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Swollen Feet Lead to a Day at the Emergency Hospital

Noticing how badly swollen my feet were and seeing that nothing I tried seemed to bring the swelling down in any noticeable way scared me enough that, when I showed pictures to Alma and she urged me to go to a doctor the next day, I actually started considering it. And, since I was likely too worried to sleep anyway, I didn’t even try, leaving just after 6:10 AM and heading to the nearby County Emergency Hospital Ilfov… Only to be turned away by the guards, since I had forgotten that it was still only for COVID-19 patients, being told to go to either Pantelimon or Floreasca. So I turned around, wondering whether I should try to somehow stuff those swollen feet into my running shoes, which seemed about to burst when I had tried in the evening, and try to run before it got hotter, or move the plan for the next day to that day and then go to Floreasca from there. And, by the time I got back, at or maybe just after 6:50 AM, I had decided on that second option, so I had a bit to eat and left again at 8:35 AM.

That second option involved taking all of those 330 ml bottles of kefir which had gathered, plus one 500 ml one stained by what had been in it, to a pet blood bank which had asked for plastic bottles of 500 ml or less to use as ice packs for the blood transports. I sent them a message to ask whether those were all right and they said yes, and while at first I meant to go there Tuesday, considering the plan to run Monday, and had told them so, I just sent another message to let them know I’ll try to come that day and got there just after 10 AM, after wandering around that area for a little while, at first going the wrong way at the last intersection. Then I just went in, handed over the bottles… And banged my head on my way out, the place being partially below street level, which means climbing stairs and needing to bend your head as you go out the door, and I forgot about this second part…

An earlier version of the plan for that day also included stopping by a location of the Library to grab another book, but when passing by a different location, which is closed these days, I realized I had forgotten my pass. But that was irrelevant anyway, since I was thinking that I’ll be seen at Floreasca relatively quickly and then get to the family doctor, to see what she had to say about it even though I don’t trust her in the least, just as she’ll start her schedule for that day, which dad had said was supposed to be at 2 PM, and getting to that location of the Library meant making another significant detour on the way from the hospital to the clinic. However, while I did get to Floreasca when I assumed I would, being in line at triage at 10:30 AM, my turn came just under an hour later, I was sent inside after explaining the problem and was initially called into the room around 11:45 AM, my expectations of being checked quickly and, most preferably, be told that it wasn’t an emergency and sent on my way were far off the mark… Though, much to my relief, so were my concerns that, on the contrary, the problem will turn out to be an emergency and they’ll need to act right away.
When I was first called inside, I thought it shouldn’t be much of a problem to be back out by 12:30 PM, so in 45 minutes, giving me plenty of time to get to the clinic according to that plan I had made. However, almost immediately after I was called inside, a more serious case was brought in and I was asked to wait outside again, and 12:30 PM came and went while I was still on the hallway, only finally being formally admitted at 12:54 PM, that exact time being clear in my mind since I was asked to write it on the form. Then they asked some more questions, looked at my feet, drew blood twice, sent me to another room to have an ultrasound, performed an electrocardiogram, checked my blood pressure and oxygen level and left me waiting in a bed, where I still was around 2 PM, when the shift apparently changes, so the team that was there until then gave the details of the cases to those coming to replace them, more waiting following as the new team took over and determined priorities.
I must state here and now that I in no way blame the staff for all the waiting. The only ones I was dissatisfied with were the doctor who did that first ultrasound, who just rushed me out of there with a list of insufficiencies and fluid accumulations, literally telling me “we don’t have time to talk”, and possibly also his assistant, who was just entering what he was saying on the computer, without any involvement. But, over all the hours I spent there, I’d say that six “main” people handled my case, unless I’m forgetting someone and there were in fact even more, and around ten more, including those two I mentioned, were more or less briefly involved, and I have no complaints about any of the others, the experience going completely against my concerns and low expectations when it comes to the medical system. They were dedicated and professional while also managing to maintain a good mood and trying to spread it to the patients despite all the effort they were making, and perhaps more importantly, most truly seemed to care, about me and the others who were there, even those who had an attitude or weren’t exactly cooperating, and at least in my case they really tried to get to the bottom of it, put me through all the tests their protocols and equipment allowed them to put me through in order to find the actual cause instead of just dealing with the immediate symptoms. For that matter, I wasn’t given any sort of treatment, the fact that the ultrasound hadn’t revealed any blood clots likely making them decide that the visible problem was something that didn’t need immediate attention.
Getting back to what actually happened, I was still waiting in that bed around 3 PM, when the doctor who took over my case got back to me to tell me a few things, including that they were seeing a clear cardiac insufficiency which isn’t too serious at the moment but can worsen, and when I asked how long I should expect to still be there that day, he said it should be ten or 15 minutes until someone will come to take me to have a chest X-ray, and then it depends how long it’ll take until the next tests he’ll ask for will get done, it might be another 15 minutes, it might be another hour. And I guess he did finish his part in that time, the discussions I occasionally heard between them, about what the next tests should be for me, seeming to eventually lead to the conclusion that I shouldn’t be put through something else at that moment, and that my case should be taken over by another doctor.
So I was moved back from the bed to a chair and told to wait for that new doctor to look over my case and form an opinion, and what followed was a lot of waiting. And a problem was that I need to pee, so I tried to wait, but eventually, at some point after 4 PM, maybe even after 4:30 PM, I stood up and hesitantly stepped towards the door, at which point the doctor whose care I had first been under after the change of shift asked whether I had something to do, and then told me where the bathroom was when I asked. Then I got back to the room and continued to wait, at one point noticing that a woman seemed to be in trouble and pointing it out to the doctors, as they were all at the desks, though that apparently turned out to not be that serious either. And, after she did something for that woman and one other patient who was sitting next to me and, rather concerningly, seemed to have a fever that wasn’t breaking, this third doctor managed to get to me as well, and after a look at my feet and a few questions she apparently brought the cardiology department on my case, for a heart ultrasound.
At this point I find myself wanting to mention other reasons for concern, like an apparently known drug user brought in after having intentionally overdosed on medication having previously reported that she had tuberculosis, though the staff was saying that there was no actual confirmation of it on her file, and the one who seemed to be in charge during that shift saying at one point that COVID-19 protocols had been breached, someone confirmed with the Delta variant having simply walked in without as much as a mask, and after that point I repeatedly heard discussions about the staff being tested. And I was in a hospital for so many hours, next to plenty of other people with various problems, and sitting on beds or chairs that others had sat on. But let’s hope I won’t learn I came out of there with more problems than I had when I went in.
To again return to what actually happened, that heart ultrasound was in complete contrast with that first one, the machinery being brought to that main room and the procedure being performed with the utmost care, taking quite a lot of time but apparently checking every detail they could think of, and then also having a quick look in my abdomen, though the doctor admitted he didn’t really know much about that and was only looking to get an idea, see if anything obvious would stand out, which wasn’t the case… And, even better, this detailed ultrasound did not confirm that cardiac insufficiency that was initially reported, and they looked as hard as they possibly could to see whether anything at all was wrong and didn’t seem to really find anything. They maintained the diagnosis of venous insufficiency and said that my body is clearly reacting to a perceived cardiac insufficiency, a hormone that reveals this being well above the limit, but they can’t actually see anything wrong in any way. And it was that doctor who was also the first to mention a kidney problem as the potential cause, though that was the first thing I was worried about, at least after thinking that it might have been something caused by the vaccine after all, this part about the vaccine also being what I had said at triage and when I was admitted. So he asked me to give a urine sample, which I went back to the toilet to do, but that didn’t reveal any proteins, which he said was what he was looking for. It did reveal ketone bodies, but they didn’t seem to care about that, and there’s also the fact that I had been there since morning, hadn’t drank anything since the previous night, and it was close to 6 PM, if I remember correctly, so the fact that nothing even worse showed up is somewhat surprising.
Since I mentioned 6 PM, it was likely around that time when I started being told that it’ll just be a little longer, the cardiology department just had to find time for their report and then all those involved had to have a discussion and agree on the final recommendations. But it was likely before that point, or possibly even before that heart ultrasound, or even while waiting for the third doctor to get to me the first time, when I stained my shirt with the iodine from one of the bandages on my arm, where blood had been drawn, but I washed it all off in the sink from that room, also cleaning the front of my pants a little as well, since I thought I saw a small stain there as well. Either way, after things had rather died down for a while, patients started flooding in again and I even ended up standing in a corner, with no places left to even sit, at least taking the opportunity to pull up those drapes for those passing through with their hands full or with stretchers, doing just that little thing to help when I really wanted to do more, even meaning to ask whether I could help in any way, even clean something, though I couldn’t get myself to do so and I’m sure it’d have been pointless anyway. The one who seemed in charge noticed me and asked why weren’t they done with me already, and to at least find me a place to sit, which resulted in a bed soon being cleared and being asked to sit on it even though I said they were likely going to need it for another patient… And that soon proved to be the case, so it was only minutes later when I was quite apologetically asked to wait on the hallway again.
As I was waiting, two of the doctors, the third one who took over my case and apparently brought the cardiology department in on it and the cardiologist who didn’t operate the ultrasound, took a moment the couple of times they walked past me to apologize for the wait and tell me it’ll just be a little longer and the cardiologists just had to find time between the other patients to write their report, but it wasn’t their fault, I understood the situation and, as I even told that third doctor at one such moment, in a way it’s a good thing if you find yourself at the bottom of the priority list in an emergency hospital, since it means you’re not an emergency. And after a while things were calming again, so even though that “little longer” turned out to be anything but, my turn did eventually come, at almost 9:30 PM.
Well, after being shockingly calm throughout the day, that was when I got worried again, since I was told that their recommendation was to transfer me to another hospital, where I was to be hospitalized for some more thorough tests which can’t be done otherwise, and which also can’t be done in an emergency hospital. After being told multiple times that I will be released after they’ll find the time to put everything together, and even the cardiologist who was talking to me then saying, after that heart ultrasound, that they had no reason to hold me, that came as quite a shock, and I obviously refused, and started getting quite agitated, still holding it together but not knowing for how long, and repeating that I just wanted to go home. That meant I didn’t cooperate when I was told they wanted one more blood test, the nurse who was supposed to draw the blood walking away when she saw how I reacted, but after making sure that I could just refuse the transfer and be able to leave that evening, and also being assured that the test in question really won’t take long, I could recover enough to allow it. The doctor did try to persuade me to accept the transfer a little more, and actually told others that she was going to do that, but after telling her that I’m surprised I managed to hold it together for all those hours, considering my anxiety, and that as long as I’ll physically be able to walk away I will firmly refuse any hospitalization, she gave up.
It was just after I first refused the transfer that dad called, having apparently just gotten back and asking where I was. I had been alone those days and had sent him an e-mail the night before to ask about the family doctor’s schedule but say that otherwise it was something I had to deal with on my own, yet he had called once before, in the morning, as I was on my way to that pet blood bank, to say that he had spoken to some other doctor about swollen feet and that guy told him some things and also said I should use a certain gel, which he had already bought. That was obviously infuriating, and also sapped my resolve to do anything, so at the time I just repeated that I said I had to handle it and then pretty much stayed silent until he hung up, but this second call coming right at that moment likely helped me regain some balance just when I felt my control was slipping away, and the fact that I was given a bit of time to talk by the doctors definitely helped.
So I then allowed that new nurse to draw blood for that last test and talked some more with the cardiologist, who told me they wanted to transfer me to Coltea in order to run tests for chronic illnesses, since they can just deal with the potential emergencies, and also mentioned the clinic where my family doctor is, which actually has a part for athletes that also seems to be called Coltea, so I was confused, unsure which was which, and what she said when I asked didn’t really help, or I guess I wasn’t in a state in which I understood things well anymore. Either way, she said she also wanted to have my resistance to effort tested, and was also wondering whether that hormone that normally indicates cardiac insufficiency couldn’t be at those levels just because I’m an athlete, meaning that it could actually be normal and admitting that she didn’t know anything about that. They had also listed me as a performance athlete, and when I said I’m in no way anything of the sort she said she can barely run two kilometers, so from her perspective I am and that’s how it stays. In fact, after the second doctor asked me, when taking over my case, whether I used to be an athlete and I told him it was quite the other way around, I used to be very sedentary but started running in 2015, ran my first half marathon in 2016 and my first marathon in 2018, while the significant worsening of my times lately is for me a clear indicator of some health problem, I heard them share that bit of information whenever a new person was brought in on my case… While at the same time saying that this worsening performance I’m noticing is “highly subjective” and asking me whether I noticed that I’m tiring more easily when I do chores or walk, when to me that seems a highly subjective assessment while the worsening times are completely objective.
Back to that talk with the cardiologist, she said that some more complex tests, possibly including those, would only be carried out if I’m hospitalized, they won’t be done if I just go there for the day, and also said that I could have them done in a private clinic, but that would obviously cost a lot of money. But since I was clearly refusing hospitalization they didn’t even list those in the recommendations, though I was left uncertain whether I have to go to my family doctor and see where she’ll send me or can show up directly at Coltea with the documents and they’ll perform those tests. I’d obviously prefer this second option, to have it all done in one place and avoid my family doctor, which I don’t trust at all, but since I have no idea how it works, or even whether they’ll still be free if I didn’t accept that transfer, at the moment I’m just putting off even really thinking about it… Which I shouldn’t be doing, and the cardiologist also said that I really shouldn’t stop investigating this matter at that point, because something is definitely wrong and ankles that look that badly at my age and weight indicate a serious problem that they couldn’t identify, I should obviously also see why my body acts as if I have a cardiac insufficiency, and I clearly have anemia and they stressed that I needed to have that checked out and see whether there’s any bleeding, possibly even internal, that might explain it, because it’s quite a problem… And indeed, at a first glance on my blood tests one would wonder whether anything is right, but a second glance reveals that nearly everything that’s not within the normal range indicates or is otherwise connected to an obvious anemia.
Moving on, it was around 10 PM when another doctor, who seemed to be the last one to take over my case, for that final part of getting those who had been involved to agree and putting everything together, said that she was just going to staple all the papers together and I’ll finally be able to leave… Only to then realize that the third doctor hadn’t written her opinion, so she called her and told me to wait just a little longer, since she’ll be there in a moment… And while she did indeed get there quickly, she wrote more than one full page by hand, which she had actually been doing throughout the day. That took quite some time, as you can imagine, and then she talked to me a little as well, and then the others had to find a moment to make copies of those pages by taking pictures with a phone and then printing them out, keeping the original and giving me the copies. And this happened when another patient had been brought in that seemed to require the attention of multiple people, including the cardiologist, so I didn’t get a chance to talk to her one last time, since I’d have wanted to thank her for all the time and effort and care and apologize in case she was bothered because I refused the transfer after she might have struggled to be allowed to go through with it. I did manage to just briefly thank that third doctor and, just as I was leaving, this last one, just after they both apologized one more time for how long everything took, but I had rehearsed something to say, asking them to also thank all the others who had been involved on my behalf, and I just couldn’t get myself to say that part of it, sadly. And I really wanted to thank them for their care and involvement, regardless of how long it took and the fact that the initial recommendation scared me so much.

Was finally out of there at 10:55 PM, and realized as I was about to cross the road that I had forgotten to check whether there was any bin for used masks at the hospital exit, since I really didn’t want to come back with that one worn in there for so long, even if I normally keep them in a paper bag to throw them in the proper bin when I go to Kaufland. But there was a pharmacy just there, across the road from the hospital, that was still open, so after a few steps I turned around and went in, looking for a bin for masks and then pretending to check out some products before looking again and, when I couldn’t spot any, taking off the mask and asking the guard whether there was any place where I could throw it. But she told me to keep it, in case I’ll still need it, so I just said that, after wearing it for 12 hours in the hospital, I’m definitely not keeping it and will throw it away outside, which I did, in the first garbage bin I saw, even though that’s definitely not the proper way when it comes to masks.
It was soon after that when dad called again, and while he did say we’ll talk at home after a little while, I had started ranting and things just came flooding out, so I kept telling him about the day as I walked and I obviously didn’t pay enough attention to where I was going, since at Obor I went the wrong way. He had just asked me how long it’ll be until I’ll get back and I saw the metro station, so it was obvious where I was and told him how long it should take me from there, and the call didn’t last much longer after that, but instead of continuing in that direction I obviously ended up turning right and only realized it much later, when I happened to see the street name when I was pretty much at the end of that section of it… And if I’d have continued, I should have recognized that intersection and turned left, to at least get to Iancului Square. There should actually be a slightly shorter route from there, but I’m talking of routes I clearly know. But since I didn’t take those last few steps, I didn’t end up in that spot, didn’t quite know where I was, and actually thought it was more likely that I had walked on that street in the other direction and my only option was to go back, so that was what I did… Until what was probably a prostitute seeming about to approach me in an intersection made me turn left instead of going straight ahead, to try to avoid her, and when I did so I ended up in a spot I did recognize, as I had just passed through there on the way to that pet blood bank, so I could get back from there. So I went back all that way when just a few more steps forward would have significantly cut my losses, but at least I got back here eventually, at 12:30 AM. Then I had to shower with mostly cold water, started eating dinner at 3:50 AM and got in bed just after 5:30 AM.

As for my feet, oddly enough, they looked much better when I got back, despite all the walking and standing. That’s just about my feet, however, since my ankles were awfully swollen. But even those were much better even the next day, and since then I wouldn’t say I’d have normally noticed anything wrong. Now that I’m paying attention I see that there’s still a bit of swelling, at least sometimes, but it’s nothing that would in any way approach what I saw then, which makes me wonder whether the vaccine didn’t actually have something to do with it after all, even though the doctors were dismissing the idea. I mean, there are probably some existing ailments that would cause such symptoms, and it’s still my kidneys that I’m mainly worried about, even though they apparently confirmed at least the venous insufficiency, but the vaccine might have acted as a trigger and enhancer, making this happen at that time and with such severity.
Of course, my natural tendency is to try to forget about all of it. Even when I woke up the next day I couldn’t quite believe all of that actually happened, thought I had just dreamed it for a moment, and now I’d much rather just put those tests and recommendations away and just keep pushing forward, despite the obvious problems revealed by my constantly worsening run times, on top of obvious symptoms such as these. But I know I really shouldn’t do that, and also still want to handle it on my own, one way or the other, so let’s see what I’ll manage to do next and when. I’d sure like to avoid my family doctor if I can, however…

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