**This post is going to contain content that involves blood. It may not be suitable for all readers. Proceed with caution.**
You are probably wondering how a nosebleed can tie into Monday’s Mental Health Moment. At this exact moment, I’m kind of wondering how I am going to pull this one off, as well. Considering nosebleeds have been my theme for the last three mornings, it’s proving to be a challenge coming up with anything else.
I get nosebleeds quite often during the winter months, so this is nothing new to me. It is always the right nostril. Sometimes they are done and over in five minutes, like the ones I had Saturday and Sunday morning. And sometimes they are not over in five minutes. Like the one today.
I got out of the shower at 6:00 and knew it was coming because I could taste blood running down the back of my throat. Then, BAM! A gush of blood. Nothing I am not used to. And then the clots started coming and that I am not used to.
By 6:30, I still wasn’t dressed and was slumped over the sink trying to find a happy place. I stuffed my sniffer full of tissue and squeezed for dear life while I called work to tell them I was running late. Miraculously, it stopped bleeding long enough for me to brush my teeth and put some clothes on.
I can tell you that half-hour of switching out tissues was spent praying I didn’t pass out because someone would have to find me naked. Putting my clothing on was a bigger relief than actually seeing the blood stop draining from my face.
As I was driving to work, I realized I forgot deodorant. Since they knew I was going to be late, I quick ran into the grocery store from some pit perfume, more Kleenex, and of course, a cup of coffee. Much to my surprise, I still managed to punch in two minutes early.
When the bleeding started up again, I went into the bathroom and more clots found their way out. One of the perks of being surrounded by medical professionals is they are quick to assist. They advised me to go on a field trip to Emergency Services, so I took a hike through the building with my wad of bloody tissue pressed into my face.
It’s not the first time I’ve walked around Gundersen like this. This happened on Valentine’s Day of 2013 (click to read about it).
I checked in and sat down in the waiting room. One of the nurses brought me a little plastic nasal clamp and told me she’d be right with me. So, there I sat with blood pooling up above where the clamp was pinching my nostrils together. As the pressure was mounting, I was trying not to picture my eyeballs bursting out of my head. As you know, the more you try not to think about something, the more you dwell on it. By the time my name was finally called, I was picturing myself being swept away in a rushing stream of blood without eyeballs.
Exam Room #10 was waiting for me on the other side of the double doors and I knew that one of two things would happen. I was either going to have my nose packed with gauze and be sent on my way, or I was going to experience a cauterization for the first time in my life.
The Physician’s Assistant came in and took a look up the schnoz. He asked me about the frequency of the nosebleeds, my Ibuprofen use, and then asked, “Have you been using cocaine?” When I replied that I have not, his response was, “Well, you will today.” I laughed awkwardly because I had a clamp squeezing my nose shut and was not entirely up for jokes.
The PA told me not to remove the clamp before he left. I stayed in the chair looking at things on Pinterest to distract myself. Then, I felt a sneeze coming on. Against doctor’s orders, I removed the clamp so I could sneeze without shooting the clamp across the room. And, the nostril was still bleeding.
The clamp went back on. In the meantime, Pinterest kept me focused on photography tips and funny GIFs in an attempt to not think about the process of burning blood vessels, which my nasal cavity was about to undergo.
When the PA came back in, he set down a little box on the counter and a flat gauze pad attached to a string. My eyes were wandering around trying not to look at the silver shiny tools, but they couldn’t help but fixate on the shiny silver tools. Then, I noticed the white box as he pulled a brown jar of liquid out of it. The box was clearly labeled “Cocaine” and realized this was not a joke.
You learn something new everyday. Today, I learned that Cocaine Hydrochloride is used for medical purposes to temporarily numb the mouth, nose, or throat. He soaked the flat piece of gauze in the cocaine and started sliding it into my nostril.
Anything I had just looked at on Pinterest was now the furthest thing from my mind. Instead, I was wondering if I’d be able to pass a random drug test. That thought disappeared as I realized the gauze was going so far back in my nostril that it was close to high-fiving my pancreas. I had a death-grip on the armrest of the chair until he was finally satisfied with the placement.
The PA, once again, informed me that this would have to stay put for a few minutes and he left. It felt like an hour, but was probably more like five minutes of trying not to take the dang clamp off my face. I tried Pinterest. Tried cleaning out my e-mail. Tried Facebook. Then thought, Melissa! It’s your ER tradition to take a selfie. And I did. A possible Christmas card picture, I’d say.
That’s when the PA came back in and introduced me to silver nitrate sticks. As he started looking back up my nose, he looked puzzled. “Hm. The cocaine worked so well I can’t find the bleed.” I had many thoughts, but no comment.
When the magical silver stick went up my nose, I never felt a thing. When he used the second stick, I still felt nothing. Countless YouTube videos on cauterization freaked me out enough to put up with nosebleeds and avoid this procedure, but it was a piece of cake.
The PA told me not to sneeze or blow my nose for 3 to 4 days and said the nurse would be back in to go over my discharge information. As soon as he stepped out, I felt something trickle in my nose.
And then, I felt the burn.
The silver nitrate shifted to an area that had been left untouched by the cocaine. It was an intense holy-man-someone-has-a-match-lit-inside-my-nostril burn that made me want to call the fire department. But, I didn’t. The surrounding area of my nostril was charred and there was no way of wiping it off.
I signed my walking papers and did what anyone does after leaving the ER – I returned to work and finished out my twelve-hour shift.
So, 1,179 words into this blog post, what in the world does this have to do with Mental Health Monday? Well, I’m still trying to figure that out. Here are a few thoughts:
I can never again say I have never ever tried cocaine and I feel completely ruined because of it. Even if it was for medicinal purposes while in a hospital setting.
Distraction skills really do come in handy sometimes. Pinterest worked like a charm for me today.
When you’re in the ER waiting, it helps to know that you’re not alone and there are people out there who have it worse. I’m pretty sure that I was someone’s “at least I’m not that girl” today.