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Julie visits the ER


It’s not too often that one gets to do something for the first time after 38 years on this earth. But through a combination of good luck and conscientious avoidance, I have never had a visit to the ER. Yesterday, however, I was initiated to life in the ER. I spent from 7 am to 3 pm there — 8 hours of my life I will never get back (or get paid for, for that matter).

I started getting abdominal pains on my right side at dinner time on Tuesday. No biggie I thought. Just a bit of gas. After spending the night awake due to pain, I no longer thought it was gas. So I packed myself up and drove to the hospital first thing on Wednesday am.

It occurred to me that one shouldn’t really be driving themselves to the ER. Arriving with sirens and cute paramedics running alongside my stretcher was the requisite entrance, wasn’t it? I wondered if I was acting like a hypochondriac, and that the people in the ER would nod at me when I described my pain but then turn around and roll their eyes thinking, “oh, another one of THOSE ones.” At this point I was starting down on a familiar self-hating conversational path telling myself to stop being so paranoid … why do you care what people think … yada, yada. But it was a weak debate due to the lack of sleep and the distracting pain, so I ended up at the ER anyhow.

I walked in and looked around. It was remarkably unlike an episode Grey’s Anatomy. There were exactly three people waiting. I discreetly checked them out, but none of them showed any visible signs of injury and left me with nothing to gawk at. There were no knife stabbing victims, men with axes stuck in their head, women giving birth or people burnt beyond recognition. You can imagine my disappointment.

But Grey’s Anatomy hadn’t led me entirely astray. The male in-take nurse could substitute for McDreamy, so that at least was one thing to gawk at. And I eventually did get to see some blood, albeit my own. A nurse that was in training gave me an IV and let me tell you, it was a blood bath (with a lot of “sorry”s thrown in).

That’s where any mild connections to Grey’s Anatomy ended. While Seattle Grace has at least 5 doctors floating about the ER at all times, I didn’t see a single one until 11 am. I don’t know if this is a result of cost-cutting measures or because of doctor shortages or just a fluke of the particular day I arrived. Whatever the reason, it just felt strange. A bunch of us had been divvied out into different cubicles and I could see people wandering out looking confused or exasperated because they had been sitting in there so long. There were lots of nurses though, chit-chatting about cell phone features and trips to Thailand. Intermittently, they would tell those straying out of the cubicles that, “someone will be with you in a minute.” One nurse walked by and noticed me buckled over in pain and closed the door so I could have privacy. No one opened the door again until 11 am, so I could have been cold and stiff by then as far as they knew.

The person who opened the door was a doctor. This was good. She had the results of my blood and urine tests and they showed no signs of kidney stones. From here, my visit became more like an episode of House. It was a mystery to be solved — what was causing this woman’s abdominal pain? Except there was no secluded room with specialists debating my case and I didn’t have a rare, life-threatening illness. Other than those minor little things, exactly like House.

I’ll make a long story short here (because I don’t want to bore you silly and because Grey’s Anatomy is starting in exactly 8 minutes). After blood work, urine work, and two rounds of ultrasounds, there was no conclusive answer to what was causing my pain. Kidney stones got rules out. Gall stones got rules out. Urinary tract infection got ruled out. Flu got ruled out. Food poisoning got ruled out. And finally, appendicitis got ruled out too. However, unlike House, the patient simply packed up her stuff at 3 pm and hobbled her way back out to the parking lot.

Sure, the whole thing was a bit of an exercise in futility. But when faced with the looming onset of frustrated anger or self-pity, I ward it off with an old trick that works every time — I start to count every last one of my blessings that I have to be grateful for.

When I walked out of the ER, the place was packed. And I was grateful to be going home.

(Yes, I’m feeling much better now — thanks for asking!)

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  1. I hope you’re on the mend.

    As for Dr., I’ve never seen Gray’s anatomy but hospitals have never had that many doctors. (I think on ER they outnumber nurses.) Unfortunately, if they get busy you wait.

    You know you’re in dire straights if you see someone right away.

  2. I hope you continue to feel better. It’s so frustrating not knowing why these things happen, and how difficult it seems to be to figure out what causes them.

    Your post made me laugh out loud. If you are like me you were probably mentally composing it when you were hidden away in your cubicle.

  3. Marie-Lyne says:

    I can just see it all! Laptop in the head going furiously…and I have also never watched Gray’s anatomy – generation thing – but I do remember Marcus Welby MD. At least in those days they used to dole out chicken soup. Sometimes stress is the culprit for many ailments. I think you need R & R. No work on the weekend 😉

    Feel better.

  4. HA! I have the same reaction every time I’m in a doctor’s office or hospital (and it doesn’t happen frequently but still…): “This isn’t like TV…” And then I’m surprised that I’m surprised. And I don’t even watch TV!!

    Take care of yourself – hope that pain stays away!

  5. Julie- I’m not sure I should have laughed out loud at the imagery of them opening the door and finding you “cold and stiff”… but I did :-)

    I hope you feel better and get some answers. I had a really similar experience one Mother’s day a few years back and the same symptoms surface from time to time but still no answers!??

    BTW- your homework post became a discussion at my book club last night- you’re international baby!

    Take care!

  6. Three months after giving birth to twin boys, my sister in law drove herself to the hospital with
    stomach pains. She waited and waited, much like YOU! When the nurse found her inthe bathroom doubled over and asked her to rate the pain she informed her that she would rather deliver again. Thay saw her immediately and removed her gall bladder scant weeks later. The pain we women endure!! (and figure it’s normal!) Keep feeling better!

  7. Oh Jules – you should call me to drive you next time!!!
    I had my first gall bladder attack between the two girls – Breyers ice cream and I had become rather friendly (back in the day when Breyers had no additives, just cream, milk and sugar). I NEVER had any gall stones, but still get occasional attacks from time to time (particularly if I eat very rich food or too much good quality ice cream – the cheap stuff is no problem at all). I too said I would rather deliver a baby again, at least I knew that the pain would end – the gall bladder attacks had no perceptible end (lasted 24 to 48 hours quite regularly).
    Hope you continue to feel better….
    K xo

  8. ooo. I do hope you feel better now. If it comes back though, don’t feel bad about taking care of yourself! I ended up taking three visits to a hospital over three days for someone to finally decide I had appendicitis (because it was never agonizing pain – just discomfort), and by then it was definitely “emergency surgery”.

  9. Hello all! Thank you so much for your well wishes. And believe me, I am SO happy that some laughs came out of this … so please, laugh away! :) And a second ‘yes’ to composing the post as I sat in the cubicle. It seems my whole life is now just one big pile of fodder for blog posts! haha! (thankfully I don’t actually post them all, though. Scary.) xoxo

  10. Jacqueline says:

    phew – glad my buddy is okay, although still a mystery. What’s a “fodder”?

  11. Yay for Canada’s health care system!! The best health care system in the world!! Okay, in North America!! I can’t believe you haven’t been to the ER in 38 years. I’ll bet you won’t be going back there again unless you have an an in YOUR head. I think that’s their plan.

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