A Most Mass-ive Mystery

mass-ive mystery hematoma
Short and sweet.
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This cautionary tale begins in Austin, TX on a sunny Sunday in early February. It should be noted that a relatively nice weekend around here is sure to bring out Austin’s finest to any one of the countless brunch spots the city has to offer. Being that my friends and I aspire to be considered Austin’s finest, we were going to brunch with the best of them.

This particular Sunday found us biking a mile from our apartment to Banger's Sausage House, by far one of the tastiest and most trending brunch destinations that calls Austin home. If this bit of information seems unnecessary, I stand by its inclusion because I made a mental pledge to shamelessly promote Bangers to all who will listen (or read) after the first time their classic Andouille sausage greeted my young, naive taste buds. So, after a decadent feast we set out to bike back to our apartment.

We had practically arrived at the apartment complex when a terribly executed high-speed attempt at squeezing through a tight gap between a light pole and the curb caused my front tire to twist and plant in a patch of loose dirt, sending me into one of the most ridiculously over-the-top bicycle accidents my friends have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. After soaring over the handle bars and coming to rest with the bike on top of me, I took a quick physical inventory to rule out any hospital-worthy injuries I may have just inflicted on myself. I did not hit my head, I was not bleeding save for a few minor scrapes, and every limb was intact.

Phew. As is often the case with an intense physical experience, the adrenaline coursing through my veins allowed me to jump up and run after my friends, who were quick to burst out in laughter upon realizing I was seemingly unscathed by the cartoonish wreck. The most painful part of the incident at this point seemed to be the shame I felt at having to show my friend the damage I had done to the front brakes of her bicycle. She was a great sport about the whole thing and ultimately just happy I was not seriously hurt. I was happy too.

About an hour after the ordeal I became acutely aware of a sharp, shooting pain in the lower left portion of my abdomen. I was sure this is where the handle bars caught me as I went flying over the front of the bicycle, and I have long been the most injury prone member of my friend group, so an assumption that I had merely added another tally to my impressively long list of contusions is where I left things that evening. Sure enough, I had a nice mixture of blues, blacks, yellows and reds to show the next day and although the pain was rather severe compared to other bad bruises I’ve had, I ignored it and began the waiting game for my bruise mural to fade into nothing more than a funny memory.

That following week was not pleasant but it was fairly bearable. I had work and a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras to plan for, which helped in regards to keeping my mind off of the pain. By the time we struck out for Louisiana the bruising and coloration had subsided a bit, but nearly every movement was accompanied by a mumbled curse word or exclamation because this shooting pain in my abdomen was still proving a major pain in my a**. However, some combination of staying busy and feeling a general disdain for waiting rooms (I hate the DMV, too) kept me from seriously considering a trip to Urgent Care. Off to New Orleans we went.

Nothing out of the ordinary happened that weekend in regards to the bruise or pain. Unfortunately, a detailed recollection of the events that transpired during Mardi Gras is irrelevant to my story and I doubt I could recount all of them if I tried, so let’s fast-forward to Monday morning for the sake of brevity.

Miraculously, the pain in my stomach subsided, which was nice because I had a headache to deal with too for reasons we can all assume. Happy to be moving painlessly again, I help pack our car and bid farewell to New Orleans before hitting the road for the drab eight hour drive back to Austin. The first gas station we stop at en route to Texas was a Citgo in Baton Rouge. I remember as much because it was the most excited I have ever felt at a gas station. And not in a good way.

Upon exiting the car, I feel a surprisingly firm grapefruit-sized mass in the exact same region as the pain that had since dissipated. I lifted up my shirt to find a massive, unnatural lump protruding from my stomach. Being that I am not a woman, I was able to cross pregnancy off the list almost immediately. However, showing my friends the alien mass that had recently made itself known only made matters worse. The gasps and concerned awe glued on their faces worried me immensely. I had no idea what it could be so I started making assumptions. The most logical, in my honest (ignorant) opinion, was that I had given myself a hernia. A somber fear that I would be facing another surgery began setting in at this point. After agreeing that we would likely arrive home around 9:00pm that night, I opted to wait until we got back to go to Urgent Care.

Turns out our trip to the clinic was short, sweet and to the point. Upon lifting my shirt at the check-in desk, I was greeted with the one word I wanted to hear most. “ER.” This elicited an involuntary, passive-aggressive “really…” from me as we turned to walk right back out the door. Ten minutes later, we enter the St. David’s Main Emergency Room. This feels like a good time to make note of the fact that, although my friends got a good chuckle out of my initial tumble on the bicycle, they are really, really good people. Not one, not two, but three of my closest friends were willing to walk into the ER with me on a weeknight, knowing full well that they could spend the next five hours sitting in the waiting room. They made this saga much more bearable, and for that I am grateful.

Luckily for all parties, our trip to the ER also ended up being short, sweet and to the point. By the grace of all that is good, I waited less than twelve minutes to be seen by a physician, which was followed by a short physical exam and the best word I had never heard up to that point in my life. Hematoma. A firm, internal bruise caused by localized physical trauma. The diagnosis definitely fit the bill and based on the location and concentration of the mass, the exam left my physician feeling confident in ruling out a ruptured spleen or hernia. I strolled out of the ER less than twenty-five minutes after walking in, which I have contemplated submitting for a Guinness World Record in the category of ‘Smoothest Hospital Visit of All Time’. Feeling utterly relieved that I would not have to justify paying for another surgery, I slept wonderfully that night knowing that the hematoma would resolve itself in a week or two so long as I took it easy. And.I.Did.

While this story lacks a high-octane climax involving bickering doctors, arm-length needles and emergency surgery, I believe there is material worth in the experience. I had never heard of a hematoma prior to receiving my diagnosis. Nor had many of my friends, and regardless of the fact that such an injury would never merit a plot line on The Night Shift, you now move forward with an understanding of this bizarre phenomenon. The next time one of your close friends goes flying over the handle bars of a bicycle (that may or may not belong to them), you are now equipped to posit the possibility of a (hopefully) harmless hematoma.

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