Sep 30, 2008

My Wacky Medical Adventure - Part 3

In the grand scheme of things, I’m not sure that it mattered that I wasn’t tested for strep. I’m not allergic to penicillin, thank god, so the only averse effects of my prognosis were mild side effects like nausea. No big deal. In hindsight, I’m not even sure that the doctor would have done anything for me had I been tested and pronounced negative. Really, it seemed like my body needed time to degrade before anything could have really been done. Later on, a second doctor would inform me that yeah, I probably did have strep, but it was just masked by what developed next.

I read that, once diagnosed, strep throat can be cleared up in twenty-four to forty-eight hours with medication. Sometimes it’s not just the medication that eases pain, but the knowledge that someone figured out what was going on and that it would all be fine in a short while. I held fast to this little bit of information over the next thirty-six hours or so while my body did everything it could to convince me that no, I wasn’t going to be all right.

Fever dreams are interesting. Every single one I’ve had seemed to be a manifestation of the agony I was going through, even while sleeping. Flashes of my bones melting and reforming, inching closer and closer to punching through my skin from he inside ebb and warp in mingled variances. My creaking flesh twists and splinters while, in the corporeal, I am soaked in ever cooling sweat. They go on continuously, seemingly for far longer than I ever sleep. When I finally break from my restless sleep to dim morning light, I am exhausted but relieved; a child tormented by night terrors forcing his eyelids agape.

Imagine, if you will, a full night of fever dreams. Then imagine, the next day, between the restless sleep of the night before and the plaguing illness, you are unable to stay awake for more than a half-hour before submitting again to the fever-sleep. This was my Saturday. I propped myself up in bed and watched TV while Kali worked away on the computer (and did well to make sure I didn’t pass out and die). I set a pillow immediately next to me and alternated between equal minutes of delirious consciousness and terrifying fever dreams. Although I continued taking my medication, the looming threat of a second misdiagnosis crept closer to the forefront of my mind as the hours ticked by and my condition exacerbated. Saturday may have been the longest day of my life.

As midnight neared, I realized that I was going to have to return to the hospital at some point. My fever waxed and waned throughout the day, but the evening brought on the sickening menace of a second extended bout of fever swept sleep. This was an intolerable thought. Thankfully, my roommate and my girlfriend were able to escort me to the hospital as Saturday drew to a close.

Although the ER was packed as always, my advanced condition alleviated my wait to some degree. After registration, there is a small room where a nurse records your symptoms and does minor diagnostic tests including checking temperature. In my previous visit, I was in between what I thought was a fever, and my temperature barely registered above normal, dulling my priority among the waiting throng. I was concerned that this time would be no different, as it seemed as though my fever has subsided for the time being. When the thermometer was finally withdrawn after an inordinately long respite under my tongue, the digits “103.3” glared malevolently on the blue LCD. I would not be waiting any longer, and unbeknownst to me at the time, I would not be going home any time soon.

I apologize for the brevity of these posts, and how many I am forced to write to log the whole ordeal. I originally intended for this to be in two parts, then four. It looks like it may hit five in the end. Perhaps six. Thank you for your patience and your concern in what has been a terrifying time in my life.

Sep 28, 2008

My Wacky Medical Adventure - Part 2

My anger fully peaked by the outrageous incompetence displayed at the Mount Royal Clinic, I decided two things: first, I was going to the hospital if I felt even a tiny iota worse the next day, and second, I was going to get some goddamn jell-o.

The jell-o was an integral part of my recovery plan that, along with hot tea and Gatorade, was an attempt to convince my body that, hey, I’m not such a bad guy. I figured if I was super nice to my throat, it would respond in kind and perhaps, just this once, heal itself without much pain. By the time the evening rolled around, I knew this was clearly not going to happen. I made my decision early to high tail it over to the hospital the following day. If all went well, I would be diagnosed with tonsillitis, I’d get my prescriptions, and I’d be ready to go to class that day.

One thing that I know about the Maryland General Hospital Emergency Room is that it’s always, always full and unless you have a damn good reason, you’re going to be waiting a good long time. The thing about sore throats is that you really need someone to take a look at it to know the extent of the damage, so simply talking to the receptionist and trying to relate how awful it is didn’t really accelerate my visit. It seemed quite strange to have people waiting in the Emergency Room for several hours, but there I was. It was just over two hours of exasperated Pokemon battling before I was actually called in to a different room. A different room where I waited for another half hour.

The doctor I saw, like the man from the clinic, seemed to sympathize well enough. He nodded when I diagnosed myself with strep or with tonsillitis, and scoffed along with me at the folks from Mount Royal. At that point, my throat had closed far enough that my voice had lowered substantially and my words were slurred together. A quick glance at my hulking, spotted tonsils (which at this point had yet to fuse together to end the world) led him to release a low whistle and an informal diagnosis of “Whew boy, you’ve sure got strep.” He swabbed my throat, but started before sealing the sample for testing.

“You know what? I’m just going to treat you. This’d take another forty-five minutes or so, but I’m sure you’ve got strep. That ok?”

In a moment of blindness, I accepted. At that point, I absolutely knew that the Mount Royal Clinic had misgiagnosed me and that this man, who listened to me and who worked in an honest-to-goodness hospital, surely knew strep when he saw it. He prescribed penicillin and I took it greedily. In these early stages of my illness, my throat was lenient enough to allow passage to medication and water, two things that they would spurn later on.

The literature that accompanied my prognosis claimed boldly that most patients suffering from streptococcal bacteria (that’s me!) generally feel better within two days once medicated. I took this timeline cheerily, but a lingering doubt festered in the back of my mind. I had been misdiagnosed once before…

Sep 26, 2008

My Wacky Medical Adventure - Part 1

Some of you may remember that in late April of this past spring, I came down with a really monstrous case of tonsillitis. You may remember that, for awhile, I didn’t know what it was and had to simply while away my days until it became bad enough where I was forced to go to the emergency room. That all started with the doctors at the Mount Royal Medical Clinic telling me that I had a virus and that there was nothing they could do. I waited for a couple of hours in their offices just to get a blithe dismissal and a note to miss class that day. When I did get around to dragging myself to the emergency room (in the pouring rain, no less), the doctors at the Maryland General Hospital were bewildered that I had waited as long as I did before getting checked out again.

This is a necessary preface to my most recent medical adventure, as both of these stories begin in essentially the same way: misdiagnosis.

An escalating sore throat is always a troubling sign for me. Like most people, I have gotten to the point where I can generally tell when I’m getting sick, and recently I’ve been able to tell fairly correctly how sick I am going to get. Last Wednesday, the seventeenth of September, I realized that a sore throat I was nursing was slowly getting worse. More troubling still, my tonsils were swelling. Remembering what happened last April, I decided to catch this illness early. Despite my previous run-in with incompetence at the Mount Royal Clinic, I was sure that with my previous illness documented, I would be taken a bit more seriously.

So, on Thursday morning, I endeavored to see a doctor at the clinic. Things started off well enough: they already had my insurance in order, I’d remembered to bring my DS to play, and I got in pretty quickly. Things seemed pretty shiny. I met the first doctor, who seemed receptive enough to my symptoms. He sympathized well enough and took note of the distinctive yellow-white spots on my left tonsil, in addition to their ponderous size. A rapid Strep test yielded the first bit of bad news: negative. A proper diagnosis of the streptococcal bacteria would mean I’d be on antibiotics within the hour and feeling better by the weekend. Both the doctor and I expressed out skepticism at the diagnosis and our confusion towards my tonsillar markings. Another doctor was called in for a second opinion.

This doctor stood very close to me and never once dropped the condescending smile plastered across her face. The “second opinion” I was hoping for had no medical foundation attached to it. She simply entered the room to make sure I knew that they weren’t going to help me. In addition to assuring me that my illness was due to a virus they could or would not treat, she made sure to tell me that, yeah, that last time I had tonsillitis and took antibiotics to get better? That wasn’t right. Despite the fact that I was diagnosed with tonsillitis and then took antibiotics to treat tonsillitis, which went ahead and cured my tonsillitis, the nurse was adamant to make sure I knew that I actually didn’t have tonsillitis. I had a virus, which could not or should not have been treated with antibiotics. According to her, the curative aspect of the antibiotics was entirely in my head. This is not an exaggeration in any sense.

I left the clinic blind with fury. I was already determined that I was going to head to the hospital the next day and get a real second opinion if it killed me.

Sep 3, 2008



I don't really mean that.

I finally got a new computer, which is nice. It means I can work on large files without worrying that it's going to freeze and I'll lose all of my unsaved work. Really not fun.

Anyway, school's started up this week, so I'll have a steady stream of work to post in the coming months, both from my thesis (more on that next week) and from my Illustrated Book class (more on that later in this post), and from external projects (more on that right now).

I was asked to submit something to Image's Popgun Anthology, and I jumped at the chance. I jumped a little too far, though, and I've since had to scale back my original idea, which I will finish at some point.

My first story that I came up with is called The Magnificent Zhao. I roughed out mostly the whole thing, and it ended up being around ten pages of drawings with a light sprinkling of text. The script isn't really anything concrete, so I won't bother posting it. It's really a lot of sighing and then a bit about some other stuff and then a declaration. Here's the first page. I intend(ed?) to add some very light color in either digitally or with some washes of paint (after the thing is totally sealed).
It's done in Charcoal, watercolor, and graphite and is about fifteen inches high. Here's some more stuff from the same project. This is a little sketch I did in my watercolor notebook which, I think, kick-started the idea in my head, though the final story has nothing to do with any of this.
Here's the original rough character designs for Zhao (lil bro) and his unnamed death (big bro). There's younger Zhao towards the bottom.
After I decided to table TMZ for the time being, I went ahead and did what any sensible person would do. Wrote a funny little story with no outline and no forethought and decided that was just about what I wanted to do. After that, I guess I realized that comics have pictures and decided that I ought to fomulate some characters. Unfortunately the top of the page was cut off, which detailed my splendid little names for what characters I needed (guy one, guy two, guy three, king, werewolf). Here's some faces, none of which really work for me.
Something started to work on that second page, but it's not entirely figured out.

There's an upcoming show at the Read Street Tattoo parlor here that's monster related, so I've been thinking of things for that. I wanted to draw something upside down, so I drew this vampire. He's pretty silly. I'm getting pretty comfortable sketching right into photoshop. It's like painting, but without all of the mess or necessary technical skill.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm taking Illustrated Book with Alan Comport this semester, which is a neat little gem of a class where we spend the entire semester working on imagery for a single piece of text. I'm not 100% certain, but I think I'm going to be doing Shadows Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft, which is a nice little story about people marrying fish-frog monsters and their misadventures. Here's a little fish-frog doodle, again done in CS3.

I have my thesis presentation tomorrow morning where I have to talk about what I'm going to be doing for the whole semester before I decide to stop everything and scribble monsters in my notebook. I'll post the whole of my thesis essay next week, and maybe my sketches for week one.

Thanks for commenting, guys. I always love to hear what people are thinking and to see that people still come to this drafty old mine even throughout my absence. Way to pull through, champs.