April 4, 2012 4 Comments
Last night I was minding my own business surfing the Internet on my iPad at the kitchen table, eating a bedtime snack. Suddenly I felt faint and called for Tom, who was in the study. This is the one time I’ve ever wished that I had the whiny and controlling sparkly vampire Edward Cullen in my life with his superhuman speed. As it was, I knew that I had knocked over my water glass, but at the time I didn’t realize I knocked it over by banging my head on our glass table. Tom attempted to get me to the couch, but apparently I morph into a slippery wet noodle in my unconscious state, so I slipped through his arms and banged my head again on our hardwood floor. Nice. See, Edward would find me totally hot, because I am WAY klutzier than Bella. Not many people can manage to pass out and hit their head not once but twice! At some point I also banged my left shoulder and my right hand.
I actually agreed that Tom should call 911 and have them send an ambulance. That should tell you right there that I had a pretty bad concussion. Of course this all happened about 10pm and the girls were asleep, so Tom called Mom to come over as well. Mom was impressed that I was able to get so many good looking men in the house at one time. My blood pressure was a fairly crappy 85/54, but that is compatible with life so I figured Tom could just drive me to the ER. I was alert enough to realize that I was wearing a tank top from Ale Asylum Brewery, so I asked Mom to grab me a sweater. By this time both girls had woken up. Dora was sobbing and needed a lot of reassurance that I would be ok. Jewel told Tom to leave her alone and let her sleep. She later told me that she wasn’t worried about me. She said, “if a mountain lion tried to eat you he’d just spit you out, because you’re so tough!” I’m still not sure if that was meant as a compliment.
We went to the Huntsville Hospital emergency room because I think that our ER staff and doctors do a fabulous job, and if I had to be admitted, this is the hospital where I’d want to be an inpatient. I was impressed with the courtesy and friendliness of all the employees we met, from the gentleman who helped me out of the car to a wheelchair to the nurse who put up with my coping mechanisms of sarcasm and inappropriate humor. Apparently normal people only go to the ER late at night if they are actually bleeding from head or having a heart attack. I was trying to play on Pinterest in the ER waiting room, but I just didn’t have that level of concentration. So I decided to people watch and eavesdrop instead.
These are some of the things I saw and overheard:
“When I was in jail I had an infection and they barely got me to the hospital in time. They’re lucky nothing happened to me. They would have had a lawsuit on their hands.” The spooky thing was that he said “when I was in jail,” like I would say, “when I was in college,” or “when I lived in Wisconsin,” you know, as if it were just a normal place someone might live.
There were several very obese men wearing some sort of St. Patrick’s Day t-shirts. I hoped they hadn’t been wearing them since St. Patrick’s Day.
“I’m really afraid of MRSA. See how I’m sitting in this chair? I ain’t touching nothing! Last time this lady sat next to me and said she had the flu and she was touching my shoulder! I use lots of hand sanitizer. I’m not a germaphobe. I’m like a germ FREAK!” She went on and on in this fashion until it became even more tiresome than late-night television. If I had had more wherewithal, I would have planted myself next to her and told her how awful it is being an MRSA carrier just to see what she would do.
Has anyone heard of a brooch piercing? Yeah, me neither. Had to look that one up.
“I’m 21 – I don’t have do what he says, right?” asked a slender, black-haired young lady, who proceeded to run out the ER door into the parking garage.
A young white man with a baseball cap set at an odd angle on his head paced around defiantly in plaid capris and a contrasting plaid shirt. And I was worried about wearing a tank top from a brewery! Tom was the only one in the waiting room who had out-dressed me, since he had changed into long pants.
What really struck me was there seemed to be a group of people who just regularly hung out at the ER! I didn’t catch why any of them were there. Ha ha, get it? Ok, I’m still going with the head injury excuse.
The ladies in triage were happy to joke around with me. One of them even had a DNR bracelet around her stethoscope. Going to the ER has been one of my nightmares. I am allergic to all NSAIDs, have chronic back pain and take Lortab or Percocet at night for pain, so I might as well have “drug seeker” tattooed on my forehead. It didn’t help that Tom blurted out, “she has chronic back pain. She takes Lortab!” In spite of this, the triage nurse treated me with courtesy and respect. It probably helped that I wasn’t writhing and moaning and begging for pain medicine. That strategy didn’t seem to be working for the woman in the waiting room with multiple facial piercings. I received an allergy bracelet and a fall risk bracelet. I really wanted a DNR bracelet, but I was concerned about flunking the psych eval, so I let it slide.
Tom said we had been in the waiting room for 2 hours before I was called back, but for me it was like being at the circus, so it felt more like 30 minutes. What was awesome about getting a room was that I got to lie down! Although I’m a light sleeper, I fall asleep easily, and I can sleep anywhere if I can rest my head. I fall asleep in the dentist chair, in the car (only as a passenger) and in yoga class during savasana. This is a disadvantage for watching movies, but most of the time it’s an asset. So I gladly climbed on the stretcher, accepted a folded sheet as a pillow substitute and made myself comfortable. My nurse, Joseph, was super nice. He did scour around trying to find a pillow for me, but there were none in the house. I explained to Tom that patients take them with them when they are admitted to a regular room, so the ER always runs out. I also showed Tom how the respiration monitor worked until he told me to cut it out and stop hyperventilating. I explained that if you pat your chest quickly with your hand, it looks like v-tach, but I didn’t demonstrate that.
The doctor came in and assessed me, I believe for the difference diagnoses of stroke, heart attack and brain injury. I was careful not to talk too much in order to avoid a psych eval. I passed the physical exam handily.
Joseph came back into the room and rather apologetically asked if I could get a urine specimen. I figured they would want a urine specimen, so I had been holding it for this very request. I have 2 children, so my bladder capacity is approximately 3 gallons. The urine collection device pictured above is missing one key item – the instructions. I guess they were too large to be pictured. I’m not sure how they even fit in the box. They were about the size of a road map and printed in size 5 font. I had great difficulty reading them at first, but then I realized I was on the side printed in Spanish. The English wasn’t much better. It read something like this:
1. Remove all clothing that you want to keep from being soaked with urine and hang it on a hook (not provided).
2. Without touching any of the items, remove them from the box and place them on a sterile field on a table (neither provided).
3. Use one hand to separate the labia. With the other hand pick up the cleansing cloth. With your third hand tear open the package and wipe yourself. Repeat three times. Throw the empty packets on the floor since the waste basket is 4 feet away from the toilet.
4. Start urinating in the toilet. Without stopping your stream, lower the enormous urine collection apparatus into the toilet and collect just enough to fill the cup without overflowing the funnel or urinating all over your hands, your feet and the floor.
5. Since the funnel has no urine in it and is completely dry, gently twist off the funnel. Without touching the cap, screw it onto the urine container.
6. Write your name, medical record number and major credit card number on the label (provided) with a permanent marker (not provided).
I think Joseph was about to call a code when I emerged from the bathroom about 45 minutes later. It turned out that they wanted to run a pregnancy test on me. That was almost as flattering as getting carded when buying $200 worth of groceries! I guess they wanted to make sure I wasn’t pregnant before they x-rayed my shoulder and did a CT scan of my head. I managed to sleep in the hallway waiting for my turn for an x-ray and during my CT. The transporters and everyone in radiology were friendly and polite but also let me sleep. Tom wasn’t fairing as well trying to doze off in a hard chair while listening to the patient across the hall carrying on.
The final results: I fainted (duh) and I had bruises on my head and shoulder (duh) but neither my skull nor my shoulder were fractured. “All that for nothing!” Tom muttered. Lessons learned here? Bring your own pillow. That’s all I got.