Not even 2 minutes after settling cozy into bed, I had a stabbing pain through my left shoulder blade, as if someone shoved a knife through my back. First sitting up, then opening the garden door to the deck, to laying on the floor, to being given 2 Aspirin, in the midst of feeling dizzy and light headed, to my husband rushing me to the hospital, I couldn’t catch my breath.
Once swiftly into the exam room of the emergency department, I crawled from the wheelchair to the stretcher and then felt as if someone grabbed the organs behind my left ribs and squeezed them intensely, before releasing. I remember asking for water and messily pouring it into my mouth from above, panicking about not being able to get a deep breath, hyperventilating and starting to black out.
Apparently being rushed into the trauma room, along with a half a dozen nurses and staff and causing a ruckus in the emergency department, I was hooked up to machines and poked with needles. It was just like in the movies where people were asking my husband what my name was, calling out to me and trying to get me to respond. I could eventually hear everything they were saying but felt that I couldn’t move. It was like my mind was disconnected from my body.
My face and body were tingling and hot. My mouth was dry. I felt a stabbing pain in my arm where I now had 2 IV ports, ECG stickers, cords, a blood pressure cuff and a finger monitor to measure my vital signs. Several minutes of chaos went by. I was eventually able to respond and talk. It felt like I had a heart attack.
For the next 19 hours, I waited in the ER while a series of tests were run on my heart, blood and lungs. In the end, the only thing they found was a dangerously low potassium level, which can apparently cause muscle spasms, a feeling of paralysis, difficulty breathing, and heart abnormalities.
After a potassium IV drip, I was apparently all fixed up. What a relief. Thank goodness it was nothing more serious, at least from what tests were run at the time.
What was interesting; however, was how I noticed that the ER was like a world of its own. It was like observing a reality show, a soap opera or a prime time drama. At times, it was sad and at times, even comical. Although I spent the first night in the trauma room, separated from others, it was being moved to my first parking spot in the hallway in the morning, near the main desk, that I began to experience the inner workings of the ER.
I could hear conversations, watch all of the characters who entered, observe the interactions of staff with each other, with patients, with security and with paramedics and be amazed at the high tech machine in the wall that launches blood work and lab specimens across the hospital, like a rocket.
With the place packed and overcrowded, I watched as several members of senior hospital administration entered the emergency department, problem solving the issue with existing staff, like a finely tuned command post. They were on it, the best that they could, in order to deal with the overflowing patient list. Accidents, falls, chest pains, elderly patients, the young and in between just kept coming.
There was a young man who was like the ER social butterfly. He walked, with his gown flapping in the wind, his arm all bandaged up and visiting a young woman on the opposite end of the unit. An older gentleman, who had trouble hearing, entertained me as he tried to repeat everything people were saying to him, while they were all yelling in order to be heard.
He mentioned how he had been waiting for a room for 3 days and just wanted a telephone. His daughter asked who he needed to call. He said, very loudly, that he would call Jesus Christ if was able, as long as he had some form of communication at his disposal. I couldn’t help but chuckle from down the hall.
It was funny to see a flirting male, checking out the young nurses, watching a grumpy elderly couple interact as they waited for the doctor and hear all of the comments about where lunch or dinner was or complaining about cold tea and the bland food. I was even there during a Code Pink, where a half a dozen staff were seen running frantically, to deal with an emergency delivery.
I also noticed the number of people who were obviously addicted to drugs or alcohol, listened to the awful screams of a fellow who had been in a carpentry tool accident, felt sad for a large family dealing with their very seriously ill mother and the nurses who had less than a sunny disposition and appeared exhausted and stressed from their work.
At one point, I was upgraded to a better parking spot in the hall of the ER neighbourhood, where there was less commotion and away from the radio that broadcast all of the ambulance calls. There, I stared at the round mirror at the corner of the hallway until I was able to catch a couple hours of much needed sleep.
This was the most traumatic medical situation I have ever experienced, even trumping giving birth (naturally and without any drugs). Not being able to breathe was horrifying.
At the end of 19 hours in the ER, I consider it as quite an adventure. I am grateful that I had a bed to lay on, since some patients had to be placed in recliner chairs in the hall. I am grateful that they fed me, even though I was not actually admitted. I am grateful that nothing serious was found.
I am grateful for free hospital care. I am grateful for my loving family. I am grateful for the people who had to cover for me at work. I am grateful that I was pleasantly attended to by some wonderful, kind and caring nurses and doctors. I am grateful that I could eventually return home to a long shower and a quiet, restful, loving home.
In a million years, I could never do the work of paramedics, medical, housekeeping, security or emergency hospital staff. They really do have difficult jobs, dealing with the blood, the trauma, the addictions, the mental health issues and the rainbow of people and situations they are thrown into. Kudos to them all.
Through it all, this just confirms for me that life is a roller coaster, full of times when we are laying on the floor and times when we are sleeping peacefully in our bed. In between is the fun stuff and the difficult stuff. No use worrying about what if this or that – just deal with things as they come. We will grow, as human beings, as long as we seek out the positives along the way. There are always positives. Do you regularly try to find them?
‘I am a happy soul, despite all life challenges.’ ~ Lailah Gifty Akita
Link to Past Articles & Podcasts by Juile Hryniewicz: Community Blog