I vowed, late last night as I drove home from the hospital, that I would never again go to the ER unless I was being taken in by an EMT on a stretcher or if I had body parts that were hanging off of me in unnatural ways (mine, not other people’s body parts, I would just wipe those ones off and leave a note for the body part gatherers). Yesterday, I had a shooting pain starting at the upper part of my chest that then shot down my left arm, making it go numb. I’d had a bit of high blood pressure recently and was a little worried that it might be something a little more serious. So I went to the after-hours instant care up the street. After describing my symptoms to the nurse, she said she wouldn’t treat me and that I had to go the ER right away. All I really wanted her to do was check my blood pressure and she wouldn’t even do that. So, off I go, without a cell phone, iPod, book or any other source of entertainment to the most boring, the longest, and the most germ infested place in the city, the hospital’s Emergency Room.
“Is that my body part? Oh, no that one’s yours. See ya!”
I signed in, took a seat, and began to seek out some sort of time-passing activity. I had a notepad on which I started to doodle. After 20 minutes, that got boring. I found a newspaper, did their Sudoku and part of their crossword puzzle, but then that got repetitious. It didn’t help that there were two ignorant girls sitting within earshot bragging about how often they were sent to the principal’s office and discussing their rotten boyfriends who left them pregnant, still ignorant, and mostly barefoot. I had to try very hard to not listen while they each discussed, in detail, their deliveries, all gore included. Thanks to a tank of tropical fish and a finger in my ear, I was able to think about other topics like socialized health care. On my other side was an older woman with her 8 year old son who had a concussion, and who she and her daughters were struggling to keep awake. She took a cautious look around the very full ER waiting room and said in a whispering tone, “I think this is a glimpse into President Obama’s health care plan.” I said, “Yes, only you’d have made an appointment to wait this long.” Not to mention, 6 months in advance. “Oh, please, please, please, let’s not go there, aahhhh!!!!”
After 2 hours in that room, I was finally sent back to my own room, free of other people’s germs, in which I got to sit, bra-less in a gown for another 2 1/2 hours. In that time I got a chest x-ray, an EKG, and my blood drawn. Each of those procedures on their own takes about an average of 3 minutes. As sat reading a 2002 Better Homes and Gardens (read is the wrong word, they’re really just picture books with a billion ads) I thought of ways I might escape. Could I do it? By the time I’d finally talked myself into getting my bra back on, the nurse came back into the room with another magazine, Town and Country, which for another 20 minutes staved off my urge to fly the germ coop.
In that magazine I found some very un-intrusive tips on managing stress, one of which, after choosing your favorite deity, was to pray or meditate to said deity (pick one of the following: Buddha, Allah, God, favorite Sci-fi writer, or talk show host. No, not that bad, but bad enough). Alas, at about 23:38 (only clock in the room was the one on the blood pressure monitor, which I think was an hour off, so 22:38), military time, a new nurse came in. (the other one’s shift had ended and she had gone home). The new nurse brought in my instructions. My heart was fine, my chest was still flat, and my blood was good enough to tempt a vampire.
So, after 5 hours of ER recreation, I was sent home with advice to take a Tylenol should the symptoms recur. The inconclusive conclusion was that I had a pinched nerve in my back. Had the insta-care lady just taken my blood pressure, assuming it had been fine, I would have driven home, taken off my bra, climbed into my own night gown, watched Kate & Leopold in my own non-paper lined bed, and not caught the cold I believe I brought home from the ER.
Besides my new conviction to avoid the ER, except in the unfortunate event of a severed body part, I learned that it is a great place for “too-much-information” per sexually active high-school girls. It’s a hot spot for meeting the latest and greatest germs. It’s a great place to advertise the Obama health care plan. Finally, when all is said and done, the real emergency isn’t the physical pain in the ER but the fact that you are left desperately bored and would let someone cough on you if they’d only run and get one of your favorite Twilight books, you know for pre-movie review purposes.