to do a dry-run with our labour and delivery staff and services.
My only issue was with the food, (isn’t it always with hospitals??) they got my bread selection wrong twice (#firstworldproblems), their idea of what Canadian bacon is, involved slices of packet deli-meat cooked up with my breakfast and it was mostly luke-warm when it arrived – but the process of ordering room service, the menu etc was all easy and good, though a 6am-6pm kitchen, meant that at 8pm we had no choice but to go out for food. What happens, if, for example, bubble is born at 8pm and I’m finally able to eat food after labour, and the kitchen is closed? That will be an issue for me – for sure! LOL!
Food aside, everyone was lovely, professional, efficient and effective at the tests they were given to do on me (aside from the dude who did my CO2 test who left my arm various shades of green and blue) and, in Methodist, every, single, department who tested me, wished me well, genuine concern and well wishes. ’I hope you feel better and good luck with your pregnancy’, kind of thing. It reaffirmed that we picked the right hospital for our delivery.
This was our room upon departure (please excuse the pile of dirty gowns etc on the floor, that’s where we were told to drop them for housekeeping!). It has a pull-out sofa bed for papa bear, a TV (also for papa bear), it had 2 cots – one was ‘done up’ and ready for baby’s arrival, complete with blanket and hat – very cute, uncomfortable labour bed, sink area, lots of cupboard space and a toilet, bath/shower room too. Not bad going at all, eh? It’s bigger than our bedroom!
I had my regularly scheduled OBGYN check-up this morning, her scales showed me back down 1lb (yay!) bubble’s heart rate was perfect at 146bpm and she asked how I was doing. When I told her I wasn’t much better, she inquired as to how my cold was doing, I told her that I didn’t think it was a cold as I have no other symptoms (no sneezing, coughing etc) just congestion. She told me that if I was no better by Wednesday she’s prescribing me an antibiotic to try and shift some of my problems at least.
I’d really never wish to go through that all again, it was quite scary. I’m glad the staff tell you how it is, upfront, (IE ‘Well, it could be this, this and this’) but they didn’t really give me likelihoods, y’know? So when they say hospital stay, possible clot, it’s suddenly gone from ‘typical pregnancy condition’ to ‘OMG! I COULD DIE’, in the space of a few minutes.
Thank GOD for my husband, that’s all I can say. He and my H1N1-infected best friend kept me relatively sane throughout – or, at least until my phone died