Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Heidi, Part 3

Christmas 1991
Before 8 am on Monday morning, December 3, 1990, I called my doctor's office and scheduled an appointment for 11 am.

In a doctor's office with three doctors, you never know who you're going to see, and the only available appointment for the day was with Dr. F, the doctor who had incorrectly diagnosed me three weeks earlier.  I was hesitant to see him, because I knew that I would have a hard time standing up to him and explaining that I thought I had a gall stone--based on what?  Three weeks of insufferable pain and the diagnosis of an untrained 50-year-old near stranger?  I hung up the phone, then proceeded to beg Brad to come to the appointment with me for moral support.  He agreed, but hesitantly, because today was the day he had planned to give two weeks' notice at his job to accept a full-time position as a technical writer for the software giant of Utah Valley--WordPerfect.  He would drop me off at BYU for my teaching assistant class that began at 9, then he would be back to pick me up after checking in at work.
Fall 1995
We arrived at the doctor's appointment and were greeted by some great news:  Dr. F had been called into delivery that morning, so I would be seeing Dr. L instead.  I was so relieved that I almost sent Brad back to work, but he decided to stay and then we would have lunch together before splitting up fpor school and work again.

When my name was called, we were ushered back into an exam room after a quick weigh-in, once again without the usual blood pressure check or urine sample. No eyebrows were raised when my weight at 31 weeks was recorded as eleven pounds lighter than it had been just three weeks earlier. The nurse questioned me for a few minutes, then we waited for Dr. L.  I remember wondering what he would think of our amateur diagnosis:  Would he believe me, or would he send me back on my way with a quick word and a pat on the head?  He entered the small room, and he read aloud from the chart, "possible gall stone.  What makes you think it's a gall stone, Mrs. Denton?"  I hesitantly explained my conversation with Brad's aunt, her gall stones during pregnancy, and how my symptoms seemed to match with her experience.  I told him how long I'd been miserable, how many bottles of Mylanta I had burned through, how I couldn't eat, and how the pain would even wake me as I slept.  And then I waited for his response.

Much to my surprise, Dr. L looked at me and then nodded.  "I think you probably do have a gall stone, young lady."  Relief swept over me.  Finally I was going to have someone help me.  Finally I would get some relief from the pain.  Finally I would stop thinking I was crazy.  He pulled out a small pad of paper that I recognized--a prescription pad.  What was he doing?  "Here is a prescription for you to go over to the hospital and get an ultrasound of your gall bladder (back in the ancient days when such machines were only found in hospitals and only used for emergencies like these).  Once we know for sure what we're dealing with, we can proceed."
Finally a baby sister--with Lily April 2000

As he turned to leave the office, he glanced through my chart and offhandedly called over his shoulder to the attending nurse, "Let's get a urine sample and a quick blood pressure check before they leave." I obediently took the cup from the nurse and filled the cup in the bathroom.  My urine had been unusually dark for days, but I was young and had no idea what a red flag this was.  I handed her the cup, and a surprised, worried look flitted across her professional face before she could stop it.  "4+ protein in the urine," she muttered as she disposed of the sample and recorded the information on my chart.  None of this meant anything to me. Why did urine matter now, anyway?  I was headed to the hospital for a confirmation of my gall stone diagnosis.

The nurse then reached for the blood pressure cuff and wrapped it snugly around my left arm, blew it up and listened for my pulse to react to the pressure. "That can't be right," she said, probably louder than she meant to.  "Let's try your other arm."  I obediently gave her my right arm, but I was beginning to suspect something was unusual.  She listened, wide mouthed, then motioned for another nurse to join her and run the pressure test again on my left arm.  "What numbers do you get?" she asked.  The second nurse performed the test, and adding her shock to the first nurse's, she barked, "140/110.  Get Dr. L right now."

The first nurse measured my face and body with her eyes, and trying to contain her worry, she said, "You just don't look that sick."  What was that supposed to mean?  I glanced up at Brad, who was beginning to register the idea that this was more than gall stones and visit to the hospital for a quick ultrasound.  "What is it?"  I asked.  The nurse looked me in the eye and asked me quickly, "So do you have a job?"  "No," I replied, "I work as a TA at BYU for History 120 and I have seventeen credits this semester."

I will never forget her response.  "Today was your last day."

July 1992
The nurses took me under both arms as if I had suddenly developed the inability to walk under my own power and guided me gently back into the exam room, exchanging worried looks and muttering, "She just doesn't look that sick.  She isn't swelling.  She's lost weight. She doesn't look that sick."  I was supposed to go to the hospital right now and get that ultrasound.  What was happening?

Quicker than ever before, Dr. L appeared in the doorway, shut the door, gave me the same measured looks up and down my body, and said the same thing, "She just doesn't look like it."  Like WHAT?

The doctor and nurses regained their professional composure once we were all in the exam room with the door shut.  I was sitting on the exam table and Brad was standing next to me, both of us confused at what had just transpired over the last five minutes.  Dr. L took my hand, and with a kind expression on his face, he changed my world in an instant with these words.

"You are very sick.  Very, very sick.  You have a condition called pre-eclampsia that has not manifest itself in the regular ways.  I want you to go straight to the hospital.  Do not go home.  I will call them right now and let them know you are coming."

And that was all.

It was just before noon, and I had been at the doctor's office less than an hour.


  1. You really really make things interesting don't you?

    All of this just happened yesterday didn't it? Where do the years go?

    Yes!!! Lets get together. Friday is my next day off. I'll need a break from dipping chocolates. Give me a call! Hope mommy and new baby are doing well.

  2. YOU'RE KILLING ME SMALLS! FINISH THE STORY! I even know this story and obviously how it ends and each day you leave me hanging on pins and needles. DANG! You're a good writer.

  3. YOU'RE KILLING ME SMALLS! FINISH THE STORY! I even know this story and obviously how it ends and each day you leave me hanging on pins and needles. DANG! You're a good writer.

  4. This is a scary story, well told. I'm glad I know how it turns out :)

  5. You are seriously killing me here! I mean, obviously she just had her second child so we know the ending but 4 parts?! Please tell me there are only 4!!

  6. Jenny, I've been keeping up with these posts and at the beginning I was thinking hmm sounds like what I had, preeclampsia! And then you said it but your pain sounds MUCH worse than mine. Holy cow girl, holy cow. I agree with Cindy, finish your story!!! I'm dying!!

  7. It's getting good. I love the pictures of her life sprinkled in. Can you believe what we let ourselves go out of the house wearing. I had the same type of jean jumper when I was pregnant with Emily. The quilt made by several generations is awesome.

  8. Once again, I am so glad to know that you are here to write this and that your Heidi is a beautiful young mother!

  9. I get goosebumps when I read this!

  10. I get goosebumps when I read this!

  11. Thanks heavens he ordered that urine sample and BP.