Sunday, August 16, 2009

I Went to the Emergency Room in London

I'm back from a long 11 day vacation in London and Ireland. We did so much and saw so much, I couldn't possibly cover it all in here. So, I am not writing about the trip part at all (in this blog entry, more to come). Instead I am going to tell you about my experience in the ER in London.

Yes, I went to the ER in London. It all started the second day of our trip. Yep, right as this picture was being taken, I was realizing that I needed to go to the emergency room I was in so much pain.
Here is me after our 24 hour stay in the ER. I'm totally high on pain pills and I look spent, which I was. Want the story........????? Read on.
We were in the British Museum looking at some old Greek statues and Egyptian tombs and drawings when all of a sudden I got the sharpest stabbing pain right under my lower ribcage on the right side. Kevin noticed and I tried to shake it off. It happened about 4 more times but went away. Then we went to a lunch and it started hurting again, but this time the pain wouldn't let up. It was constant. I was in so much pain I could barely focus. Standing, sitting, walking, it didn't matter I was in pain. After trying to cover it up for a while from the other couples hoping not to rain any of the fun we were having I had to give in and go back to the hotel with Kevin.

Frantically we tried to figure out what to do. I could barely walk, the pain had me in such agony (and I have a high tolerance to pain). How do you go to the hospital in another country? How does insurance work???? How much will this cost us??? It was bad. If I was giving in and going to the hospital in another country it was bad.

Luckily in London they have socialized health care. It's free. All you have to do is write your name and address. No ID, no insurance card, copays, deductibles and pages and pages of stupid forms to fill out with the same info on each page.

We were seen within an hour. They drew blood and said it looked fine. That helped us rule out appendicitis since there would be signs of infection. The liver is located exactly where the pain was so I was very worried about something being wrong with my liver especially after the last scan showed increased tumor activity there. My liver enzymes were just fine though. The doctor told me I must have pulled a muscle working out in the morning. I had to stop myself from jumping across the table and slapping him on the face for suggesting such a thing. Still, he sent me back to the hotel with some heavy pain meds and told me to wait it out.

Then, we got an email from one of my oncologists suggesting that it could be a blood clot in the lungs. We did some research and realized if that were the case I could easily die from it if we didn't do something. We also looked at the fact that I was such a high risk person to get a clot. Being diagnosed with cancer, the hormone therapy I am on, the fact that I was on a 10 hour flight, and I also have a genetic condition that makes me more prone to clot. .....and off we rushed back to the hospital.

This time they took us very seriously and I think agreed that it could very well be a blood clot. Unfortunately the only way they could really tell was by getting a CT scan which couldn't be done until the next day. They wouldn't let me leave since it could be a clot and that was so dangerous. So we got to sit in the emergency room from 1am till 3am in the morning after a Saturday night while all the drunk people from the bars came in puking their guts out from drinking too much, getting their stomachs pumped, and there was a guy with his face bashed in from a bar fight crying. Honestly, Kevin and I listened to people puke all night.

Finally they transferred me to the overnight unit where there were more people puking. We barely slept. They would wake me up every 45 minuted to check vitals just as I was starting to fall asleep. I got a blood thinner shot just in case and they barely woke me up to give it to me. WTF?? It totally freaked me out. Then I woke up to about 7 doctors surrounding my bed. They talked about what was going on and my upcoming CT scan. I finally had it done by 11am and then we sat and sat and sat. It was a beautiful day outside and I was REALLY starting to feel guilty. Here Kevin works his ass off all year to get this trip and then of course I have to make it all about me and get sent to the emergency room, so we can't even enjoy our time in London. The rest of the crew we were with were watching the changing of the guards and touring Buckingham palace. Kevin never made me feel bad. I just did it to myself.

Finally someone came in except they told me the doctor who was going to read my CT scan wouldn't be in until 5pm. And then I started to cry telling them I just wanted to leave and I wanted to be on vacation. The tears worked. Within 30 minuted another doctor told me he didn't see a clot and I was free to leave without worrying about dropping dead any minute. We still were clueless, but have finally ruled out everything life threatening.

We went back one more time before we left for Ireland to get my blood work done because the pain had not stopped the last 4 days in London. I basically just walked around with my head in a cloud on those Codeine pills they gave me. It was quite the experience as well, but that's for another blog. Anyway, we were checking my liver function to see if anything changed (well to see if it is still working). It checked out fine. The doctor that night thought it was possibly an ovarian cyst that burst. The pain is much higher than where my ovary is, but I guess the pain can radiate up really high. He wanted me to stay and get an ultrasound, but it was too late and we had to fly out to Ireland.

Don't worry, the ER didn't ruin the trip and neither did the pain. I'm a tough girl, so I dealt with it the entire time and was still able to focus on all the awesome times in London.

Afterwards we went to the London Eye.
I saw the Tower Bridge which was my absolute favorite. The actual London Bridge is just a plain concrete bridge. Funny huh??
We walked miles and miles every day.
Half of our time was spent navigating the tubes or the "underground". Thank god we had navigator Kevin who had lived in London for 4 months during college. These are the other couples that were with us. Matt and Carrie Koster and Nick and Kelly Miotke.
Rick Kidd joined us a couple days in. Here we are making the long hike to the top of St. Paul's Cathedral. It was soooooo cool.
On the tube again. The happy group. This was before the ER.
This is me and Kevin on the London Eye. It was cool. Rather than a seat, we were in this big bubble room that fit 20 people to go around. You could see everything from here.
The group on the eye of London wheel.
I'll write a blog about London, one about Dublin and the I will write one comparing the differences between the socialized medical system they had in London to our system here in the states. It was an interesting experience.

I've since had a ultrasound back here at Beaumont in Michigan. Nothing showed up, but it it was an ovarian cyst that burst it probably would have been absorbed before I had this test anyway. We might never know what caused it and that will drive me crazy. Where is Dr. House when you need him. I was all messed up on the pills in the hospital telling them that I bet he could figure out what was wrong with me. This was by hour 22 in the hospital.

The pain is much better now and I barely notice it.

Anyway, that's my ER in London story. Never a dull moment.

Peace and love and pills


  1. Shannon... I can attest to the fact that an ovarian cyst can hurt THAT badly! I was in RO Beaumont for 4 days on pain meds. Mine didn't burst, it just was twisted up... and it was huge, but they said it was "just" at the point where they consider surgury, but didn't want to do it as I was 10 weeks pregnant with Jillian. When I left on day 4 the pain had subscided a TON and after day 5 it was only noticible and has never hurt since. I was wondering if I'd have the same trouble this pregnancy (yup, #3 is on it's way!) but I'm 12 weeks and no trouble! Glad your feeling better!!

  2. never a dull moment, eh?

    i can relate. when i got home from paris in 2004, i was diagnosed with cancer. when i got home from london in 2006, i went into cardiac arrest. what's in the water there? haha. or, maybe i just need to go there and stay put!

    i'm glad you had fun overall though, that's so SHANNON to just pick up and get on with it. it makes for a good story, at least. not just ONE er trip either. sheesh!

    the pics brought back a lot of good memories. hope you had a really fun time.

    MIND THE GAP! :)

  3. Carina,
    Thank you for writing that and making me feel normal. Even the doc in the emergency room kept telling me I wasn't crazy for thinking it was a cyst or something in my ovaries. Actually, he was trying to convince me and I thought he was crazy. Man, the crap women have to put up with.

    Kevin kept saying "mind the gap" every time we went on and off the underground. It got a little obnoxious after the 5th day. Too funny.

  4. I just learned about your blog from Kate Burton, and I'm glad I did. Thanks for sharing your writing.

    Crowded waiting rooms, no docs on hand, and MDs who you want to slap because they blame your symptoms on exercise pains? Sounds like the U.S., well minus that small little health insurance detail.

    I would have thrown a grand style pitty party for myself were I in your shoes, but it sounds like you are a trooper extraordinare. Congrats on making it through.

    Stop by my blog some time.

    Hope you are doing well,


  5. Shannon - so happy to hear you made the best of your painful experience and even happier to hear that it was an ovarian cyst! Stay Tough!

    Peace, Love & Pills (LOL)


  6. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



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