What's Up Doc?- Part III - From Band-Aids to EKG's
Trip Start Oct 25, 2007
61Trip End May 15, 2008
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(Originally Written on December 3, 2007)
Today I went back to the lung doctor where I had my chest x-ray last week. Regretfully, the antibiotics I've been taking for over a week haven't stopped my coughing. In fact, yesterday I coughed up more blood than I have since I've been sick. Since the doctor originally ruled out pneumonia and now bronchitis too, the next step was to do a bronchoscopy. This procedure involves inserting a small scope down into the lungs to take a closer look at what is going on inside.
Before I could have this procedure done, I had to have a series of other tests completed first. They had to run some bloodwork, an EKG test, and a lung capacity examination. So I went to the office today to have these tests completed so that we could schedule the bronchoscopy.
When I got to the office it was really busy. Dr. Andrea called ahead to let them know that I was coming but because I didn't have an appointment, I had to wait over an hour. Since I couldn't read any of the magazines in the waiting room because they were all in German, I decided to people watch instead and I made some very unique observations.
The first thing I noticed is that some of the people sitting in the waiting room had band-aids on their ears. I thought this to be very strange. As I watched people come and go, things became even more peculiar. Those without band-aids left the waiting room when their names were called and returned five minutes later wearing the same band-aids as everyone else. They sat in the waiting area for about ten minutes until the nurse came back and got them again. They were gone maybe fifteen more minutes and when they came back, they were still wearing the same band-aid. This happened to everyone waiting ahead of me and though I couldn't figure out what was going on, I had a feeling I would find out soon enough.
While I was trying to figure out the "Band-Aid Mystery", I almost forgot why I was there until the nurse came and got me. This time I wasn't greeted by Iris (the English speaking nurse I met last week). Instead, I had to deal with this grumpy nurse who didn't speak hardly any English at all. She pointed to my ear and told me to "take out" (she meant my earring). Then she took a band-aid with some liquid on it and started heading toward my ear with it. I thought of all the people in the waiting room and realized...this is why they are all wearing band-aids on their ears!
Once I took my earring out, she stuck the band-aid on my earlobe and I asked her, "What is this for?" She says to me, "I don't know English word, but very hot...don't touch". That was not very reassuring but I figured if everyone else in the waiting room was wearing one, then I suppose it would be OK for me to wear one too.
Proudly wearing my new bandage, I returned to the waiting room to join everyone else. I sat down and after a minute or two, my ear started to burn. It felt as though someone had lit a match underneath it. I looked around the waiting room and no one else seemed uncomfortable. How could this be? They must have put too much on my mine or something. Suddenly, I began to sweat and my entire ear felt like it was on fire...I HAD to get this thing off! Why no one else was reacting this way I could not understand.
At this point, I am in so much agony and the only thing stopping me from ripping the band-aid off is the fact that the nurse came in to get me again. My focus was only temporarily redirected by the drama about to unfold with my impending EKG exam. If the burning band-aid wasn't bad enough, things were about to get a whole lot worse!
The same crabby nurse as before walked me over to a little door and pointed inside. She said to me, "Clothes off". Then she pointed to her waste and then to her head. In other words, take my clothes off from the waste up. Then she pointed to another room and said, "Wait there."
So I go into this little "closet" and I take my bra and sweater off. I look for a hospital gown but I can't find one. In fact, there is nothing in the closet except ME. Great, now what am I supposed to do? Well, the impatient nurse isn't going to wait forever, so I put my arms across my naked chest and walk out of the door to go into the room where she told me to wait.
As I walk out, I see people walking by. Hmmm...this is strange. Apparently, the closet that I was in had two doors, one door into the exam room (which I never saw) and another one into the hallway. Since I exited from the wrong door, I walked right out into the hall. As soon as I realized where I was, I ran into the exam room, turned off the lights, and jumped onto the bed (covering my chest as best I could). But it was too late... I was already embarrassed beyond belief. I could hear the gossip already..."Crazy Naked American Runs Loose in Doctor's Office!". At least for the time being, I forgot about my ear...probably because my face burned just as bad from making such a fool out of myself!
The nurse came into the exam room shortly following my mini "strip" show and began prepping me for the EKG. German technology seems to be so far behind what we have in the U.S. that I found the procedure to be humorous and I'll tell you why. Back home when you have an EKG, data is displayed on a high tech computer monitor so that they can monitor you for quite some time. In Germany (at least in the clinic that I was at), their version of an EKG, consists of a little machine that prints out a piece of paper after a minute or two of recording.
The preparation for the test was vastly different as well. Back home, you have carefully placed monitoring patches attached to your body that read and record the data on the machine. It is NOT that way here! They use "attachments" here (for lack of a better word) and by the time you are ready for the test, you look as though you are getting ready for shock therapy!
The first series of "attachments" the nurse used came in the form of shackles. When she first took them out, I thought to myself, "Does she really think she's going to have to restrain me for this?" She put them around my ankles first and then around my wrists. Once she had them screwed on, she attached a wire to all four of them and I heard the machine beep. After that, she took out a bundle of suction cups (which looked more like octopus tentacles than anything), she sprayed something on them, and started sticking them all over my chest. Each time she stuck one on, it made this really loud smacking noise.
Once everything was attached, she typed something into the monitor and I heard paper begin printing. I listened to it print for maybe 30 seconds and then she tore the paper off, looked at it briefly, and put it in my chart. That was it. I sat half-naked in the exam room longer than it took her to read the EKG!
After she put the paper in my chart, she unscrewed the shackles on my ankles and wrists. Things were going smoothly until she got to the suction cups on my chest. Instead of "peeling" them off gently like most people would do, she just yanked them all off at once. It hurt so bad! So in addition to my burning ear, I now had eight hickey marks on my chest as well.
Just when I thought things couldn't possibly get worse, Iris came in and got for one more test. I was so glad to see her that I didn't care what the test was for, I just wanted to get away from the crabby nurse who kept torturing me. Besides that, it was nice just to be able to speak English to someone again.
So I followed Iris into another office where she had silver tray layed out in front of her. Upon the tray was a needle; a long, thin tube; and two more band-aids. I started to get really nervous because I had a feeling I was about to find out what the first band-aid on my ear was for.
Iris took the original band-aid off of my ear first. I immediately touched my ear to make sure that everything was still there. I was about to ask what the test was for and suddenly I felt a huge stabbing pain in my ear lobe. It was a pain worse than any ear-piercing I have ever gotten. When I looked over my shoulder to see what was going on, Iris was standing there with a three-inch tube full of blood.
Apparently in Germany, they draw blood from your earlobe. After I got over the initial shock of feeling like I just had part of my ear bitten off, I asked Iris why this was. She said that in cases where they need blood test results right away, they get the most accurate results by drawing it from people's ears. She said that the chemical on the band-aid is used to draw heat from the rest of the body to the ear lobe. They do this so that when they stick the needle into the ear, the blood flow is much greater and is easier to capture than if they were to just prick your finger.
In my case, they needed to determine the oxygen level in my blood before they could schedule my bronchoscopy. Since they couldn't get enough blood from a finger pinprick and they couldn't wait for lab results, this was the perfect way for them to get the information they needed right away.
Of all of the doctor's visits I've had in my life, this one proved to be the most stressful and traumatic of them all. In the course of two hours, I received a chemical burn from a band-aid, I gave a partial strip show to an office full of people, I ended up with eight hickey marks from an EKG machine, and I have a newly pierced earlobe from a blood test that I never knew existed.
After all of my tests were done, Iris walked me back up to the front desk and said, "We set a meet for Thursday morning at half past eight." A little stunned I replied, "When do I see the doctor?" Iris laughed and said, "Oh she'll be there on Thursday." Well I should hope so since she's the one who is doing the procedure!