Living in Sin: The Dual Diagnosis

by Rachel on June 20, 2011

I’m back!

I can hardly believe it’s Monday; last week just feels like a huge blur after Eric and I both got sick.

At the beginning of May, I noticed my lower abdominal muscles felt sore, like I had done a tough ab workout. It didn’t always coincide with when I actually worked out, but I brushed it off, thinking it was delayed-onset muscle soreness. It was unpleasant, but sporadic enough. Then it started to happen more frequently, and not really in conjunction with workouts at all. Two weeks ago, it got worse each day, to the point where I was just coming home from work and heading straight to the couch. It still felt like muscle soreness, which is sort of an unusual symptom, so I couldn’t really figure out what might be causing it. Finally I got concerned something might be up with my IUD, so I went to the gynecologist on Friday afternoon. He did an exam and checked the IUD and said it was still in place and everything seemed fine. He said it could be something GI-related, but he said that since the IUD was the biggest change in my body in the past six months, he might need to remove it if my symptoms didn’t go away soon.

I got home that night and just felt even worse, and felt that way all weekend. I was lethargic, sore, nauseous, and had zero appetite. Meanwhile, Eric had bad allergies and wasn’t feeling so hot either, so we just spent most of the weekend on the couch.

By last Monday I still felt crappy, and I was really upset that there was no apparent cause for my symptoms. And I was really upset about the thought of having the IUD removed because we didn’t know it was the cause of my pain and because I really really love it.

Tuesday morning, Eric and I were getting ready for work and he said that he felt really crappy too. It had started the night before.

“I feel like you’ve been describing it…just everything feels really sore,” he said. “I feel like I got hit in the stomach with a sledgehammer.”

“Where is your pain?” I said. “Mine is really noticeable on the left side.” I pushed on my abdomen below my belly button like I had been doing a lot lately.

He felt around on his stomach with his fingers. “Mine is actually really noticeable on the right side,” he said. “That’s weird. I wouldn’t have even noticed it was there if you hadn’t said anything.”

But off we went to work.

By 9:30, an hour into my day, I could barely focus. I felt weak, feverish, and extremely nauseous. I texted Eric to ask him how he was feeling and to let him know I might have to go home from work early.

He texted me back to say he had already told his boss he might need to leave because he was feeling so bad.

That’s when I started to freak out. Well, not freak out, exactly, but get concerned that we had contracted the same mysterious illness. Since this felt a lot worse than my sore abs in May, I thought maybe the two were unrelated, and I’d now contracted some sort of virus and passed it to Eric. Or maybe there was a toxin in our apartment, like mold. Or maybe our dogs had given us something. They had just been to the vet on Monday and got a clean bill of health, but I called to ask if there was any possibility that they could have given us a virus or infection.

I described the symptoms to the person at the animal hospital. She told me to hold and then came back and said that obviously they couldn’t diagnose anything but to go to the doctor and mention it could be tapeworm.

After a stressed-out 20 minutes of texting Eric and combing the Internet to learn all about tapeworm, mold, and food poisoning outbreaks in Houston, I took myself home from work. Eric came home a couple hours later and we headed straight back out to urgent care together. We figured our symptoms were so similar that it made sense that we had just contracted the same thing. The same terrible, horrible thing.

After going through the whole check-in routine at urgent care, we described our symptoms to the doctor. I said that my pain was more noticeable on my left side, and he seemed to just dismiss me — as everyone did this whole week — because he clearly just thought I was pregnant. He seemed disinterested in what he perceived as my gynecological issues, even though I explained that my gynecologist did an exam and wasn’t concerned with my IUD or the possibility of a cyst or anything like that. But his ears really perked up when Eric mentioned that his pain was on his right side.

“That sounds like it could be appendicitis.”

Two blood tests and a urine test later, we had a sort-of diagnosis.

“You’re not pregnant,” he said. He seemed annoyed about this, as though I’d ruined his streak of guessing correctly that every female who comes to urgent care is there because she’s actually pregnant. “You have a urine infection.” Then he turned to Eric, “And you –”

“Wait,” I interrupted. Because…I know I’m not fucking pregnant. And also…what the fuck is a urine infection????

“What is a urine infection?”

He looked at me.

“Is it like…a BLADDER infection?” I said. I just couldn’t quite grasp this concept of a urine infection.

“Sure, yeah,” he said, turning back to Eric.

He went on to explain that it was hard to tell if Eric had appendicitis or not at this point, but that all signs pointed to yes. He said that Eric would know within the next few hours because his pain would get considerably worse, and if that happened, he just needed to go to the emergency room.

He was all set to send us on our way when I asked if I’d be getting an antibiotic for my “urine infection” and when I’d start feeling better.

“After you take the second dose,” he said.

He wrote me the prescription, and then asked if Eric needed anything for nausea.

“Actually, no, I’m not nauseous at all,” Eric said. Meanwhile, I felt like I was on a boat caught in a storm.

“I’m actually really, really nauseous,” I said.

He looked at me, then looked back at Eric.

“Yeah, actually, I think she’s a lot more nauseous than I am,” Eric said pointedly.

The doctor looked at us blankly.

“OK, great, well, thanks for everything!” I said, grabbing my prescription.

By the time we had gotten my prescription filled and gotten back to our apartment with some chicken soup, Eric’s pain had increased and then increased some more. He wasn’t sure it was necessary to go to the hospital, saying he could still sit comfortably in one position, he just couldn’t really walk. I obviously focus way too much on the worst-case scenario to just sit idly by while my boyfriend’s appendix bursts, so I told him to get his things and prayed that my antibiotic would start clearing out my infection ASAP so I’d feel like a functioning human being again.

After three hours spent in the ER waiting room/having more blood tests/drinking an iodine cocktail, Eric finally had a CAT scan. I spent most of that time trying to make myself comfortable in the ER chairs, a task that was damn near impossible due to my sore and cramped lower back and abdomen. Finally, he had a diagnosis: his appendix was, in fact, breaking up with him.

The ER doctor said he would finally be transferred to a real room and he could wait there until eight hours had passed since his last meal. He said they’d do surgery around 11:00 that night.

Eric’s room was so much nicer than the ER room and had an actual couch. I forgot that hospital rooms are a bit more comfortable than the jail cell where we had been hanging out all evening and was so thrilled that I could now provide moral support from a reclining position. But before I could do that, I needed to head home to check on our poor puppies.

I got home, wishing desperately that between us Eric and I had just one family member nearby to turn to in times like these. At this point, my medicine hadn’t done anything, and the pain was just awful. I couldn’t take ibuprofen with the antibiotic unless I wanted to have a seizure, so I had to grit my teeth until I could find the time and energy to go to Walgreens for some Tylenol.

I rescued our poor puppies from their gated area and spent some time with them, hoping they’d get tired out soon. Even though I was able to lay comfortably on the couch, I was stressed about Eric’s situation and mine, and was just eager to get back.

An hour and a half later, I headed back to the hospital, readying myself for Eric’s surgery. Around 10:30 the nurse came in and told us that his surgery would “probably” happen tomorrow. She wasn’t really sure.

It had been a really long day and it’s not that we were looking forward to the surgery, exactly..we just wanted it to be over so Eric could be on his way to recovery. But the surgeon wanted to check Eric himself and the surgeon wasn’t coming in that night. It was a very strange disappointment.

As we discussed, I half-lay on Eric’s hospital bed for a few minutes before he told me to go home. I protested.

“Baby, you’re exhausted,” he said. “I can tell. Go home. I’ll be fine. Go home to our puppies.”

I would have stayed longer but I’m SO glad he wouldn’t let me. I was so tired and in pain and nauseous when I got home, I could barely think. My lower back and middle back near my ribs hurt a lot, even more than my abs at this point. I didn’t sleep well at all; I just tossed and turned, trying to get comfortable.

The next morning I woke up feeling not much better…and by about 8 AM, I felt considerably worse than I had the day before. I figured I better learn all the horrible things I should be worried about during Eric’s surgery, so I Googled “appendicitis”…and was surprised to see that the first thing WebMD said was that the symptoms could mimic that of a bladder infection.

Bladder infection was hyperlinked, so I decided to learn more about my sort-of diagnosis. But when I clicked to that page, I realized…I had none of the symptoms of a bladder infection. I actually had all the symptoms of a kidney infection, symptoms that described and then followed by IF YOU HAVE ANY OF THESE SYMPTOMS, DO NOT DELAY IN GOING TO THE DOCTOR.

I started to freak out that my urgent care doctor had clearly missed the obvious and that the infection was spreading and I was going to die. But I also didn’t want to sit around whining while Eric had an appendix on the fritz, so I got all Scarlett O’Hara and told myself, “I’ll think about that tomorrow” and headed back to the hospital to be with him.


{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dori June 20, 2011 at 9:36 am

Holy shit. I cannot wait for Part 2, I am literally on the edge of my seat.

I cannot believe this all happened at the same time. And I would not be surprised for one second if that doctor misdiagnosed you, he sounds like many of the doctors I’ve had — so ready to dismiss. And what is it with ALL male doctors thinking their patients are pregnant?! This happens all the fucking time.

I am impressed with your ability to drive back and forth and do so much while feeling so terrible.

One question — would it have been possible to ask a doctor at the hospital to give you some Tylenol? Or is that not allowed?

Anyway, I hope you are both better now.


2 Rachel June 20, 2011 at 9:43 am

Part 2 will involve a longer rant on the pregnancy thing. It’s RIDICULOUS!

I asked if there was a pharmacy in the hospital, as there often are, but it was for patients only. And I felt REALLY weird asking a doctor or nurse in the hospital for that because I figured there would be major liability and they wouldn’t be allowed to.


3 Manon June 20, 2011 at 9:37 am

“The infection was spreading and I’m going to die”….that is EXACTLY how my brain would work. Also, doctors SCARE me. I swear, half the time it’s just “if you aren’t pregnant, then I guess just wait til it hurts more then go to the ER and let them deal with it.” GAH!


4 Kaytee June 20, 2011 at 9:53 am

That whole “you must be pregnant” thing drives me nuts. A few years ago, I got sick with pretty similar symptoms and my blood pressure was really high (because my then-boyfriend was in the hospital after a pretty serious car accident) and the doctor dismissed it as anxiety and gave me a sedative. Not even 48 hours later, I was in the ER of that same hospital where I was visiting my boyfriend… and I had a kidney infection. It was really one of the worst times in my entire life, but I definitely learned a lot about sticking up for myself.

Hope you guys are both feeling 100% better now. :)


5 [SMASH] at Sweat. Style. Swoon. June 20, 2011 at 10:30 am

Goodness gracious. I hope you two are finally doing better! I hate hate hate going to Urgent Care but it’s totes necessary sometimes.


6 Kat June 20, 2011 at 12:10 pm

UGH. I HATE the, “silly girl, you’re preggers” pat on the head every doctor gives young women.

I had a bladder infection so bad that it turned into a kidney infection once – most painful thing, ever. Just fyi (and sorry that this is tmi) but go ahead and get something for a yeast infection. The meds for a UTI give me one every time. :/


7 Kim June 20, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Well damn…so sorry you are sick and I’m eager for part II. I’m already furious at the urgent care doc on your behalf. By the way, I am a new reader and loving your blog.



8 Summer June 20, 2011 at 12:31 pm

I HATE the automatic assumption that a girl is pregnant or on her period when she’s feeling bad or something is otherwise physically amiss. Sorry, but just because my head hurts/face breaks out/I’m sleepy/nauseous/in a bad mood/etc does not mean it has something to do with my stupid uterus!! Close-minded bullshit.

Glad you guys are feeling better, nonetheless! Anxious to read part two.


9 Mel June 20, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Wow, this sounds so much worse than I thought! Glad you two are better – this sounds like a crazy ordeal to have to go through!

I’m on edge for Part 2!


10 Wendi @ A Southern Yogi June 20, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I mean, i cannot wait until part 2. I hope you’re doing that right. this. second.

I have about zero faith in the healthcare system now. Docs don’t ever seem to know what they’re talking about. I know this isn’t true but for me, who lives in the upstate of SC, we really don’t have that many good docs. When my grandfather was in the hospital, we had to constantly be on top of everything and it pissed the hospital off, but what were we supposed to do? They kept giving him the wrong medication, mis diagnosing him, everything…


11 Sarah June 20, 2011 at 2:28 pm

I can’t wait for the rest of this story. I’m hoping that both of you are feeling better now.

And I definitely hear you on the “stupid girl, you’re pregnant” thing. It makes me so furious for so many reasons.


12 Clare @ Fitting It All In June 20, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Oh gosh this is intense. I hope you’re both okay!


13 Laurie June 20, 2011 at 4:58 pm

My son woke me up one morning with a “stomach ache”. I was like “go poop and go back to sleep”.
You know where I am going….appendix!!!!
I must here the end of this…..


14 Krista June 20, 2011 at 5:08 pm

What tha?!? Clearly you didn’t die so that’s good, but I’m dying to read Part 2!! I hope you and Eric are both doing better! BTW-I had paragard for 6 months before it did something crazy to my inners and caused more pain than I imagine labor would provide…for a month straight…even when the ultrasound showed it was “in place”. I had it removed (sadly) and torture/bleeding stopped.


15 Meagan June 20, 2011 at 5:32 pm

I had a kidney infection in college and it is no joke. The student death center misdiagnosed it as flu and finals stress and sent me on my merry way, only to end with me passing out at my part-time mall job during holiday rush. It was awful, you have my total sympathy!!!


16 Lisa June 20, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Hahahahaha @ “student death center.” I thought it was just my campus that was bad, but apparently this is a nationwide issue. Every single one of my friends, no matter their symptoms, would come back from UHS with a diagnosis of “virus, nothing we can do. wait it out.”


17 Rachel's Mom June 20, 2011 at 9:58 pm

This reminds me of that show, “I Survived.” I am always mortified at what those people went through, but the whole time I am watching I keep telling myself that they didn’t die, otherwise they wouldn’t be on a show called, “I SURVIVED!” (Same is true for the show, “I shouldn’t be alive.”)


18 Ashley June 21, 2011 at 5:42 am

Ahhhh anxiously awaiting part 2! That all sounds miserable!


19 Alyssa June 21, 2011 at 8:42 am

The same thing happened to me earlier this year! Kidney infections are no joke..I was in the hospital for almost a week. And the symptoms really come out of you, I had random “flank” pain, but figured it was some mysterious exercise induced soreness. And the scary thing is, my first ER doctor didn’t immediately recognize the problem either, and sent me home with an antibiotic for a UTI. When the chills and nausea got even worse, I had to go’s honestly not something to mess around with! I’m really glad to hear you’re okay!


20 MelissaNibbles June 21, 2011 at 8:43 am

Oh my god. I’m glad they caught Eric’s appendix before it burst, but what the hell is going on in your belly girl?! Part 2 please.


21 Anna June 21, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Whoooa nelly! What a doozy of an experience. I’m surprised that they had him wait so long to get his appendix removed… when I had my appendix out last fall, they were wheeling me into the operating room just 1 hour after I was diagnosed. Then again, I had been in pain for about 36 hours so I think it really was about to blow.


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