Random Thoughts: November 04, 2013

Bad Medical Advice From Talking Hamburgers
by Jasmine Sailing

Before there was Mr. Tibble to misguide me, there were McDonald’s hamburgers... No, not by eating them. Those beasts first made me sick (literally) when I was 13, and I became vegetarian shortly after turning 14.

This is near the beginning of the story of my “falling out” with Denver General (now named Denver Health, not to be confused with Denver Cares – that’s the drunk tank, but I can’t claim I’ve ever heard rumours of them being particularly caring), the county hospital that used to be all I could manage in desperation.

I can’t really imagine wanting to go there without desperation being involved, and now I know at least some other hospitals accept Medicaid and have ability to pay rates for the uninsured. Knowing that, not even desperation could drive me to that place. Maybe if I was shot right outside DG... (I prefer not finding out the answer to that, thank you.)

Around May ‘93, I believe, I got a particularly bad case of alcohol poisoning during a HWA meeting in NYC. In case you’ve never been to a “professional” con(ference, in this case) for writers, editors, and publishers, I should note that they mostly happen in bars. Normally the hotel bar, but this time it was an Irish bar across the street (not really a pub, as far as I can remember... but, then, writers don’t go to them to eat and it’s all a big blur of drunkenness and vomiting and wishing people weren’t so loud). At most conventions you can spend part of the day converging in the dealers’ room, but the HWA meeting didn’t have one of those... and I was semi-crashing anyway, because I didn’t have a HWA membership. I was pretty much only at parties or bars or networking outside of major functions like the banquet.

This con was a bit dangerous for me because I was only 21 (nearing 22) and bars were open until 5am. I was a newbie and not quite sturdy enough for keeping up with the men, mostly novelists in their 30s who already had booze-proof iron guts, that I was hanging out with.

So for about a week after I returned home, I was too messed up to get out of bed. Terrible headaches and fevers, terrible spasticity, getting up generally led to something similar to convulsing and then falling back down. Understandably, I’m sure, this was worrisome enough that I finally resorted to the hospital.

Bad move...

I can’t remember every single foible on the doctor’s part. The ones that stood out the most were her overshooting my vein (to run tests that I never got any results on), I had blood pooling in my arm for the next week (would’ve possibly been worse, if a non-doctor not-at-the-hospital hadn’t told me I should hold my arm straight up), and running an EKG with the electrodes constantly popping off throughout it. (She thought she’d detected a murmur, but the practically electrode-free malfunctioning EKG somehow convinced her otherwise. Unfortunately it left me worried about yet another thing.)

My biggest foible was in answering one of the questions, though I mostly blame the wording of the question. “Do you hear noises?” I was thinking “Yeah, I get some ringing in my ears...” and said yes. And that was it for her thinking anything was physically wrong with me.

The next thing I recall is sitting out front, where you had the hospital doors behind you and the attached McDonald’s next to you, muttering bitterly to Bruce (my roommate at the time) while waiting for a ride: “I hear the voices of McDonald’s hamburgers in my head, telling me I MUST GO SHOOT EVERYONE IN THE HOSPITAL!!!!”.

But, no, I didn’t listen to the hamburger voices in my head. Instead I went to Wild Oats (now defunct/bought-out health food store) to do a little reading and ask for advice. I managed to straighten myself back out simply with B vitamins and bananas. And I didn’t bother returning to that hospital until I was pregnant with my daughter (during the beginning of the pregnancy I went an extra bus further out of my way to one of the clinics, but after I started having emotional stress + severe focal motor seizures in my right side – or something, who knows, it was very dehabilitating and obviously the FMS guess came years later from a neurologist somewhere else – they sent me to the hospital). That, overall, became a yet worse mistake and led to me giving up on doctors for 8 years (at which point I was almost dead and insured, so I could go elsewhere and get actual diagnoses!).

Clearly during the time setting of my “Eugenics?” Thoughts entry I had a creeping suspicion that Denver General was a little too pushy about sterilising poor people. After the “done in by booze and talking hamburgers” visit, I began wondering if they wanted to speed up the process by killing us off. I’d lost my Medicaid shortly after my son was born, so I was a yet worse “burden” with a 10% ability to pay rate.

You might be inclined to think “You get what you pay for”, but I technically could’ve stayed home, paid nothing, and NOT gotten a vein overshot and then been blown off as schizophrenic. Not to mention being left wondering if I had a serious heart condition.

You may also be wondering how I managed to go drink myself into oblivion in NYC when I had such a low ability to pay rate at the hospital. If so, then at least also bother to wonder why I was at an annual meeting for an association I wasn’t a member of! The trip, and the alcohol, was paid for by someone who was a member and wanted me to tag along.

At least I got to fly, that was nice (still pre-9/11 and all). The 1st time I attended a “professional” horror con, earlier that year (I was trying to build up and sell my magazine, after all), I’d taken trains and was delirious from 3 days without sleep when I arrived. Which is a different, and perhaps more amusing (or at least less “ugh”), story that led to my facetious “Rape! Murder! Steal soap!” slogan.

Maybe I’ll explain that another time.

Moral: Never let hamburgers at a crappy hospital tell you what to do, they’ve no doubt absorbed the souls of bitter individuals who died there. Assuming, of course, that they aren’t directly made from their remains... which we probably aren’t really assuming. Furthermore, never eat Soylent Hamburgers! Who knows how many toxic medications they absorbed while at the hospital!

Post-note: I’m not completely touchy (most of the time). My other 2 non pregnancy related visits to this hospital were: 1. In my late teens, a cyst under my right ear became infected and, as the spam subject headers like to claim, “got huge fast!”. Rather than, say, doing anything about the infection they scheduled me to have the cyst removed. Before that appointment could roll around, the cyst exploded in a rather icky fashion and I didn’t bother going back. 2. At age 20 I discovered a lump in my breast. I knew it probably wasn’t “the worst”, but from age 5 or so girls are told “If you find a breast lump, go to a doctor immediately!”. And so I did. And the doctor, who didn’t even find the lump, much less do anything beyond a quick grope, fulfilled his doctorly duties simply by yelling at me that I’m stupid for worrying because people my age don’t get breast cancer.

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