So today was the appointment with the pain management specialist. It’s the appointment I’d been anticipating for a couple months. I took the very first appointment available, even though it was at a terrible time in the middle of a workday. I packed up my med bag this morning, rescheduled an interview with a job candidate that had gotten booked at the same time as my coveted appointment, hit the ladies’ room on my way out to relieve the overfull bladder, and went to the doctor. On my way, I stopped to pick up lunch, including about 20 oz of water.
When I arrived at the doctor’s office, the receptionist remembered me from four years ago, which was nice. She gave me my paperwork to fill out and made copies of my ID and insurance card. I sat down to my work and had filled out about two-thirds of the forms when my name was called. First stop: the restroom, for a urine sample. They have to trust that you are not misusing, abusing, or overusing pain meds or psychoactive meds, and that trust has to start in empirical evidence. But there was a problem: there’s a minimum sample size required, and I didn’t have it. They kept what I’d collected and sent me back out to the lobby for a while.
There, I went over to the water cooler, picked up one of their 6-ounce cups (figuring that each cupful would be 3 to 4 ounces), and started drinking. I filled the cup six times (so that’s 18 to 24 ounces – a typical bottle of water is 16.9), and I drank it all down. Sat to wait for a bit and played a game on my phone. After about five minutes, I got up and went to the water cooler again, drinking five more cupfuls (so we’re at [18 to 24 oz] + [15 to 20 oz] = 33 to 44 ounces of water drunk since arriving at the doctor’s office… plus the 16 to 20 ounces I’d had with my lunch.
My name was called, so I took my cup and headed back to the restroom. As I sat, I realized that my bladder was starting to spasm. I have interstitial cystitis, which can get very painful, and this was triggering a flare.
I still couldn’t get enough.
I squeezed. (Bad idea.) I went after every drop I could – literally. I fought back tears of frustration. I closed my eyes, took some deep breaths, intentionally relaxed the muscles in my lower back and legs and hips and pelvis and bladder. Nothing.
As I maneuvered the cup, I heard a small amount splash out. No! I worked so hard for it! Not that it mattered – even if I hadn’t lost it, it still wasn’t enough.
I went back out to the hallway and handed the cup to the nurse. Returned to the lobby and hit the water cooler again – one, two, three, four, five, six more cups of water, putting me at 51 to 68 ounces of water since walking in the door. That’s the recommended daily amount of water, within about an hour. Not counting the water I had with my lunch.
Then a nurse came out. “I’m sorry, but we have to reschedule you. It’s policy that if it takes too long to get a sufficient sample, you’ll have to come back another time. The doctor has other patients that she has to see.”
The tears of frustration returned.
“When they called to schedule my first appointment, they didn’t tell me about this policy. If I’d known, I would have been better prepared.” It’s true. I would have been drinking water nonstop since waking, which I’ve had to do for doctor appointments before.
I told him I have IC, told him what that means, told him that I was having painful spasms now and that I have a road trip ahead of me tonight that will make the spasms even worse. He went back to see if there’s any other test they could do. He was gone for a half hour, while I was doubled over in my chair, rocking back and forth, trying not to sob audibly or let anyone else see my tears.
Then I just left. I felt so helpless. Helpless in the face of chronic pain. Helpless in my inability to instantly make more pee. Helpless in the face of policies and authority that don’t account for different abilities.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go to the ladies’ room. Quickly!