Part 2: If You’ve Ever Wondered What it is like to be Bitten by a Shark
“Jaws” had a sequel. Why shouldn’t my shark tale? I’ll call it “ER trips 2 & 3.” Spoiler alert: If you didn’t read the first blog, the gist of it was… I got bitten by a shark. For more, read the first blog available on the Bordas & Bordas website.
My longest childhood friend, Marco, gave me the name “nature’s punching bag” when I was about 10 years old. I already had a history of mishaps by then, and I have continued to live up to the well-suited nickname. So, when I told him I had been bitten by a shark, his response was, “Of course you did!” I need better friends. But he’s correct; I need to get myself right with nature.
So, what seemed like an eternity after my initial shark encounter, I thought I was healing rather nicely. No signs of infection; I got to lay around a lot; my balloon-like foot swelling had subsided; and I finally got to take my stitches out. I say “I” because I’m kind of twisted, so I wanted to take them out myself. I must say if this practicing law thing doesn’t pan out, I’d make a pretty good nurse. They get a better reputation anyways.
But things are never just easy when it comes to your health, are they? After two weeks of the previously mentioned, relatively uneventful recovery (I did bust one stitch, collapsed a couple times, and generally didn’t sleep for a week), I landed myself back in the ER.
Nothing gets the blood pressure going like when you stand up and your foot turns a deep purple, begins to throb with every beat of your God-fearing heart, and the veins in your calf muscle noticeably begin to bulge. So, I figured “what’s another trip to the ER?” It was Saturday night, and I was bored.
7 p.m. Blood pressure 160/105: So, I was a bit freaked out as evidenced by my blood pressure. Quick tip, though: If you ever want to avoid the wait at an ER, just nonchalantly mention something ado about a shark bite. I’m 2-for-2 on getting the fast-track to a room. But that has its consequences. I was soon greeted by no fewer than five medical personnel eager to see “shark bite guy,” which had become my new nickname around those parts. My room was a virtual revolving door of fresh faces at every turn. I considered charging admission. So, while in the throes of a panic attack, I did my best to smile and indulge them in the story of my shark encounter. And once the novelty wore off and curiosity waned, they soon began to filter out to tend to all the other patients, such as the lady violently throwing up in the next room.
I was finally alone in my ice-box-of-a-room, with ne’er a blanket to be found. I did some nice, long, deep breathing, and my foot had soon returned to its normal, pasty-white color. I had managed to calm myself, knowing I was now in good hands and was in the safest place one can be if something were to go south.
7:30 p.m. Blood pressure 112/73: Feeling good! Nothing spells relief like knocking 30 or 40 points off your blood pressure in a matter of minutes. But I’m good at ruining that type of thing. It then occurred to me that while I now appeared to be fine, that all too familiar feeling set in that this was going to be like one of those trips to the auto repair shop where your car is making an indescribable noise that suddenly stops the second the mechanic fires up the engine. And then you try to explain it, and you end up doing your best to try to impersonate the sound and feel like a complete idiot in so doing. And you wonder if they even believe the car had a noise to begin with. Come on, you know what I’m talking about.
8 p.m. Blood pressure holding steady: A medical professional of some title (never quite sure whether they’re a doctor or not in the ER) finally came in to take a look under the hood. On this occasion, my foot had no problem perfectly presenting its issue. She did some grabbing and pulling and squeezing and, after describing something in medical jargon I glossed over, she gave me her impression in English.
8:15 p.m. Blood pressure 155/103: You never like to hear the word “gangrene” in any setting. Ever. Don’t panic! I don’t have that. That was, however, one of the possible end-game results of what the nurse was fairly confident I was experiencing. It’s called acute arterial occlusion, and you can lose your foot if left untreated. The test necessary to make this diagnosis is a CT with a contrast dye, which was ordered stat. From my experience watching “Grey’s Anatomy,” I thought that meant “real, quick.” However, it clearly means something different on television.
10 p.m. Blood pressure 123/82: Having been given the generous luxury of time awaiting my trip to the lab room, I had fully digested everything and managed to calm myself. In my crazed, sleep-deprived mind, I had already decided I would be content with a foot amputation and had already been picking out prosthetics. I was satisfied that as long as I lived. I was fine with whatever worst-case scenario Web-MD had to offer me.
10:10 p.m.: Blood pressure unknown but I’m guessing not so great. The lab tech entered my room to wheel me off to get my imaging. An IV was inserted into my arm (not vein) to introduce the contrast fluid. A second IV was inserted into my vein this time because the first… well, you get it. Just a hiccup. He then removed what he referred to as “the sword” sticking out of my arm.
10:30 p.m. Blood pressure rising: I had been sitting in my little panic room for over three hours by the time they relocated me to the CT lab. So, I kind-of, sort-of, really badly had to use the bathroom. But they said the test was only five minutes, so fine. What they don’t tell you about the contrast dye that courses through your veins is it gives you an uncontrollable, full body, burning sensation. And I was fully convinced I had urinated all over their very expensive device. Once I was allowed to move, having concluded the exam, I was relieved to discover I had not in fact relieved myself. I provided them some unsolicited advice about maybe considering telling patients about the peeing sensation, which they admitted they had heard before.
11:30 p.m. Blood pressure on red alert: Do you remember the scene from “Meet the Parents” where Greg Focker is anxiously awaiting the pending results of the polygraph exam his soon-to-be father in-law just conducted? That was me for the moment as radiology did its job interpreting the scan. I had done an about-face on my previous position on foot amputation and was doing a lot of praying.
Midnight: I had decided to completely remove the blood pressure cuff. But the results were finally in. The good news was, I didn’t have arterial occlusion. The bad news was, that’s what they were betting on and had to fold their hand. The “what” was apparent; blood wasn’t flowing much to the capillaries in my foot. The “why” remained a mystery. Without the “why,” they didn’t know the next step toward fixing the “what.” This was concerning to all involved, so I was scheduled to see a cardio specialist first thing Monday morning. So, it was a “that’s all folks,” see ya discharge. It was an unsettling, zero sum game. The nurse on duty was kind enough to walk me to my car and informed me that in his year working in that ER (during the peak of the pandemic mind you) that I was the single most interesting case he had seen thus far. Thanks?)
The very next day. Blood pressure not good: You know what the best part of Deep Vein Thrombosis is? That’s right, super awesome compression socks that come in, what else, but shark print. So, I was back in the ER after a doctor friend of mine pointed out that CT scans only look at your arteries. And maybe they don’t teach this in medical school, but here in the Ohio County public school system, the very crude version of the circulatory system was pounded into my head pretty much every year from third grade on. And learning the names of bones was a close second. So, there’s arteries AND veins. And if you wanted extra credit, you could include capillaries. So, there’s a separate test for veins. And back to the ER I went.
9:45 a.m.: The “specialist” happened to be in the ER, so he cancelled my appointment and evaluated me then and there. While he was convinced I presented with no evidence to suggest a blood clot, since my doctor friend had already called in the ultrasound to check the veins for clotting, the doctor begrudgingly acquiesced to my request, and told me he’d call “to see if they were around.” What a guy.
11:00 a.m.: Shaky and sleep deprived, I was swiftly wheelchaired through the labyrinth of hospital corridors until I reached my knight in shiny armor, the lady with the magical goo wand. She waved her wand down my shark-bitten ankle and well, you know, there was the culprit, a nice juicy deep vein thrombosis (blood clot). Relieved to have found the source of my woes would soon be addressed, I breathed a sigh of relief.
And then I was informed a needle full of blood thinner was about to be stuck straight into my stomach. Ouch. Bittersweet relief ensued.
The result of my MRI finally came in, too. It seems the shark is really trying to finish off the job. My Achilles’ tendon is mostly torn and, pending a visit to the orthopedic surgeon, my condition indicates a surgery is imminent. I’m also back on antibiotics because my wound is now infected. My spirits remain high, and I’ll get patched up soon enough. I have life and limb intact, so I’m happy enough. Everyone has been so wonderful to help and give prayers, and I truly cannot thank everyone enough. This is just one of life’s little moments that will soon pass.
-Fin. “Jaws” had a sequel. Today, Jeff Parsons shares part two of his shark bite story.