January was a medically interesting month. First, I had vertigo a few times, then I woke up with the unexplained pain in my ribs, which was followed by a long and nasty cold; as a cherry on this sundae of medical events I woke up with a pain in my right middle finger, arguably the most important finger for anyone living in NYC. Maybe it was a message from my body: you treat me badly, here's what I have to show you... My own body cursing me out...
But back to the mysterious ribcage problem. I woke up one January Sunday with the pain, and either I was having a deja vu, or this had happened before. I decided to ignore it fairly sure that it would go away on its own like the last time, but on Monday it actually got worse to a point where I couldn't take deep breaths and started waddling (I am sure that waddling and clutching my stomach didn't help dissuade the pregnancy rumors already circulating at work). All of a sudden everyone had a theory to explain it. My favorite one was given by my male colleague who jokingly suggested that when asleep I was kicked in the ribs by my husband. Yes, I could barely contain myself because spousal abuse is soooo funny. I was tempted to say that unlike my colleague, my husband prefers kicking me when I am awake, so this way I can share all the juicy details with my girlfriends. I didn't say it because the male colleague was higher than me on the food chain, though honestly that rarely stopped me. My own best theory was that I got so fat, I crushed my own ribs in my sleep.
Putting the kids to bed on Monday was sheer agony (which it almost always is), accompanied by lots of screaming (also not unusual). Every time I stretched out my arm to put on a diaper or pj's, my side would get so painful that I simply couldn't hold the scream in. Kids actually felt bad for me and almost behaved like humans. When rolling in bed became more painful than giving birth (with an epidural, of course), I realized it might be time to see a doctor. Herein was the problem: I see a few good specialists, but I do not know of any good internist. The last one I knew left family medicine to specialize in something else. And his partner, Dr. L who always gave out antibiotics for good behavior the way pediatricians give out lollypops, was advertising a new service last time I visited his office - Botox injections! So I wasn't going to Dr. L just in case the theory about crushing ribs with my own weight was right. If I were to trust my intuition, he most likely mastered the art of liposuction by now and undoubtedly would recommend that to treat my problem. Unless, of course, I preferred the course of antibiotics.
I called a few doctors close to the office from my insurance list, but the earliest appointment I would be able to get was in a week. One office promised to squeeze me in in about month and a half. When I would tell them that I couldn't wait because of pain, they would all say one thing: go to the clinic or ER. Why didn't I think of it myself? Here's why: I would not set foot in either unless my life depended on it. And then I remembered that years ago I went to one highly recommended doctor to get my health exam and shots done for college, so I decided to call there. Since I technically was not a new patient, they could squeeze me in for an emergency visit the very next day!
The visit didn't go smoothly. Even though I was the only patient in the waiting room, I had to wait about an hour to be seen. The nurse, a 60-something Russian woman, who probably received her training in Gulag, refused to answer any questions and viewed them as personal insults. She also strongly believed that wearing gloves was for suckers and wouldn't wear them even for drawing blood. I wondered if she ever heard of HIV or thought that any normal Russian could just sleep off that pesky virus after a few shots of vodka. Then the doctor came in and told me that I had nothing to worry about. However, I was to get five different tests no later than the very next day and was to report to the emergency room immediately if I had any difficulty breathing. He reiterated that tests had to be done the very first thing next morning and the labs were to submit results by 3 p.m., just in case. When I asked what that "just in case" meant, he said "a possibility of blood clot in your lung." A-ha...
So I did just that, and got all tests done right away. At four I called the good doctor to get the results and was told that he would call me back. He didn't. He didn't call me back on Friday, and on Monday I found out that he was on vacation all next week. That made me wonder whether the urgency of obtaining tests was due to his taking a vacation and covering his behind, '"just in case," not having my best interests in mind. Finally, next Monday the receptionist called me back, after I left yet another message, to say that all tests came out normal, something I already knew because the pain went away on its own. Also, had I been dying, he probably would've called. I hope. Now the physical pain is being substituted by the financial - the bills for my lab co-pays ended up being over $200, and that's before x-rays and sono because those did't come in yet.
So after all the time and money spent on this mystery, I am not a step closer to knowing why I had that horrible pain. Maybe the doctor knows, but he wouldn't tell me.