A few months ago I posted about my (supposed) brush with Bell’s Palsy and how I wasn’t too sure Dr K, my all-knowing internist, had diagnosed me correctly. Since then I have endured all manner of tests and biological invasions on a quest for the true origin of my strange symptoms. The bottom line is that I do not have, nor have I ever had Bell’s, but no one seems to know what I do have, despite the occasional recurrence of my strange symptoms.
Perhaps I should back up first to say I have been working from home this week due to a bad case of bronchitis (no, not Swine Flu even though Mr. S, my horrible, evil boss, just stuck his head in my cubette and oinked at me) so as a result I had been feeling poorly already. Who knew that Monday night, out of the clear blue, I would suddenly experience another episode of The Curiously Expanding Face? My lips suddenly blew up twice the size of Octo Mom’s, my jaws grew to Kirk Douglas-proportions and the Hives from Hell came back with a vengeance. This was truly adding insult to injury given the fact that I was already miserable from the bronchitis. Remembering what my doctor had said about documenting an episode if possible, I ran upstairs and took a load of photos of my poor, swollen face, intending to present the evidence as soon as I could get an appointment with Dr J, my neurologist.
The next morning I called Dr J to make an appointment. Since my esteemed internist Dr K handed me off to Dr J I have been seeing him every time I have another episode, so naturally I thought I should go back to him ASAP. First, however, I had to run the gauntlet and get past his nurse, Big Bertha, R.N.
8:33 am Leave long, tearful, croaky voice mail for Bertha, explaining my latest bout of facial swelling and hives has returned; beg for same-day appointment with Dr J. Hang up and stare at the phone for 2 hours and 15 minutes.
11:10 am Still no return call from Nurse Bertha. Decide to call again. Dial main number and ask for her extension.
Switch board operator: “I’m sorry; Bertha is not at her desk. Please hold while we find her.”
I am on hold for 10 minutes listening to "Best of Burl Ives" on Musak, wondering why I didn’t use the land line to call. I fret about the cell phone minutes being wasted. There are children in Africa who don’t have any cell phone minutes.
11:25 am “Hello, this is Bertha.”
RL: “Bertha, this is Racie Lover. I left you a message this morning. I need to see Dr J immediately. I am having another EPISODE!”
Bertha: “Honey, I just checked my voice mail from this morning. There was no message from you.”
RL: (on verge of psychotic episode) “I left one, I swear. Anyway, I have GOT to see Dr J today. It’s an emergency (I am barely able to whisper this admonition due to my bronchitis. I hope I sound pitiful. I am desperate).
B: “Honey, I don’t have any openings this week or next…”
RL: I interrupt her “No, no, no! I have GOT to see him TODAY…”
B: interrupts me mid-sentence “Oh, I have a cancellation today at 2:45…”
RL: I interrupt her “WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE!?”
B: “Because I just saw it on my screen. Honey, you’re over-reacting.”
RL: I am incredulous. Do they teach dismissiveness in nursing school? I am ready to reach through the phone, pull out Bertha’s false teeth and cram them up her nose “If you felt like I do you wouldn’t say I’m over-reacting. I will be there at 2:45. Thank you.” I slam down the cover of my cell phone in the absence of a receiver to slam down onto the cradle. I cry and feel sorry for myself, then go shopping online.
2:30 pm Paco takes me to my doctor’s appointment, having been summoned from work by my tearful plea of helplessness. I tell him how horrible Bertha was to me and he must punch her lights out.
We check in at reception and Paco picks up a survey form, intending to write Bertha up for making me cry.
3:25pm: Bertha emerges from the back and calls my name.
Paco: “Is that her?”
RL: “Yes, that’s Bertha. Keep me away from her. I may have to deck her.”
Paco: “Don’t worry, Sweetheart. Bertha’s going down.”
Bertha leads us to an examination room, where we sit while she plays doctor and asks me questions. I pull out my sheet with the various photos I have taken the night before showing my swollen lips, hugely expanded jaws and hives. Bertha studies it carefully, obviously impressed.
Bertha: “Oh geez, Honey, women pay good money to get those big lips you have there. Wow, those are impressive. What do they call that stuff they inject?”
RL: “Collagen”, I offer, deciding neurology nurses must not watch “Nip Tuck”. “Ha, ha, that’s pretty funny, Nurse Bertha. Just think of the money I’m saving on cosmetic surgery!” I want to take her out but am afraid I would look like Meg Ryan in my mug shot, and not in a good way.
Just then Dr J comes in and Bertha vanishes. I tell him about my latest attack and he, too, is impressed with my photo essay. Paco and I plead for answers, the whole time both of us wondering if we should bust Bertha and tell Dr J what a horrible battle ax she is. We decide he already knows that and it is the reason he hired her. She is also uglier than home-made sin, which no-doubt pleases Dr J’s wife.
All of the above ended with Dr J finally telling me my problem is not neurological but some kind of systemic reaction and to go to my allergist. Paco and I leave his office, dejected. I call Dr L, the allergist, and make an appointment to go see her the next day. During my appointment the following day she quizzes me and then tells me to stop taking ibuprofen and call her if my symptoms still return. Allergic to ibuporfen? Who knew? Naturally I Googled it when I got home and what do you know? Apparently this kind of severe allergic reaction is very common.
Perhaps my mystery illness has finally been solved. "Case closed" as Dr. Kildaire would say. I certainly hope so. Stay tuned...