No, don't rejoice just yet - I'm not dying, not even sick, though it sure felt like I was. See, on Sunday night I started having this weird dull pain in my left side, under the rib cage, and also up in my left shoulder a little. I dismissed it as 'just one of those things' and went to sleep - I have a pretty high pain tolerance to begin with, and with sports I'm used to various unexplained aches and pains - they crop up for a day or so, then go away again. This, however, was worse the next day, to the point where I text-messaged Mom during my work shift to ask her what she thought it could be. It didn't feel muscular; it felt 'internal', and for some reason, the only detail I remembered from my Ann M. Martin biography was that she'd had a bad fall from a treehouse after which doctors said "If her left shoulder starts to hurt, it means her spleen is damaged and we may have to remove it." (For those who care: it did and they did.) Mom didn't look anything up, just asked if I needed a doctor's appointment, to which I said no.
When I got home, I looked up the spleen, and discovered that it was located exactly where I was having the pain - on the left side, under the rib cage, close to the stomach - and one of the details said, along with pain in the spleen area, that "the pain may spread to the left shoulder, particularly if parts of the spleen are not receiving sufficient blood supply and start to die." Well, THAT was comforting. Mom and I decided that if it wasn't better the next day, Tuesday, that we'd make an appointment.
On Tuesday at 4 AM it was still the same - hurting every time I took a deep breath - so I left Mom a note to make me an appointment while I was at work. But while I was driving back from Gainesville, the shoulder pain, which had come and gone until then, came back with a vengeance. I forgot all about the pain in my side, because this was much sharper and more intense. I couldn't bend or move in certain directions without intense pain; even walking hurt it. And yet moving the arm didn't make much of a difference either way - more proof that it wasn't injury-related, but something else.
I text-messaged Mom again and said I was worse and that I definitely needed that appointment, but the best she could get was for Wednesday morning. With the spleen-area pain, that would have been okay, but I didn't want to suffer through 24 more hours of that shoulder; it was the most pain I've felt in a very long time. When I told her that, she suggested we go to the ER, and I agreed that that was a good idea.
Of course, ten minutes after that conversation, the shoulder pain stopped as abruptly as it had started. I didn't want to spend money unnecessarily, but I didn't want that pain back, either, and that sentence from the Web site about areas of the spleen dying kept running through my mind. So we went. And, as with any ER, we sat. And waited. And sat. And waited. For a total of five hours. I felt alternately bored and ridiculous, having to write 'enlarged spleen?' down under Complaints and sitting in an ER with no severe symptoms, now that the shoulder had stopped.
Anyway, to make a hours-long story short(er), we finally got back into an exam room, and of course the first thing they wanted to do was draw blood. Preparing myself for the possibility of a splenectomy, I hadn't eaten or drunk much of anything all day, and upon the blood drawing, I had what they call a 'vaso-vagal reaction' - meaning I essentially went into a kind of shock. Everything started to go black, I felt numb and dizzy, my blood pressure fell to 64/35 (yes, really) and, scariest of all, my throat started to close up. I was hearing everyone's voices as if they were talking through a tunnel. That was the point when the nurse attached a liter of saline to the needle they'd just inserted and used my parents as makeshift IV stands, "Hold that up and squeeze it; we need to get it into her as fast as we can, to get her pressure back up." Which did the trick, eventually, although I felt pretty grim for the next hour or so - my throat opened back up most of the way, but instead of feeling swollen, it just felt sore, and whenever I took a normal breath, it felt like I'd been running at top speed in the freezing cold - I couldn't do it without coughing. And when I coughed, it made me want to puke. I didn't, but I would have if I hadn't focused on just taking very shallow breaths for a while. Talk about feeling worse AFTER you go to the doctor.
Anyway, so they did an EKG, an ultrasound, a chest X-ray, and some more blood work (which went fine the second time around; they laid me flat and gave me some oxygen), and it eventually came out that because I had a driving job which involved so much sitting still in one place, there was a possibility that I might have a blood clot, which could be causing the pain. That was the point when we all stopped seeing the visit as an unnecessary hassle and started realizing that maybe I really did need to be there. Turned out I didn't - everything came back clear - but we were still glad we'd ruled out that possibility. Nobody down there ever really came up with a satisfactory explanation for why I had had such intense pain, but the general best guess is that I just somehow messed up some internal muscle which then affected a major nerve that runs up into the shoulder. I have no idea what I could have done, but I'm feeling much better today, so I don't really care what it was, as long as it doesn't come back.
Anyway, so all's well that ends well - my only battle scar is the big purple bruise on my left arm from the IV. Guess it could have been worse.
Back to normal tomorrow - my scheduled day off from work, and then swimming in the evening. Then payday (yay!) and carbo-loading on Friday, and then the 5k Amelia Island race on Saturday. Two weeks after that, it'll be Key West. Woohoo!