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Adventures in the ER

21 May 2011
On Thursday night I started having some shoulder and chest pain. I figured I'd just slept on it funny and it was a pulled muscle, you know, nothing serious. Well, yesterday it got progressively worse throughout the day, so at 7 pm Hawk and I went to the InstaCare. InstaCare gave me a cursory glance and said, "Go to the hospital." Ugh, really?

So we drove back to St. Mark's hospital, where I had the surgery on Wednesday. We were told to go to the ER, but were given a "transfer sheet" and hoped that we would get in quicker with that magic piece of paper. That was our first mistake - hope.

We arrived at St. Marks at 8:50. It was busy. The level of noise could be classified as a dull roar. I realized that this could take a long dang time, but I was prepared to wait. I had been told not to take any medicine or drink anything after leaving the InstaCare, so I was a little sore because my painkillers were wearing off, but nothing I couldn't handle.

At 11 p.m., I told the admitting nurse that we were leaving and to let me sign out. He said "but you're so close," and promised it would be less than an hour. So we stayed. I had a mild nervous breakdown. The pain in my shoulder/chest was getting worse and worse, and my incision sites were killing me. I was tired and just wanted to go home. Finally, at midnight, we were taken back to the ER and I got a bed. Really, I just wanted to lie down, so that was great. It took another half hour before a nurse or doctor came by, but when they did I got hooked up to the oxygen machine, had an EKG, had a blood draw and got an IV started. They gave me 4 mg of morphine, which is surprisingly not very helpful.

They were worried that I had a blood clot in my lungs, and the blood test was going to tell them if I had markers for that. They told us it would take about an hour, and that if it came back positive I would need a CT scan of my lungs.

Two hours later, we had seen neither hide nor hair of nurse, doctor, orderlies, or anyone else. Hawk hit the nurse call button twice asking for more painkillers for me, and also asking if helloooo, what's going on?

A lady walked in and said "we're going to get a CT scan." Oh, okay, so I guess this means my blood test came back positive. She wheeled me over to the imaging room and I went through that whole process. Because she had to push the iodine in so fast, I felt very sick and was very, very worried I was going to throw up. I gagged a few times but I was able to keep it down. On the way back to my ER room, we passed a room where the doctor was saying "time of death 2:02." Yikes.

About 3 a.m., the doctor came back in. She said that my scan came back negative for blood clots, but she was concerned because my white blood cell count was elevated and because my incision sites were still tender. Of course they are tender lady, I just had surgery two days ago! She wanted to do another CT scan of my pelvic area to see if they could find an infection. I had to drink a liter of "Crystal Lite" with contrast dye in it, and it was gross. I was finally able to get more morphine, since the old stuff had worn off and besides that, it didn't even touch the shoulder pain. Lying down was agony. Ugh.

At 5:30, the tech came back to take me in for another CT scan. This time she didn't have to push the iodine in so fast, so I didn't get sick. I did have to pee like crazy. Hawk pushed the call button for the nurse, we waited 30 minutes and then I sent him out to find someone to help unhook me so I could go to the bathroom. It was ridiculous.

Here's the thing - the ER was extremely busy. So busy that they did have to call in extra nurses and even, I suspect, some members of the disaster response team. But by 3 a.m., the ER was cleared out. There was no one in the waiting room and very few patients left. I don't know what the heck everyone was doing, but they did a great job of avoiding me. We'd push the call button, someone would say "can I help you?," we'd say "I need more painkillers/I really need to go potty/The oxygen tube is killing me" and they would say "I'll send your nurse" and the nurse would never come. Three times we called and waited for over an hour before anyone came to check on me. We went a good 3 hours without seeing a doctor, nurse, or anyone. At several points, alarms went off because my blood pressure cuff wasn't hooked up right and I ended up taking off the oxygen cannula because it was hurting my nose so bad. Nobody even stuck their head in to see what was beeping.

Around 6, a new doctor came in. "Well, we've just about done everything we could possibly do without admitting you! I'm surprised you're not glowing yet from all the radioactive iodine in your system. Don't get another CT scan for like 10 years, sheesh. We have no idea what's wrong with you. If you feel worse, come back. Follow up with your OBGYN on Monday. Sorry about all this. Go on home."

It took another hour before we left the hospital. Why? Because doctor did not communicate with nurse, nurse came in and gave me more morphine, then had to unhook me from everything, blah blah blah. He asked if I wanted to walk out or ride in the wheelchair. I opted to walk - who knows how long it would have taken to find a freaking wheelchair. We might still be there waiting now if I had asked for the wheelchair.

So the verdict: You just spent 10.5 hours in the emergency room! Sorry you're in pain. We have no idea why you're hurting. You probably won't die. If you do, come back to the ER and we might see you. Maybe. If we feel like it.

Hawk and I came home and collapsed. What a nightmare. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go take my painkillers and slip into a blessed hazy fog of relaxation. Sheesh.

About 3:30 a.m.

4 comments to Adventures in the ER:

Chocolate on my Cranium said...

YIKES!! Hope the doc can figure out what is wrong. And I'm also hoping the stuff you're holding in your hand is what you had to drink....it's kind of a suspicious color, ya know?

Kami said...

Yeah, I hate the ER. Thank goodness for insurance, though, because the next thing you'll get in the mail is a bill for ~$10,000.

At least for me it was $5000 last time I went to the ER and they did a CT scan and said, "We don't know what's wrong with you, go home and get some sleep."

I was like, WTF you didn't do anything for me, why should I pay you?!

I mean, I'm not bitter. Nope.

Mrs. Small House said...

UGH! Yeah, I loathe the ER.
The one time I got in fast was when I was noticeably pregnant and having chest pain. They also didn't figure it out. I had to go to a cardiologist for that.
My point being, the ER is great if you broke your femur and it's sticking up out of your thigh. And possibly heart attacks.
That's about it. I'm SO sorry you had to go through that :(

K La said...

Wow. That is awful. Truly, truly, awful. Yikes.