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Miserable In Seattle

I lie here in bed miserable in Seattle. I've been here since Sunday night. Saturday night I spent in Portland. I stayed in the Silver Cloud (very nice hotel at a nice price... rooms included 42" plasma tv's), near what is suppose to be a really hip part of town, called "Trendy Three", a play on words since it is along 23rd Ave. When I checked into the hotel, I suddenly felt dizzy and thought I was going to lose my balance. After a few minutes, the sensation passed, so I got cleaned up and headed out for some dinner.

Considering that this was suppose to be a hip part of town, I was shocked out how deserted the streets were. Was it really Saturday night??? This is a city, right? Not a small town? Reston Town Center has more people out and about on a Thursday night than I was seeing on this Saturday night! The next afternoon I drove down this street, and it was packed, so apparently "Trendy Three" is more known for its daytime crowds than its night life.

I went to a great sushi bar there called Sushiville. Unfortunately during that meal, my dizziness returned with a vengeance. I did not think I was going to make it out of the restaurant on my own two feet, much less walk all the way back to the hotel (about 5 blocks away). Somehow I did though. But I had a growing concern about my health, given that this isn't the first time in the past couple months that I'd had unexplained dizziness, and I've also been having abnormal headaches (that is, headaches that don't feel like headaches that I normally get).

Sunday I drove on up to Seattle to meet my friend Keith, but on the way I decided that I wasn't going to leave Seattle until I'd seen a doctor about these symptoms. I had dinner with Keith and Jenn. It was nice catching up with Keith and getting to meet Jenn, but it was short, and I wish I'd had more time with them. I'd planned on meeting Keith for lunch, hopefully on Monday, but I knew seeing a doctor might get in the way of those plans.

Monday was not a fun day at all. First of all, there seems to be a big gap in our medical system. I needed to see a doctor, but it didn't seem necessary to go to the emergency room. I feel like the emergency room should be for emergencies! I spent all of the morning and most of the afternoon searching for a way to NOT go to the emergency room. I looked for urgent care centers (which still doesn't sound right, but I'm assured that is indeed what I should be looking for), but couldn't find anything. There are a bunch of clinics, which I figured was the right thing, but they all told me that they could only see me with a referral from my doctor, along with all my medical records, and that fitting me in the schedule would be very difficult. When these places found out that I was not local, but a traveller, they almost all said "Just go to the ER".

Then there was the University of Washington Urgent Care Center fiasco. Mom had called them and they claimed to have an Urgent Care Center. I'd already checked there, and it didn't look like there was one there. But mom had spoken to a nurse there who said they had one, so I headed to the Harborview Medical Center. When I got there, I was told the Urgent Care Center was in the ER. When I went to register, I was told there was no Urgent Care Center anymore, but I was referred to what is called a "Minute Clinic" across town.

So I headed to the "Minute Clinic", only to find out that it was in a grocery store!!! What the? OK, well, I'd driven all the way across town, I might as well see what they say. It was staffed by a single nurse practitioner. She was very friendly, but I question the quality of care I was getting there, however good intentioned. She thought that my dizziness was due to an inner ear infection, but that I should have a MRI to rule out anything serious with my brian. YES, I AGREED. Unfortunately she couldn't order a MRI, so she said I had to go to the Urgent Care Center at the Harborview Medical Center! I told her there wasn't one there anymore, and they had send me to her. She picked up the phone and called them, and verified that indeed they did still have those services. She also coached me on how to lie to the triage nurse so that I'd get the tests that I needed! That is messed up!

All this time I'd had a minor headache, similar to one I'm accustomed to, and not too serious, although it was getting worse, probably just because of the run-around I'd been getting all day long. I paid for the Minute Clinic services, and headed back to Harborview. This time it was explained to me that they still have the same services as an Urgent Care Center, but they renamed it "Fast Track", and that I'd still be billed the same as an ER visit... and that the triage nurse would determine if my needs were for "Fast Track" or ER. Well, I didn't really care at that point, especially if I was going to be billed for an ER visit regardless.

When I saw the triage nurse, I fudged the truth a little bit, but not as badly as the nurse practitioner at the Minute Clinic had suggested. To my surprise, the triage nurse coached me further on what to say to the doctors when I saw them so that I got the tests that I needed!!!!!! She didn't advocate outright lies, but told me to stress certain aspects and downplay others. There is something terribly wrong with this picture. Now two nurses, and me the patient all think I need to have some tests done, and yet I'm suppose to lie about my condition in order to get the tests?!?

Of course with any ER visit when your needs really aren't an emergency, there is a LOT of waiting. After visiting with the triage nurse, I waited for a couple hours before I was even called back. I did get the pleasure of hearing two guys, neither of which seemed terribly intelligent, debate everything from politics to the legalization of drugs. At one point, the scarier of the two men was suggesting that DUI laws are unconstitutional. It might have been fun to jump in to the debate, but I stayed out of it.

Eventually I was called back, but it wasn't the end of my waiting. Of course being at a University Hospital, my doctor was an intern (not sure if he was first year or second). In general, I'm pretty open minded about being seen by an intern. He ordered a CAT scan, which came back normal, but then he wanted to do a lumbar puncture (aka spinal tap), which scared me a bit, but I was there to get a clean bill of health, so I went along.

I was prepared for the worse. Despite the intern telling me that the spinal tap wouldn't be painful, I'd always heard that they were extremely painful. Perhaps the procedure has changed over the years, and the rumors of the pain are a holdover from the past, because the procedure itself wasn't painful. It was mostly just mentally traumatic, worsened because I had to listen to a play by play as the attending physician verbally coached the intern. He unfortunately missed his target, and he hit something that made my body jump. At that point they switched places, and the attending physician very quickly got that 3½ needle into my spine. They switched places again so that the intern could finish up the procedure, which went smoothly. Then I went back to waiting... in the end I was in the ER a little more than 7 hours.

The good news is all my tests came back normal, and I shouldn't be in any immediate danger. The bad news is it is two days later and I feel terrible. My back is hurting (despite being told I shouldn't expect any back pain), much more than it ever did during the procedure itself. My headache today is very bad. I tried to get out and see some of the city, which I haven't done much of because I haven't felt well. I got out today for a couple hours, but my head hurt so bad I had to come back to the hotel.

So here I lie in my hotel room miserable. I don't know what to do from here. I'm very conflicted on the options before me. Leave my car here, fly home immediately so that I'm near my own doctors and can get well before finishing the trip. That also would allow me more time to finish the trip at a later date, and hopefully healthy so that I could enjoy the trip more. Of course finishing the trip in winter doesn't exactly sound like a lot of fun. I could just start driving home tomorrow. I could be home in about a week if I pretty much drive 400 miles a day, which isn't too terrible. In my current state, none of my options sound very good.

I think I'm going to put the trip on hold and fly back, considering I found a place here in Seattle to store my car for only $75/month, and a flight home for only $209... considering I'm spending over $100/night to lay in bed here, it makes sense to just get home and figure out later when I'll come back and finish the trip.

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