University Writing and Critical Reading 1011H
24 September 2004
Shot of Courage
My empty stomach threatened to turn inside out as my mom drove the car towards St. Paul that Thursday afternoon. The sky was blue and the sun shined brightly, but my mood was grim. I dreaded spending the afternoon at the doctor's office.
As we stopped to pick up my Dad, I thought to the appointment ahead. A doctor was going to inject some medicine into a nerve in my back to block one of the nerves that other doctors suspected was causing the unexplained pain in my foot. If it helped, we would finally know what was causing me to have to change some of my ways of life. If it did not help, we would be back to wondering what was wrong, trying to treat the pain instead of the cause. My mind raced as I panicked. "This is going to hurt! What if something goes wrong? I wonder if they're going to sedate me. I hope they don't. That would be so creepy! I'll be so embarrassed if I try to get away from whoever wakes me up because I don't recognize them. This is really scary," I thought. Ever since I heard I would need to have the injection, my emotions conflicted. The pain in my foot kept me from going places with my friends; I did not know if they would understand if I needed to sit down more quickly than usual, and I was unwilling to ask. I wanted a Guide Dog, but I needed to be able to walk a mile each day. It made sense to have the injection to find out if we knew what the problem was. However, I was terrified of doctors. When I was two years old, I underwent surgery to try to improve my vision. The experience frightened me enough that the fear remained with me even after several years. I also hated the feeling of helplessness because I could not see what was happening to me. Once a doctor had given me a shot before I realized I had one coming. My tirade of questions and fears continued throughout the entire ride.
Mom drove to the top of the parking ramp that adjoined United Pain Center and we all got out of the car. "Going around in circles like that always makes me dizzy," Mom said as she opened her door. I took my Dad's arm and followed him into the clinic.
"How did the injection from last time feel?" Dr. Wendell asked.
"It really helped for the first two days. I was completely numb, but then I went back to normal," I answered. Even though I had told another doctor the same thing a week before, I knew that doctors always ask the same questions.
"Well, we can try that again. Or we can do the sympathetic block," Dr. Wendell said, referring to the shot in the back.
"As much as I really don't want to have the sympathetic in the back, the foot block won't tell Dr. Hess what he wants to know will it?"
"No. I think you can do this injection without sedation, but you have to promise me to try not to be a hero. If it hurts, let me know." I nodded and he led us toward another room. Although I was glad to be able to avoid sedation, my stomach still churned uneasily.
I felt reassured by the cold, soft scent of antiseptic I could smell only in that room. "At least I know the room is clean," I thought. Dr. Wendell left and a nurse who introduced herself as Carrie helped me prepare for the injection. I took off my left shoe and she stuck something to my foot. It felt like a piece of tape, but she told me it was a temperature sensor. I knew that they would monitor the temperature of my foot, and if it grew warmer, they would know the block was successful.
"Okay, Nicole, I need you to pull your shirt up. And actually I need you to pull your pants down." It felt like I should have just come with no clothes on at all. "I'm going to put some soap on your back. It says it's room temperature, but everyone says it feels cold. Sorry about that." It reminded me of the feeling I experience from rubbing alcohol when it is first applied. I shivered for a few minutes, then Dr. Wendell came in. He told me that he was going to drape a sterile towel over my back. I felt somewhat less exposed and soon I stopped shivering.
The next twenty minutes I tried to keep my mind anywhere but in that room. Although I knew that Dr. Wendell was a professional, it was awkward to be that exposed. A sponge rested under my stomach to allow them to access my spine more easily; it felt like I was being folded in half. Dr. Wendell warned me when he was going to poke me, and at that point, I felt an intense fiery sting, but I barely felt the needle. I knew I could not flinch, it would only make the pain worse. I kept thinking about how close to my spine the needle was. I wondered if there was any danger of being paralyzed. Carrie asked me about school and I told her it was fine. "I hope she doesn't think I'm rude because I didn't say much. I just don't want to move when I talk," I thought. I felt pressure, which I assumed, was Dr. Wendell looking for the right spot, so I was amazed when he told me I was done.
"I'll see you in recovery," he said. Carrie washed the soap off my back which felt strange since the skin around the injection sight was numb. At least she was able to use warm water. Then she helped me off the bed.
She guided me into the recovery room. Walking felt awkward because I had one shoe off and one shoe on. I must have looked like a picture in a lopsided picture frame. I also felt the sensor on my foot and was afraid it would come off. I sat in a big reclining chair. It was difficult to recline the chair because my back was numb. Someone asked what I wanted to drink. I chose orange juice and then had some Oreo cookies. The nurse in recovery who introduced herself as Paula told me she thought that was a weird combination. I mollified her by explaining that chocolate helps everything, including pain.
Sitting in recovery was dull. Sometimes I could talk to Paula, but she also made phone calls, so there were times when I had absolutely nothing to do. Every ten minutes the blood pressure cuff would tighten around my arm. The first time I was not expecting it and Paula asked if I was alright. I commented on how tight the cuff got and she told me that some of the elderly patients actually have bruises from it. "That probably didn't help you relax," she remarked and we both chuckled. Actually, I was extremely relaxed. I kept thinking about how everything had gone so well.
After a few minutes, my foot began to feel hot. It felt as if someone were pouring hot water down the veins in my leg. It was not painful, it just felt strange.
Paula told me that my foot had risen four degrees Celsius in temperature. Dr. Wendell asked me if my foot felt any better. "Maybe a little but not much," I told him. He told me I would be back for a foot block in a week. For once, I did not feel like crying when I heard that. The feeling of overcoming my fears only lasted so long though because when I moved my leg, my back protested. It felt like I had spent the afternoon raking the yard.
Soon Paula called the receptionist and my dad walked me out. "You're not feeling any better?" He asked. I shook my head. My foot still caused me pain, but I felt better. I convinced my mom to purchase pizza; my stomach no longer protested with fear so I ate eagerly. With my stomach full and my fears calmed I flopped down onto the couch with an ice pack on my back and slept for fourteen hours.