The First Emesis

The Doctor, by Sir Luke Fildes (1891)
Image via Wikipedia

There are those special moments in every relationship — the first glance, the first shared laugh, the first kiss.

And then…

The sweetie, who is normally very healthy, has been passing the broken-up bits of a kidney stone, which, sadly, involved a day and night of intense and frequent vomiting. (He’s back to work today, finally, and seems fine.)

In all our years together, I’d never seen him clutching the toilet bowl and weeping in pain and exhaustion, and it was a hell of a shock. (He saw me on my knees, in of all places, a small hotel room in Bayeux, the victim of food poisoning from a chicken lunch.)

There I was, standing in the hallway with the doctor on the phone, waiting for him to stop vomiting long enough to come and describe his symptoms.

It’s awful when your sweetie is sick and you can’t do much of anything to help them beyond running to the pharmacy, driving them to and from doctors’ appointments and, worst case, the hospital. (I know we are very lucky this is nothing more serious.)

And when someone I love is ill or in pain, confused or worried, I’m a total mama grizzly, snarling at everyone (so attractive) in my worry and concern. I want action, stat! The pharmacist took too long to reach the doctor and Jose was home writing in pain. Not an option! (I later apologized and she was understanding.)

I’ve had too many years, starting when I was 12, worrying about someone ill who relied on me to advocate for them; my mother has been in and out of hospitals for decades for a variety of issues. I’m her only child and she’s never taken great care of herself, nor has she ever fought for the best care possible. And, sometimes, you do have to fight!

A former medical reporter with an MD ex-husband, I never mistake doctors for Gods. I know they can be brusque, rude and condescending — and warm, wise and compassionate.

God help anyone near me who is the former, and I’ve seen plenty of it. It hasn’t left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling for anyone in a white coat with a clipboard.

How do you handle yourself, or medical staff, when your loved ones are ill?

14 thoughts on “The First Emesis

  1. So sorry about your sweetie. I’ve been with nieces, the hubby, and my mom when kidney stones attack. It’s horrible to see a grown man writhing in pain on his knees.

    I’m not good at hospitals at all. Very grateful that there are others who are.

  2. It is horrible to see someone you love in pain and not be able to personally help them somehow. I really hope he’s better now!
    I’ve never had to deal much with doctors or hospitals in my life, I’ve been lucky like that. When I was 3 I drank some contaminated water and was driven in under severe conditions, but I luckily have no recollection of this event, and at 9 I had double-sided pneumonia but my wishy-washy parents decided to take care of that with some yoghurt. *sigh* I did also see my older brother collapse because of a nut -allergy and he was taken in an ambulance, I was very scared but thankfully they took swift and efficient action and all ended well.
    All in all I am very glad I have never had to take someone to the hospital. I do not think I would do well under the stress because I hate just sitting to the side and being helpless in a situation like that.

    1. He’s doing much better — thanks! — we just ate out and it was good to see him have an appetite once again. One is not totally helpless, as I was able to comfort him…That was something, at least.

  3. Deborah the Closet Monster

    I’m sorry. That’s a horrible feeling on both ends.

    My most significant experience with medical staff caring for a loved one was with the hospice workers who cared for my mom in her last weeks. They were lovely, so there was little call for anything other than loveliness in return.

    My son has only had brief bouts with illness so far, and he’s been treated with great care and attention thus far. There’s been no chance to go Mama Bear there, either.

    I’m not so naive as to think it’ll always be this way. It’s my hope I’ll be able to manage any situation as gracefully as required–a standard which affords much needed flexibility, given the subject! As the eldest child in rough circumstances, there are days where I’d relish an opportunity to share another piece of mind about how someone is or is not appropriately treating a loved one.

  4. I have to say I developed a really bad (i.e. aggressive) attitude after what I saw with my mother’s recent 3.5 months in the hospital and two major surgeries…some of her care was excellent but some was very poor. And Canadian doctors, I was told (!) “don’t return phone calls.” And I saw this. I was appalled. I do find American doctors more responsive, if only for fear of being sued.

    1. I certainly don’t dislike or disrespect doctors — having spent seven years of my life with a man who is an MD, who I met at the end of med school and saw through to his early years as a psychiatrist. I lived firsthand what you/they go through in training, residency and practice: on-call, crazy patients, patients who commit suicide…

      I hear plenty from my ob-gyn, who I like tremendously, about how hard it has become, esp. for solo practitioners. I also can’t quite fathom the emotional skill set it takes to deal with so many different kinds of patients.

      The problem is that, when a physician is cold, rude or, worst, incompetent, we are utterly vulnerable. The power imbalance is very frightening to some people.

  5. Thank you for the courtesy and objectivity of your reply. It’s not just your comments, or you, it’s our society that has become cynical and even disrespectful of all people in professions that were once held in high regard: medicine, politics, teaching, professional sports. We live in a “Real World” fishbowl, where consumers of media live vicariously through their televisions, and through this experience feel they are qualified in judging those of us in the public eye. Where once we were accorded respect for our training, experience, and responsibilty, we are now targets for drive-by, casual blog criticism. It’s sad really, because our voyeuristic society has created a society in America without icons, without heroes, and without respect. It’s easy to criticize. It’s even fun.

    Having said that, I agree that physicians should conduct themselves with a degree of decorum, humanity even. But be aware of what you ask: that physicians should remain empathetic and warm despite an environment of skepticism, absent of faith. You want us to be warm and engaging, never cold or rude, as that behavior seems reserved for those we serve.

    1. I will never defend crappy behavior on the part of patients. I suspect — and I have been guilty of this — patients can behave badly when they feel scared, in pain or confused, all highly likely when you see a doctor! (Basic rudeness is a separate issue for me.) It’s stressful, but it’s a fact of life.

      While I’m sure it’s annoying to be disrespected as a profession — and with all due respect to many years work and training which lead you to expect that in return — try being a journalist. People hate us, scorn us, deride us and laugh at us. And many of us deserve it! But those who don’t get treated like garbage anyway. We are viewed — and blogged about– with casual contempt. I laugh it off because those who do have a limited to non-existent understanding of my business.

  6. Oddly enough, I like and admire journalists. There contributions are important. Good writing provokes introspection, conciousness, discussion. Good writing is food for the mind. Thanks for what you do.

  7. this february, just one month after my boyfriend and i moved in together, i came down some some serious stomach related issues which were scary, painful, and very “unpretty” feeling. i remember him standing by my side and reassuring me all the way, and how he cared not one bit about the petty superficial side-effects of my illness.

    1. For me, this is one of the true tests of a romantic relationship. Anyone can be pretty at a movie or dinner, but when you’re ill, all that is out the window. That’s when you see someone’s character.

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