Adventures at the E.R.

ER sign

Stephanie and I spent our evening last night at the E.R. I have been having chest pain and wonky blood pressure for a couple of days and we got scared enough last night for me to suck it up and go to the hospital. I HATE going to the hospital. I seriously have to think I am dying or in so much pain that I just can’t take anymore to get me to go.

Now the American Heart Association should use me as a poster child for all the things you  SHOULD NOT do if you want to avoid heart disease/stroke. I am one giant risk factor. I smoke, I drink/drank too much, I eat lots of bacon and other delicious salty meats, cheese is it’s own food group, and since I got out of the Army the only real exercise I get is moving from the computer to the couch. I have not been kind to my body and it is letting me know now just how mad at me it is for abusing it for that last 40 years.

A couple of years ago I had an MRI done on my back and while they were snapping pictures they noticed that I had some serious gallstones going on. I went and had my gallbladder removed and since then I live on Tums and Prilosec and can no longer even look at anything with pineapple in it without cringing. I have had indigestion issues for years but sometimes something else goes crazy and I panic. Last night was one of those nights. I was sure (and so was Stephanie) that I was having a heart attack or something. So anyway – last night after dinner my blood pressure dropped like a rock and I felt like crap with the chest discomfort (it wasn’t pain really) so Steph called our Doctor and she said to get me to the E.R. So we went.

Indigestion and heart attacks have the same symptoms sometimes and when you have trouble digesting food well, it can cause a drop in blood pressure. It really sucks because you never know if you just need to eat some Tums or call 911. The time I say to myself, “It’s just indigestion” and don’t go to the E.R. will be the time it isn’t indigestion. Better safe than sorry I guess. So when we got there they took me back right away and took my blood pressure. It was a little HIGH (of course silly, I was scared), and my EKG looked okay so off to the waiting room – better than the O.R. or an overnight stay. I was relived when they didn’t take me back right away- and after about an hour I was feeling better and had chalked it up to a serious bout of indigestion and a resolve to stop putting so much strain on my poor heart and to make an appointment with my Doctor. The end result for me for the night was to escape the hospital and go home.

The point of telling you all this is because we both believe that we weren’t really there for me – it was one of those things where you realize your purpose for being somewhere at a particular place is for a reason completely different than what you thought.

As we were waiting to be called back there was a young kid and his Mom sitting across from us. He looked to have TWO broken wrists and he was talking to his Mom about “not being able to go” – I knew this kid was going into the military. He had Army Infantry written all over him.  So being the chatty people we are we started talking to the Mom and young man. He was going into the Army. He was supposed to ship for basic in June. Now even if his wrists were only sprained (which there is no way they were only sprained) he would not be going to basic THIS June any longer. Before I broke that news to him, we chatted about the Army – I think I scared him a little, but I also made him laugh. No sugar coating. The kid is 17 and his Mom signed a waiver for him to join early. He flat out asked me if he would be able to go to basic training, and while I am no doctor – there is no way he is going when he thought he was going – not to basic anyway. I told him his recruiters were going to yell at him for getting hurt, but they will keep him drilling with his National Guard unit while he heals. I told him to focus on strengthening his wrists and doing all the physical therapy he can, and next summer he would probably be able to go. He was obviously disappointed, but I just confirmed for him what he already knew. He seemed like a smart kid, his Mom seemed supportive and appreciative of the ‘real’ conversation I was having with him about surviving the Army – on some level I think Mom was a little relieved he would not be going this summer.

Then the conversation broke off and Steph was talking to the Mom telling her about how much the Army was one of the best and hardest things I had ever done – and while they were talking; I had a chat with the kid and just gave him some advice about being proud of himself always and to ensure he is “squared away” and he will survive. I told him that it’s more than a job, it is a lifestyle choice. I said to him, “with all the bad things you will experience (and you will), you will make friends for life, you will be able to go to school, and you may get to travel and see a bit of the world; most importantly though – always remember that you are a Soldier serving your country and no matter what happens to just be proud of yourself, do all the tasks assigned to you with pride and dedication and to do everything you are asked knowing that there is a purpose behind every order, and millions of other young men and women have made it through and so will you – just not THIS summer.” Then they were called back and they thanked us both and then they were off to X-Ray.

No sooner then they went back a little girl who looked to be about nine or ten came in. She had poked herself in the eye and someone brought her to the E.R. We think it was her Dad – but in all honesty I really hope he was just a friend of the family. You see the ‘guardian” of this little girl set her down in front of us, threw an iPad in her lap and went outside to go talk on the phone. You know what a little girl who can’t see at the moment needs? An iPad. “Here watch this!” It’s like giving knitting needles to someone without hands. She was obviously scared and this dude just left here there in  pain, in a room full of strangers to fend for herself. Now Stephanie has CRAZY child skills. Children LOVE her. They gravitate to her. LOVE LOVE LOVE. So as we were sitting there I gave Steph a little elbow and said, “Go on – go help her” so Steph went and sat next to her and talked to her about what happened and if it hurt. The little girl was shy – we told her to stop rubbing her eye and told her how to hold her hand over her eye without rubbing it so the light wouldn’t hurt so much. Her person came back in – fixed her hair and then left her again. Eventually he came back in and sat with her – but it was still very disturbing to watch. I mean I get freaked out when I am at the emergency room and I am an adult that can process what I see – a guy with a broken nose bleeding all over the place, a guy with a swollen jaw, a woman vomiting so much she couldn’t walk; the E.R. is a scary place no matter how old you are.

So between Army kid and his Mom, and a scared little girl – Steph and I were the sanity of that place last night. I was okay. I need to make an appointment with my doctor and stop beating up my body (I’m workin’ on it), but both Stephanie and I feel that we were there for those people and not just because I had tacos for dinner. Small acts of kindness, conversations, the alleviation of fear; different kinds of fear but still fear. We made people laugh – we always do because we are a little insane.  It is amazing how a little kindness and an encouraging word or two can make the difference in someones life even if that difference is to take their mind off of why they are in the crazy E.R. in the first place. It helped me too – during that time worrying about others, I forgot about my chest discomfort and left my fears behind for the moment too. I felt better. I knew I didn’t need to stay, there were too many people there who really needed a doctors care and I wasn’t one of them.

6 thoughts on “Adventures at the E.R.

  1. Ohhhhh….. How about working there four nights a week? I handle all the incoming paramedic runs and police clearance walk-ins. I’ve watched person after person die while the family waits outside CCR (critical care room). Trust me, they don’t want to watch. Trying to bring back life into a dying person is ugly at best. Then it’s off to see the baby with a diaper rash whose parents don’t speak English and their Medicaid only covers ER visits (or yet another pregnancy). Then there’s abdominal pain after abdominal pain, chest pain after chest pain (9 out of 10 times everything’s fine). We also have turned into the county psych ward it seems. Seems every one is a 20 something year old SI (suicide ideation) and they have to wait to be seen by a social worker and placed in a bed at a real psych hospital. This tends to take up to two days, so during that time beds are taken up and all psych patients are on a watch, which means security is there at all times, never stepping away for even a minute.

    Then we have the drug seekers and frequent flyers; the fibromialgia folks and the attention seekers. The hardcore alcohol abusers who are having severe withdrawals (always reminds me of my dad). Then we had Mark David Allen. He had been to the ER over 500 times for medical clearance before being hauled off to jail. He was a local Newport Beach homeless alcoholic who’d survived anything and everything. There’s a documentary about him called Drunk in Public. I was sad to hear of his passing February 1, 2012. A police officer who knew him well had just had breakfast with him and sent him on his way where soon after Mark fell and hit his head. This time when MDA was brought into our ER it would be his last.

    It’s a crazy environment, intense at times, physically and emotionally draining. But, it’s an addiction. Even after five years I still feel like I’m on a fieldtrip when I’m there. I couldn’t imagine working in any other environment.

    Glad things turned out okay and you weren’t admitted. It’s always a good idea to get things checked out. Well… you know that!

    • I could never work in the E.R. Just like any other job, there are those who can and do, and those who can’t or won’t. People tell me all the time, “Ohhh I could NEVER join the Army!” and I have just as many jobs out there where I say, “Ohhh I could never…”.

      I would be an emotional wreck if I worked in an E.R. I also tired volunteering at a convalescent home in my younger days – once I was there long enough that people I had grown to know and love started dying on me, I just couldn’t take it.

      It take s a special breed of person to be in the medical profession whether you are the intake secretary or the surgeon on call. You guys are awesome and I am glad that you are there to do a job that I am incapable and unwilling to do. 🙂

  2. Good news that you were not having a heart attack. Pretty amazing that our bodies work so well when we mistreat it so often. I avoid doctors too, I prefer to protect my health and only need doctors in emergencies. Nice of you to give words of comfort to others there.

    • Kay! You are so right! Our bodies are amazing gifts that can do amazing things if we give them the chance. I haven’t been kind to mine at all – I honestly think the only reason I am even a little healthy and capable of recovery is because of all the exercise I did in the Army. As scared as I was last night – I know that even though I am bad to it, my heart is strong. It won’t stay that way though unless I make some serious changes!! Also – I see you are a nutritionist…. 😉 I may have to hit you up for some heart healthy advice!

  3. Good for you for comforting those in need of it. That guy should never have left the kid alone there. What was he thinking? And I’m glad it was nothing serious. I think we women mostly don’t take care of ourselves and don’t want to bother someone else with our ‘probably indigestion’ when there are so many really sick/hurt people there, right? I’m the same way, and I was a nurse for many years and should know better. 🙂

    • First of all, thanks for serving as a nurse. I swear that has to be one of the most rewarding/horrifying jobs out there. Also, I am not saint or anything, we just talked to the people who happened to sit right across from us in a huge room of suffering people. It made us all feel a little better so it’s all good. 🙂

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