Why I Sent Myself to the ER by Eating Peanut Butter

Healthcare systems are odd. Something I’ve learned rather late in life, unfortunately. See, I was one of those statistic numbers everyone loves to fling around–an American adult without health insurance. Was, being the operative word. Last year, the ACA (Affordable Care Act) allowed me to visit a doctor for the first time since I was sixteen. Good. Great. I can finally get some of these health concerns taken care of. Namely, a cranky gallbladder.

What do you mean I’m not sick enough, doc?

Turns out, my provider won’t give patients ultrasounds to confirm gallstones unless they’re actively miserable (pain, nausea, etc.). It’s bad enough I’m fighting a hard-wired fear of hospitals, but they wanted me to willingly put myself in pain in order to receive treatment.

I put it off for another year. That’s what a restricted diet is for, right? Well, not really. But I couldn’t fight my fear as well last year. Call me a coward.

Something, I’m not sure what, finally kicked my self-preservation into gear. If I didn’t take care of this now, one day I’d end up seriously sick and unable to control it. That’s actually my fear–being unable to control my body. This is what happens to children raised by a disabled parent who didn’t take care of himself. Didn’t care what happened to his body, or what extreme lengths doctors went to in order to save him from self-destruction. One of those extreme lengths–a gastric bypass–contributed to the heart attack which killed him.

So on Monday I bit the bullet . . . actually, I ate a ton of organic peanut butter and chocolate spread on graham crackers, then had a friend drive me to my healthcare provider’s emergency room.

I knew exactly how much fat to ingest in order to bring up the symptoms the doctors needed to consider it a Serious Thing and finally ultrasound my gallbladder.

Guess what? Little fucker made stone friends to keep him company. But I already knew this.

There was literally nothing else I could have done to obtain this diagnosis. The doctor and ER nurses quickly understood (and I made no point to hide it) that my condition when I walked in was intentional, I’d controlled symptoms for years through diet, and I knew full well what my body was doing, why it felt the way it did.

I knew it was a bad day for them shortly after I arrived. It wasn’t my intention to add to their workload. Two patients coded that morning. A woman with a compound fracture rolled in about the same time I walked in. An older woman with no actual medical problem yelled abuse at the nurses, cried uncontrollably, and even faked breathing troubles to avoid being discharged without what she considered adequate care and attention. “Everyone ignores me. They want me to suffer,” she bellowed constantly. At the far end of the hall, a woman too drunk to function bitched at any passing staff member about the fact that she’s drunk. In response, I was on my best behavior. Shut up. It’s possible.

But now the ball is rolling. I will finally get the surgery I’ve needed for three years next month. Yes, in a month. I have things to do, damn it, and I’m too stubborn for my own good. My body and I are on speaking terms again, and back on the diet wagon. I’m not concerned about any problems between now and then. Even if something does happen, I now know that the ER at my provider’s hospital is pretty damned good. The fear, which still gives me plenty of anxiety, isn’t enough to stop me from getting necessary aid now that I have this information.

I’m losing sleep over the surgery, though. This is something I anticipated. What I didn’t anticipate was my decision to keep it quiet compounding the anxiety. So here I am, talking through it on a blog. Publicly. Apologies to any friends who read this and want to kick my ass for not telling them privately. I do try to keep my fears from bleeding all over cyberspace and relationships, but it can’t be helped. Not if I want to sleep anytime between now and the surgery date. This is my way of holding myself accountable. Too many people know now. I can’t back out of the surgery just because I’m afraid.

Yes, there will be updates once Gallbladder Hulk is evicted. No, I’m not going to try and convince my doctor to let me keep a stone. That’s weird. I mean, I kill fictional people, dress as a zombie, and scare people professionally, but the line is drawn at including my own medical waste to my bookshelf memento collection. Unless I had a teratoma, then I’d beg to have that shit preserved.


5 thoughts on “Why I Sent Myself to the ER by Eating Peanut Butter

  1. Hearing tales of American healthcare never ceases to amaze me. And to think there are those governing the UK who would seek to privatise our NHS makes me want to puke, pun intended.

    Glad you found a way to play the system. Good luck next month!

  2. I’m glad you’re finally getting that beastie fixed 🙂

    Thank you for adding the bits about the people who were there at the same time, and thank you for being considerate of the staff. We love helping people, it’s why we do what we do. it’s ppl like this one -> “An older woman with no actual medical problem yelled abuse at the nurses, cried uncontrollably, and even faked breathing troubles to avoid being discharged without what she considered adequate care and attention. ‘Everyone ignores me. They want me to suffer,’ she bellowed constantly.” that give us fits.

    What bugs me about people like her is that I think other people (obv not you because you saw through her performance) think we DO want her to suffer. We don’t. We see ppl faking it every.single.day. We’ve learned to recognize that behavior real quick. I wonder what she considers adequate care?

    1. She literally wanted them to do everything for her, feed her, move her into a more comfortable position, etc. But when they suggested she *actually* take her Zoloft, she pitched a fit. Then Dr. Ching upped her dosage–I’ll admit to laughing behind my hand when I heard that. I praised one nurse after he left her to take out my IV so I could head to the ultrasound lab. His patience is on a level I could never reach.

  3. Pingback: I Deserve a Pat on the Head | Author R.C. Murphy

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