Monday, September 16, 2019
I got to Northern Light Walk-In Care at 7:40 and registered at 7:45. I wanted a Lyme’s Disease test since I had been having some weird symptoms over the last two and a half months. My friend, Pam, had recommended this clinic, so I felt confident it was a good place, and if anyone knows Lyme’s Disease, Maine should.
Deb checked me in, weighed me, took my blood pressure and said Rebecca would be in shortly. Soon Rebecca came in and introduced herself. She is a lovely, young lady with a beautiful smile. A physician’s assistant, she asked why I was here and what the symptoms were. Then she listened to my heart and breathing and asked some more questions. How do you feel? Fine. Anyone in your family have autoimmune problems? Huh? Yes, mother had Lupus. Then a bunch more questions, seemingly unrelated to Lyme’s.
Then she asked if she could take an EKG. OK. “Then I will show you a bunch of Lyme’s rashes on the computer.” Deb came back in and did the EKG. She had been off last week, and they spent it in Bar Harbor. She looked at the results and took them to Rebecca, who returned in a few minutes. Showing me the chart, she said, “You are in Atrial Fibrulation”, describing the appearance. “I know you came for a Lyme test, but this is more important. I want you to go to the emergency room.” OK.
After some discussion about taking an ambulance, I thanked her for her very thorough exam and history and asked if she could do the Lyme test before I go. “They can do it at the ER.” Looking at me with a wrinkled brow, she escorted me to the door with address and directions to Northern Light Hospital, 11 minutes away. She had called ahead, so they knew I was coming.
I guess I could have had a massive stroke on the way, and it didn’t help that Google Maps wasn’t talking to me, or that it was rush hour. I parked in the emergency room parking lot and walked in. They took me right in and hooked me up to an EKG. Technology! It said A-fib right on the screen. I texted Martha that I was in the ER and what I was there for.
Dr. Melia came in, took a quick history. “So you came in because of chest pain?” “No, I went to Walk-In for a Lyme’s test.” He ordered a chest x-ray, and a nice lady came to get me. Starting to walk down the hall, Dr. Melia said, “He shouldn’t be walking.” Geez! I never did find out if anything showed up on the x-rays.
A pretty, young nurse, Paige, came in and started asking a bunch of questions when a physician’s assistant came in, introduced himself and started asking questions. “Do you have a cough? How long have you been feeling lethargic?” “I don’t feel lethargic. I came in for a Lyme test.” Then he left, apparently in the wrong room. The ER was very busy this morning. Paige said she liked it this way. “Makes the day go faster.” She usually works three 12-hour shifts, but was on the “Princess Shift” to day, an 8-hour day. I asked if she was a runner, as she looked athletic and had on running shoes. She said no, but gets up at 4:30 every morning, goes to the gym and does sprints and lifts weights.
A lady came in and put an IV drip in my right arm, and another drew blood from the other arm. I asked what they were going to run. Blood studies and I think it was troponin to see if I was having a heart attack. And a Lyme test – good:}
Paige came in every 15 minutes to check the vitals and gave me a dose of Cardizem. The doctor came in quickly and said they would keep me overnight, but it would take a while to get a room. Once admitted, they would run an echocardiogram, and cardiologists would decide if I should be shocked back into proper rhythm. Great.
Martha came in, of course distressed. After signing up for another night at the campground, she had Uber’d to the hospital. “Couldn’t we just go home and do this? What’s the hospital rated?” Looking on my phone, I said “2.5”. I had decided not to get checked in St. John’s, Newfoundland because they were rated 2.5, and Lyme’s doesn’t happen there much. “What is UVA rated?” she asked. “2.5”, I found. Looking at the monitor, she said, “You are still in A-fib.” I couldn’t see, as it was behind me. We sat and waited for an hour or more. While watching the monitor Martha said the A-Fib indicator had gone away. Paige came in and confirmed I was no longer in A-fib and she did a great job of explaining in simple terms what A-fib is. After a while Martha went back to camp. She would do some grocery shopping (we had tossed all the vegetables and fruits when we crossed the border), and surely she would relax better there.
Long waits. The first heart attack test came back negative, so they took another sample. About 2:00 a physician’s assistant, David, came in, asked some questions. He was the first to ask if I had cancer. Then he said the Lyme’s was positive, which I thought was very good news, explaining some of these weird symptoms. Then he said the medication had reversed the A-fib, also good news. He said if the second troponin test was negative, they could release me, and I could have the echocardiogram done at home. They could also keep me and do it here, but it would be tomorrow as they had quite a few heart attack patients today. Sounds great. I opted to go home.
By 3:00, Dr. Melia came back in to give me some instructions. He was retired Navy and was last stationed in Norfolk. Another doctor came in to tell me all about Lyme’s Disease. The positive test didn’t mean I had Lyme’s disease. If it had been negative, it would mean I didn’t have it. But he said I have all the right symptoms of a bite, a rash and wandering pains. Apparently, many people don’t know they have been bitten and don’t have a rash. It is a tiny tick and it takes a few days to transfer the bacteria that causes all the trouble. Once the tick has fed, it drops off, never to be seen again. All this makes diagnosis difficult unless you find the tick and have the classic target rash.
Dr. Melia wrote two prescriptions for me, Cardiazem and two weeks of Doxycycline. Paige unhooked me and gave me all the paperwork to take to my doctor. I got dressed, texted Martha, and headed for the pharmacy.
Waiting for the prescription to be filled, I reflected on this 2.5-rated hospital. This morning I had been to their walk-in clinic where I saw two outstanding people, Deb and Rebecca. At some other location, I might have just gotten what I asked for, a Lyme test. You won’t find a better person or physician’s assistant than Rebecca Rider. At the ER, they took me right in. I saw an excellent nurse, a Lyme’s doctor, an excellent ER doctor and two physician’s assistants. Not usually doing Lyme’s in the ER, they had done mine. I don’t know how many rooms they have, but I know they had people with a lot more serious problems. I give them top ratings.