I wandered last month, conversations about loneliness. No doubt, I have more, but not this month. I thought I’d try doing something I haven’t done in the past, in my blogging at least: blogging on a theme. So this month, November 2023, I’m going to rant and wander and complain and bitch and explain and explore the worst of my medical experiences.
I’m going to start tonight with my years in Eugene. For those that don’t know, Eugene is a fairly large city in Oregon that is home to hippies that might make you believe you’ve been transported into the 1960’s. It’s a University town that’s home to the property that once housed the Animal House fraternity and seems to be a mix of modern and old, left leaning tree huggers and skateboard hating conservatives. It is also the home of the highest pollen content in the world, due to its unique location at the south end of the Willamette Valley.
I have hay fever. I mean, I really have bad, bad hay fever, especially as a kid. I lived on a farm and on the weekends one of my chores was mowing the lawn—and as you can imagine, living five miles from town in a one story late 60’s ranch house, we had plenty of lawn. Needless to say, this would set me off. Runny noses. Red eyes. Itchy arms and legs. That was just “normal”. I learned from my dad to always have a handkerchief in my pocket, a necessary habit I have to this day. And it wasn’t just the lawn, we had slightly over three acres of alf alfa fields so every other day, just after school, my brother and I were forced child labor, helping dad move the (water) pipes. Needless to say, I learned fairly early on not to wear shorts, no matter how hot it was out, as the grass and other growing plants would make my legs red and uncomfortable, often for days afterwards.
So when I moved into a small, barely holding together, house in Eugene, one where the old 50’s windows shook like they were going to jump out of their frames during thunder storms, where plants were literally growing through bedroom walls, where the smell of mold was ever present, it wasn’t terribly surprising that I spent much of my time “stoned” into mind numbing fatigue by one antihistamine pill after another in an attempt to keep my nose from becoming Niagara Falls. Despite all my best efforts, every four to five months I’d end up in the ER, sinuses exploding in pain and blood, a new sinus infection threatening to rip my brain to pieces. And, without fail, the attending would look up my nose, say, “Holy fucking shit,” and within an hour I’d be on antibiotics. Within another hour the nose bleeds would go away, within a few more the headaches, and a day or two later I’d be back to normal, trying to discreetly blow my nose like an elephant into my white handkerchiefs.
Tangent: For all those privileged as fuck assholes that ask (in a not so unjudemental way), “Well, why didn’t you just move into a house without all those issues?”): try being suicidially depressed, (undiagnosed) autistic, having severe immunological issues, and surviving solely off the compassion and love of others who themselves, barely have a dollar to spare. Yeah, asshole (and I’m specifically taking to assholes that think like this), I was lucky not to be on the street.
So after many years of “being tough” my parents, who I was back in touch with after several years of separation (another story for another themed month), said enough was enough, and I needed to see an allergist. They’d gotten me back on their medical insurance and found the best allergist in Eugene, apparently one of the best in Oregon.
And now I’m going to tell two stories. Both are stories riffing on a theme you’re going to hear a lot about over the coming month: mother fucking doctors who don’t fucking listen (sounds like the name of a terrible punk band, doesn’t it?).
For those of you who haven’t gone into an allergist, let me explain the initial process. You fill out the paperwork (duh). Then they have you lay down on a table with your shirt off. The nurse takes a ball point pen and draws some x’s on your back then poke each a tiny bit with a needle not unlike a simple sewing needle. In each tiny pick they’d made in your skin they put a tiny drop of an allergen. Examples are cat, dog, grass, shell fish, etc. The idea is that your skin will react a little to one you’re slightly allergic to, a lot to something you’re really allergic to, and nothing to something you’re not allergic to. My test, however, didn’t work. And I told them that. I’d said, “I had this test when I was in the second grade. My skin is impervious to this test. You’re just going to have to skip it and go to the real one.” By this I meant, instead of skin pricks they’d have to go straight to injecting me with a real needle in my arms, a process which sucks as it means 21+ tiny shots, but it beats the bullshit of beating around the bush. Anyway, long story short, they didn’t listen to me, they wasted an hour or my time, and afterwards, the nurse said, “Oh, I guess you were right.”
Side note: My last time at an allergist was about 15 years ago here in Portland. Same story. They got ready to do the pricks. I said those won’t work on me. They did them anyway. They didn’t work. So an hour was wasted and they had to do the 21+ shots.
It was happening again. Thick, gooey blood coming out of my nose, sometimes my snot looking like some bad meat found dripping down the back of a refrigerator (horror stories with old roommates, coming to you another month). I didn’t wait until a weekend this time, when only the ER was available to me, but decided I’d go in to my allergist. What did she do? Well, first of all, she barely glanced up my nose. And then she ignored not just me, but my past medical records. “I’m going to get an x-ray first?” Are you shitting me? Yeah. So I’m in pain for hours more, get the x-ray, wait around for hours, and finally she orders the antibiotics. No apology. No, “Oh, I’m sorry, you know your body, you’ve been through this twenty times before, maybe you know what’s going on with it,” nothing like that. Nope, from that day forward any time I got a sinus infection I’d go in, get hours of push back, and wouldn’t have any relieve until the end of the day.
But hey, on the bright side, this was the nineties, at least I had a diagnosis and a prescription the same day I want in, and the day I went in was the day I made the phone call. That does not happen anymore. Tune in to hear me bitch about that later this month on “November and why other first world countries should not copy America’s ‘health care’ system.”
Before I sign here’s my last story under that cunt. I’d filled out my paperwork. I’d gone through the useless pricking and the semi-painful 21+ shots. Finally, I’d gone through the gauntlet and got to meet one of the most respected allergist in all of Oregon…and I observed, “You haven’t tested me for any food allergies,” and she looked down on me like some kind of simpleton and responded with authority:
“There’s no such thing as a food allergy.”
I’d end it with that, but there are a few things I wanted to add, beyond her ignorance. First—and I was afraid to say this to her because of my fear of authority figures at the time and my autism—but I wanted to say because of my autism: “Why can’t you be allergic to food? I’m allergic to grass. Grass is made of molecules. They’re traveling through the air and go to nose and mouth and I have a reaction. Why can’t I be allergic to food? It’s also made of molecules. And it also goes into my mouth and nose—but in much larger quantities!” Yeah, the asshole part of me wanted to walk out, come back with a can of pineapple juice, and show her exactly what would happen if I drank it. Fortunately, back then it’d just mean my tongue and throat would get a bit swollen, and my other allergies would act up more of the next several days. Now? I won’t even touch pineapple for fear it might result in an immunological event that would result in an ER visit (or worse).
Doctor’s who won’t listen, story at 10!