A Change in Symptoms and What I Did About It

“Would you like to use a hat?” the lab tech asked. She had just drawn two vials of blood, and the last test was a urinalysis for which I had to pee in a cup. I loved that she put the question the way she had; it was a set-up I couldn’t resist. “When you say hat,” I began with feigned naïveté, “what exactly do you mean?” Her shoulders shook with laughter. She’d had a good sense of humor from the very beginning of the blood draw. When I told her I was a difficult puncture and pointed to my right arm as the best one for the draw, she tapped the flesh at the crook of the elbow. "This is the better arm?” she teased. I chuckled on cue. She was going to be fun.

Her effortless, diplomatic communication

In fact, she was a gem even before that. While I was waiting my turn in the hospital lobby, she called my name and watched while I struggled to my feet, regained my balance, and walked unsteadily towards her with a smile. “You’re doing really well with the cane,” she said in a pleasant voice, “can I get you a wheelchair for when you leave the hospital?” I almost kissed her for acknowledging my mobility problems that day and the effortless, diplomatic way she asked if I’d like more assistance.

Her quick, accurate assessment

I’d long ago resigned myself to the sad fact that most health care professionals in my experience didn’t seem to think or communicate that way, so I stopped expecting it. Her quick, accurate assessment (not to mention that nicely expressed solution) couldn’t have been better timed. It was day three of a dramatic weakening of my legs, an increase in sciatica pain, dizziness, balance problems, brain fog, and overall fatigue and weakness. I had almost convinced myself that I was in a relapse and called my neuro to get in and see her for an evaluation and possibly start steroid treatment. But it wasn’t to be. Her nurse told me the schedule was full until September 11 and asked if I wanted to make an appointment that day.

“That’s two-and-a-half weeks away,” I said incredulously.

Fearing a relapse

“So you don’t want to make an appointment on September 11?” the nurse asked brusquely. I resisted the urge to say Dawn, it’s me, Kim. You know me. Why are you brushing me off? You know I have MS, you know what ‘relapse’ means. Help me out here, will ya? It was another of those INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS moments, the 1950s film where Kevin McCarthy grows horribly aware that his friends’ bodies have been taken over by aliens.

Ruling out an infection

“Dawn,” I said calmly, “if it is a relapse then I should probably start prednisone pretty soon.” I went on to describe my symptoms in detail and asked her to relay this information to the doctor and to please call me back. This seemed to help. She agreed and got back with me within the hour. I was to go to the lab for a CBC with diff and a urinalysis. “So the doctor thinks I have an infection?” I asked. I was totally open to that possibility. No, she said, they have to make sure there’s no infection before doing steroids. This was a new step in my experience and I was all for it. She faxed the order to the lab and I showed up there minutes later.

“Do you mean a urine hat?” I asked the lab tech, who then stopped laughing, realized she’d been had, and starting laughing afresh. “I mean, I don’t exactly keep up with the latest advancements in urine collection,” I went on, milking the joke. “For all I know, you guys could be using a fedora this year. I don’t want to be presumptuous, you understand.”

Using a urine hat

It was so much easier to pee into a urine hat than a vial with the diameter of a silver dollar, not to mention trying to keep my balance while crouching into a squat over a toilet without falling. Funny, not even my urologist offered me a urine hat.

Today, my test results showed I have a urinary tract infection. I was surprised I have that, but not surprised I have an infection. I felt like I was coming down with something on my worst day, something like the flu, what with nausea, headache, sneezing and sinuses draining, overall weakness and fatigue. I had not the classic symptoms of a UTI. No burning, hesitancy, or pain.

Anxious to feel better

I started an antibiotic this evening and will see my doc September 6. We’ll see how I feel then. I still can barely stay on my feet without back pain and weakness. I had to send my brother to the pharmacy for my antibiotics. I’m anxious to feel better and find out the cause of my downturn.

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