First, read this.
After I got the news about my adrenal mass, time seemed to both slow down and speed up.
Cedric had paged Surgery for a consult, he told me before leaving the hospital at 8pm, the end of his shift. I had arrived at the ER around 4:30pm and up until this point, I had been given a steady amount of attention and was rarely left alone for long.
But then I was left waiting, and waiting, and waiting. Drunk Bill Cosby alternately bellowed and snored. Nurses and doctors would move my gurney out of the way so they could access one of the computer terminals. A nurse noticed me quietly crying and gave me tissues. Tiny, thin, papery, terrible hospital tissues.
When she asked about my tears, I told her about the 14+ centimeter mass in my belly and the sad year my mother and I had just lived through. How could I put my mother through more pain, I wondered? I told the nurse that I was worried about whether or not I would need to have surgery immediately. I asked myself if I should wait to tell my mother anything beyond the fact that I was at the ER. After all, it was now after 9 pm and Mom was a two hour drive away in Pennsylvania.
The nurse, while sympathetic, had work to do and she soon left me on my own.
Hours passed and no surgeons came to talk to me. Crying wasn’t helping so I did what I often do: I turned to humor. I spoke to anyone who made eye contact with me (other than Bill Cosby, I mean).
“Shouldn’t the surgeons be dying to talk about my tumor? It’s HUGE!” I asked a nurse in mock outrage while actually wondering why no doctors were rushing to talk to me. Didn’t they want to take ownership of my case? Wasn’t I more interesting than the old, old woman with pneumonia?
I joked that my other mass needed company. Two masses for the price of one!
I was finally released from the hospital around 12:30 am. A surgical resident and her attending had come by around 11:30 to explain that my surgery wasn’t “emergent” and that further testing would be needed before it would even be scheduled. While their concern with my condition was evident, I didn’t get the sense that they were all that impressed with my massive mass and it left me feeling a bit annoyed. But at least I got to go home–once they took more blood and a second urine sample. Good times.
Before I could leave, I had to change clothes in the nearest restroom which, despite the best efforts of the hospital’s custodial staff, was persistently disgusting thanks to the parade of drunk homeless men and elderly people with poor vision and even worse aim. After hours of lying in the black skirt I had worn to work with a hospital gown on top, I wasn’t about to get picky. I was excited to go home and requested an Uber to Brooklyn.
When Friday morning rolled round, I called the office of the surgeon listed on my ER discharge papers. While the doctor was about to be out of the office for three weeks (how nice for him), he would be able to squeeze me in that afternoon. I got lucky–at least as lucky as someone in my situation can get.