Saturday, May 18, 2013

Untold Stories of the ER. Told.

I started this the day I got home from the hospital while it was still fresh in my memory but I kept falling asleep while typing. The stupid iPhone app doesn't save drafts like the web does. So here I go again...

So after a crappy week last week and a weekend working this past weekend, I woke up Monday morning feeling pretty rough. My stomach was really upset and I couldn't quite figure out if it was the Monday morning blues or a bug of some type. There has been sickness floating around the office in the guise of allergies and common colds. Every now and then, I hear someone's kid was up sick all night. So it's possible I had been hit with a bug. I went into the office and was pretty weak and hungry when I got there. I decided to go bland and get some grits and a dry piece of toast. Toast was not the best choice but it used to be my go-to to settle my stomach so it couldn't hurt. 

As the morning went in, I felt weaker and my stomach was cramping pretty badly. It started moving from my lower abdomen into my right upper quadrant. I ignored it until someone suggested I lay down. I was starting to feel feverish and couldn't focus. Things were getting pretty fuzzy. So my coworker got the "sick room" key and I laid down in the "bed" for a few minutes. Now don't even think that this is a bed. This is a hard table with a bit of an incline at the top so they don't have to use pillows. There was no sheet or mattress. Just a hard cushion.  I quickly realized this was not helping and laying flat made the pain worse. 

I got up and went back to my desk. We had some folks visiting that day and I was chatting with one of them when I couldn't catch my breath. Pain was shooting across my abdomen and I had not felt this pain before. I had to sit down before I collapsed. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain so this was around a 10-12 on the pain scale.  The rest is a bit of a blur and I remember someone asking if I wanted them to call the ambulance.  I quickly refused and my sweet friend Bonnie came over and offered to take me to the ER.  I normally would have driven myself or gone to my own doctor, but something felt terribly wrong.  

I recently had a visit with the surgeon that did my gastric bypass surgery and there was talk of some possible complications. I got a second opinion and decided not to pursue the tests and possibility of another surgery.  All of this flashed back in my head and I worried that I may have to discuss this again. 

So on the way to the ER I called my sister I let her know what was going on. And my friend Melanie. I didn't want to alarm my other friends and family so I kept it quiet. 

I arrived at the Wake Med ER and Bonnie dropped me off at the door. I gingerly walked in and walked through a metal detector. The security guard asked if I was visiting or checking in. I told him I was checking in (I could barely stand up straight) and he directed me to the front desk.  I waited for about 15 minutes in a line that was about 7 deep, most of which were also checking in. 

While I was in line, I observed my surroundings. I am a people watcher and this is a people watchers favorite place... When you aren't in the midst of the emergency.  There were quite a few people in the ER, which was split in two large sections by the door and the front desk. Behind the front desk was Triage. There were 4 rooms that were numbered accordingly. There was a door to the right of the triage area and then further down were the financial desks. Then there was another door. The nurses walked in and out of this door. 

There were people that were laid out in chairs, covered in blankets, some were completely covered, head to toe, with blankets. Part of me wondered if they still had pulses. There were families and people that were there alone. Some people were in pain, others were just waiting patiently. There were older people in wheelchairs. One was a "SOB" patient (shortness of breath). He was breathing into a mask as his worried wife waited next to him. 

As the morning went on, the pain started to subside, but I noticed I was really sore on/around my rib cage area. So I decided to make the most of this visit. I finally got called to Triage 2. I walked over and the nurse looked at me funny. She said "are you the patient?"  I said yes and then she weighed me (which, by the way, I love those scales!!). She took my vitals and then asked a bunch if questions I would be asked about 8 more times that day. 

There was a door in Triage 2 but I quickly realized that I wasn't going to make it through this door. I wasn't passed out on the floor, seizing or bleeding profusely. I'm not entirely sure those symptoms would've gotten me through that iron clad door. 

So after I finished with her, I peed in a cup and went back to the waiting room. After a couple if hours, yep a couple, I was called back to the next section of the ER. This is what I like to refer to as "purgatory". It wasn't the ER, it wasn't the waiting room. It was a place in between where you were forgotten. You aren't sick enough for the ER but we are are going to follow procedure. There should be a sign on the door that says "you can check out any time you like but you can never leave". 

I also had this misconception that when you go to the ER you automatically get a bed to lay on, regardless of comfort or level of sickness. They wouldn't just sit you in another waiting room...or would they???

So I am seated in a chair in the hallway. My friend Bonnie went back with me. I noticed my cell battery is quickly dying and I have no updates for anyone.  Finally Bonnie decides to go back to work. She had waited as long as she could and it was crystal clear I would be there for a while. 

I thought seriously about leaving and kept saying to myself, I've day here all this time, I'm going to be seen.

I finally got called in to talk with a doctor. Ok, a PA. but I didn't care. I was being seen. She asks me "are you the patient?"  *sigh* Apparently I was dressed too nice to be sitting in the ER as a patient. 

I told her what was going on and she typed notes into notepad on her computer. She misspelled quite a bit. I get annoyed at little things. This would've been a great time to ask for a Xanax. Hindsight is 20/20. 

She repeated everything I said and typed up everything verbatim. She decided she wanted to talk to the doctor but felt I probably had biliary colic. This is a fancy term for an upset stomach. I was not about to sit in that ER for another second if that's all this was. So after another hour, I told the nurse that I wanted to leave and she said I would have to talk with the doctor. I waited a few minutes and the PA finally came and told me I needed an ultrasound and some blood work. 

Threaten to leave and they order more tests. 

And I waited. There was bother waiting room in pergatory where you get stuck. You don't get a bed. They keep those open for really sick folks, apparently. Like ones with scraped knees and girls on their period. Seriously. And they send the contagious folks in the waiting room where I was sitting. 

This "waiting room" was at one time a two-bed room. There was a divider at one time and two sinks and two cabinets. They brought all of the leftover furniture in this room and called it a waiting room. 

People were put in this room (Room 46) and were forgotten. I got to the point where I was crawling out of my skin and had to get up and get out of there. I stood in the hallway and was stepped on and bumped into repeatedly. Do after a couple of hours I asked if I could leave again. They had to wait for the PA to be done with her patient. I finally saw her and told her I would rather follow up with my gastroenterologist than sit and wait. She said she had to talk to the attending doctor before she could let me go, so I had to wait again. Finally, a man rolls up with a wheelchair yelling "Wright for ultrasound!"  

Praise God I didn't have to sit in that waiting room any longer!!

So he wheels me off to ultrasound. On the way, we pass through the REAL ER. What the what???

This place is packed!!  He told me there were 170 beds that were full. They had multiple traumas that day and there were beds in the hallway that were full. It was crazy!!  I was rolled Into the hallway and there they were...beds lined up along the walls in the hall. The only privacy they had were screens stretched at the end of each bed. I was thankful I wasn't laying on one of them. 

I went to ultrasound and the tech did a great job. It was a little too fast because I was comfortable in there. But I had to go back to purgatory. 

So I go back and wait. There was a young girl that I noticed had an iPhone so I asked if she had a charger with her. Mine was beyond dead and she let me borrow her charger. She was really sweet. In for a migraine. I was getting a migraine just from sitting and all the waiting. And the fact I hadn't eaten since 9:30 am. And it was now 7pm.  And they wouldn't even give me crackers in case I needed surgery. 

Sometime between the ultrasound and the surgeons coming in to talk, Bonnie came back. She sat with me in Room 46 along with the other folks that were put in there to be forgotten. There were some interesting folks that came and went. The lady that was covered head to toe in the first waiting room had to be woken several times to be discharged - pretty sure she was coming off a pretty good buzz. There was a young guy advertising his detail skills on cars that had bronchitis and an upper respiratory infection...he also snores. There was a man that had arthritis in his leg. There was a really tall guy that couldn't see out of his eye.  There was a young girl that was having some sort of stomach ailment...really sweet girl. There was a woman that told us her sister went in for gallbladder surgery and died of a brain bleed. There was another woman who talked our ears off about her unemployment situation and how she became unemployed. And another who was beaten by her boyfriend so badly she could hardly walk and cussed her daughter out on the phone for not letting her stay with her that night. 

Finally the PA calls me back and says they want to talk to the surgeon on call.  Said my gallbladder was quite dilated.

And I wait. 3 hours later, the surgeon comes to talk with me. Says my gallbladder looks quite sludgy and they decided it needed to come out. Bonnie left around 8:30 or 9. I was admitted around 10:30 or 11. After 12 hours ok the ER, I was glad to have some answers but really just wanted to go home and crawl in the bed. 

I had surgery around 7:45 the next morning. They had to cut me open a little more than the laparoscopic site because my gallbladder was "the biggest they'd seen" at 10cm. They gave us pictures. Yuck. 

There were also residue from stones. She said it was like the chips in a chocolate chip milkshake. Lots and lots of little chips from gallstones. 

I'm glad it's done. And I will not be going back to that ER willingly anytime, ever. 


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