Monday, March 17, 2008

Lessons Learned from the ER

Not even the Luck O' the Irish hand any affect on our family. Last night I pulled an all-nighter in the ER. I thought I was dying of a heart attack. Complete with chest pain, aching and tingling in the left arm, and feeling crappier as time wore on. I was not being a pansy. And, as things got worse, dying didn't seem like such a bad idea because I literally craved unconsciousness.
For those of you now worried sick, let me tell you that it turned out to be a sudden, very severe, case of esophageal spasms. Or, in layman's terms, stomach acid so bad, that it seeps up into your throat, making it spasm, and mimicking a heart attack. FUN EH! Rx: Pepcid A/C until this baby shows up. Joy. I was getting bored with just having to deal with the diabetes . . .

Trauma is a part of life, and utterly useless though, unless you learn something from it. So, here is my hard won ER wisdom for you to enjoy:
1. The best time to go to the Emergency Room is when no one is there. Or at least very few people - you get better service and fewer people hacking and spreading their diseased coughs all over the room. We arrived at midnight, and really should have picked up a cake on the way, (I didn't ONLY because I thought I was dying . . .). 20 people had clogged the room from 7pm - midnight, and everyone was ready for a little downtime.

2. When you see tired personnel, give a wave and a "Hey man," it makes them feel like they are really a person instead of a title. It also makes them stare at you as they wonder where they know you from.

3. Ask for 8x10 glossies of your X-ray's. It will give you a good clue about how tired your technician is, and may even confuse and/or delight them at 3 am. I learned that one from my mom . . ."You can't, um, see these, without a back light." Stupid.

4. If they give you something like 1/2 C of something nasty with a pain killer in it, complain that they should have brought some for everyone as you "hate drinking alone." I SWEAR they are not used to humor!

5. Bring an interesting person to be miserable with you. Not only can they run go get you meds in the dead of night, but they can also answer the legion of stupid questions you get in triage, as you are hanging on to the plastic chair, trying not to vomit all over them,
"Okay, okay, you feel like you're dying, right, chest pain, okay, pain in the left arm. Possibly dying of a heart attack right in front of my eyes *type type typity type* A few more questions. When was your last menstrual period?"
- Are you SERIOUS? If I'm already 33 weeks pregnant, then I could safely ASSUME, it would have been 33 plus 2 weeks ago! <------ said in the kind of voice that indicates you are more dying than wanting to reminisce and count.
"And when was that - uh, what month then?"
Matthew is the best person to have in the ER. He entertained me all night with stories of the middle ages from a book he'd just read. We also discussed transgenderism, castration, and famous people who died horrible deaths (the story on St. Francis of Assis was VERY entertaining,)as well as issues with the kids, and whether or not any life insurance policies are currently in effect. Though counterintuitive, it actually makes the staff linger around you a bit longer.

6. Learn to look at the name tags on scrubs. It could be that your male nurse in his 50's is NOT the Dr. that is going to order a ton of blood tests, x-rays and make final decisions about your health, but that "Skippy" over there is actually your Dr. for the evening. Try to avoid this comment,
"The last time I was told what to do by a 27yr old was when I was 25, JUNIOR!"

They actually enjoy a little joshing, and will have a better bedside manner if you ask them whether they are only doing this part-time Dr. thang until their band hits it big. Most doctors I've met went into medicine only as a second option for a profession, and their first love is usually something more wild and fantastic. Feel free to test my theory on your next doc, "So, if you hadn't done medicine, what was your back up?"

Lastly, Remember: Everything is funny at 4 am. 'Course, be judicious. If you're too funny, they'll also think you can't possibly be in enough pain to belong in the ER, and are likely to send you home without "the good stuff."

And as a Post Script: Can anyone guess what is the MOST likely thing to happen after a night in the ER and having a full schedule the next day? Oh, yes, the woman in the back - the one with 6 children! THAT'S RIGHT! Usually after one sleepless night, you are likely to have ANOTHER sleepless night, as your daughter throws up, all over, while at the Applebees (because you're too tired to cook), and then again in her bed, and again at 2 am, with a fever, right as you are drifting off into oblivion. "Sleepless night, TAKE TWO!"

Funny thing though. When you are THIS scrambled, you start humming odd music selections that are totally inappropriate. "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," has been ironically running through my brain, but hey, the rhythm keeps me going.


Annette said...

oh, goodness... I will need to remember to call you when I need to go to the ER! Last time I spend time in the ER, I was there to keep another person company. I was able to watch as they brought in other people via ambulance. It also pays to know one or two of the ER Dr's that can try to get you OUT asap!

I'm glad you are ok!!!! Don't ya just hate heartburn!!!

Meredith said...

Oh my gosh - I was worried about you last night when Steve, has your devoted home teacher, got the call that you had been in the hospital. EQ pres WOULDN'T tell ME that but wanted Steve's cell phone number to call and tell him something very important! I was so worried...but alas, if I had to spend the entire night in the ER, I would for sure be inviting YOU along to acompany me. That would be some AWESOME visiting teaching service!!!

Don't do Pepcid - that is weenie. Get good stuff - I LOVE Protonix (we had about 3 weeks of physicians samples) but am now taking OTC Prilosec. I have massive pregnancy heartburn for 9 months. One of my first signs of being preggers.

And Steve was treated for over a year for eroded esophagus and had those spasms and thought he was having all kinds of heart attacks or panic attacks. It was not fun!

Reggs said...

!!! OH NO!!! I did notice that I didn't hear from you yesterday. I'm glad I didn't call and wake you up from a much needed nap. I'm sorry to hear that Abigail got sick, too. :( Although, I am happy that it turned out to be a simple solution as heartburn meds.
When I was pregnant, i kept a bottle of liquid Maalox in my fridge. When that reflux started burbling up, I would go take a shot of Maalox, straight out of the bottle. HEAVEN.

Lisa said...

UG! The dreaded all nighter in the ER. I'm so sorry! I've had way too many of those myself! Although, one of them, was accompanied by you...definitely made it more fun! I used to carry around liquid maalox and drink it straight from the bottle. No need to measure, just 2-3 chugs and I was good. You can also make a "GI cocktail", lidocaine, antispasmotic, and maalox. We give it to all our pt's with major reflux. Works like a charm. Hope Abigail AND you are feeling better!

Ali said...

When I was a registrar at the hospital in AZ I loved the midnight shift. It wasn't as crazy as the days, but still busy enough to keep you awake. My best ER story was when someone cut her LOWER LABIA while trying to trim her hairs "down there." I miss the hospital. (By the way, I'm Reagan's good friend Alicia)

Danika said...

I just back in town....sorry to hear about all your drama! I used to carry Mylanta around and chug it straight from the bottle for my first two pregnancies until I found blessed Pepcid AC with my third pregnancy!