Turns out, my mom lied. Not that I blame her, I would have lied too because, being a worrier, I would have freaked while driving. When I got home, she informed me that the nurse practitioner had actually said that there was something abnormal about my blood work and that we needed to go to the emergency room right away (either my sparkling personality had charmed them, or it was something serious because they had already called ahead to save me a room).
And now for my favorite part: the tale of the on-call doctor with subpar bedside manner. Honestly I couldn’t make it up if I tried. The ER doctor arrived in our room shortly after the nurse had taken my vital signs, and started asking me questions about my symptoms and why I was there (uhm because I was told to be…). While this was happening, my mom got another phone call from the nurse practitioner so she stepped away to answer it. She came back just as the doctor was finishing his questioning, so he sat down next to her, looked at my mom, and asked simply, “you know she has leukemia, right?” You know she has leukemia, right? Then Doctor Extraordinaire turned to me and asked, “Any questions?” If I were a confrontational person, I imagine that I’d go back one day and give that doctor a strongly worded piece of my mind, but I hope to never step foot in the Harrisburg hospital again so he’s in luck (plus that leads to images of security being called and things turning into a big ordeal so I would never have the nerve). At the time, the only thing I could think to ask through my sudden numbness was, “am I going to die?” And he simply responded, “no, I don’t think so.” He informed us that I would need to be treated immediately, and pretty much left right after that.
There have been a few days since then where I have found myself pissed off about something to do with my treatment, but there honestly has not been anything except receiving my diagnosis that still makes me burn with anger when I look back on it.
The rest of the night was a pretty uneventful blur, although it still managed to feel like I’d lived a whole week in the span of 24 hours. My dad and Justin showed up, and we waited. My mom called both of my bosses, and we waited. I called one of my best friends, my mom called my roommate’s mom, and we waited. Our family friends came, and we waited some more. The problem was, as the [kind and compassionate…haha] ER doctor told us, the Harrisburg hospital’s oncology team “would not treat me” there, so they wanted to send me to Hershey Medical Center. The very place I had left to go there. However, my parents immediately decided that we would be going to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland instead. The second problem then arose because they weren’t sure if Hopkins had room or if they would even take me in the first place. Then, when Hopkins agreed to treat me, it took them two hours to decide whether or not I would be treated as an adult patient or a pediatric patient. And to make the waiting longer, the hospital wouldn’t let us start down to Hopkins ourselves because my hemoglobin was low and they were afraid I would have problems and my vitals would crash. Hemoglobin is essentially the amount of oxygen that your blood cells carry to your organs and tissue, and a normal number is typically around 12-15. Mine was 5. Everyone was amazed that I’d been going through life for a month on such a depleted supply. Although it explained all the times I had almost fainted. So, even though I’d been driving myself around all day, and had been for a month with symptoms, we waited in our ER room for Hopkins to send an ambulance up.
Finally, after 7 hours of being in the Harrisburg emergency room, the Hopkins’ transport team arrived, and we were off. Nothing traumatic happened in the ambulance – I didn’t crash, I just watched Big Hero 6 on the TV – and nothing traumatic happened when we arrived at the Johns Hopkins Children’s emergency room. We were just doing more waiting in a different room, only this time I had an IV attached to my arm pumping in blood transfusions to raise my hemoglobin. Around 10:00 PM the ER doctor there informed me that I should probably finally have dinner because I would be having a bone marrow biopsy procedure done the next day so I wouldn’t be allowed to have any food or water after midnight.
After many, many hours of what seemed like endless waiting, I was finally admitted to the Pediatric Oncology unit at 3:00 AM, unaware of how long it would be until I would be able to see the outside world again. The nurse who admitted me became my primary nurse – the head honcho – and she helped get my mom and I settled in for the night.
And so my day ended in a scary, twilight-zone version of how it began. After traveling to and exploring 4 different hospitals for two completely different reasons, my very own unique version of sophomore year had started – my notmore year.