Saturday, September 12, 2009
"Do you practice aggressive belly button hygiene?"
That's a question I never expected to be asked. And yet last night, in the Tufts Medical Center ER, I found myself answering it.
"Um, I mean, I try to keep it clean and rinse it in the shower, is that what you mean?"
"Do you ever....stick anything down it? Like a paperclip? To try to dig out lint?"
But let me back up. I guess I should first explain that people in my family take weird trips to the emergency room all the time. Two summers ago, my 23-year-old brother somehow got pericarditis (an infection of the tissue lining the heart, less serious than it sounds) in Paris (hey, that has a catchy sound to it..."pericarditis in Paris"). This past week, my mom's cat scratched her in the face and she had to go to the hospital to get stitches. And of course, who could forget my adventures with Frances the kidney stone.
So I was not that surprised that after a quick visit to my doctor due to some unexplained upper abdominal discomfort in my navel region, she told me I should go get it checked out ASAP at the hospital, where she predicted I would get an CT scan to rule out appendicitis.
The first doctor of many to examine me last night, after asking if I'd ever pierced my belly button, concluded that she'd "never seen anything like it before." I will spare you the details, because they're gross, but I will say that there was pus and it was freaky. Really, is there anything more horrible than pus?
So she went and got doctor #2, who asked the unusual question about belly button hygiene. Apparently, pus oozing out of your navel is a common side effect to shoving random objects down there. Who'd have thought?
After I convinced him that I had not, in fact, been prodding myself with any office supplies, he said I had to get a CT to see how far the infection had spread. Luckily, it turns out, my infection is "superficial." Not as in vapid, but as in just beneath the surface of my skin and easy to treat with antibiotics. Whew.
But strange, right? Have you ever heard of a belly button infection?
The ER on a Friday night was quite a lively place. My visit lasted just over nine hours and I saw three different doctors and a handful of nurses. I felt grateful, though -- the guy next to me had to get a spinal tap. And I had to listen to it. On the way out, around 2:00 a.m., they brought in a belligerent drunk guy who loudly told everyone in the hospital waiting room to line up and suck his you-know-what.
The worst part? Not the CT scan itself, but the disgusting "smoothie" I had to drink beforehand to make my insides more photogenic. It was just your basic creamy vanilla/barium sulfate blend. Jamba Juice should really take note.