How I Spent My Summer Vacation
Thursday, 08/04, was a complete do-nothing, not even a shower, total decompress day. It was wonderful. I watched several shows on demand that I had missed at their normal airings.
Friday, 08/05, Les and I did the grocery shopping, I cleaned a bit and did laundry. That evening, my sister Linda and I went to the Art Walk , a fun event held on the first Friday of every month. Local artists of every medium imaginable have their wares up for sale. My favorite was the glass blower, but the heat was so overwhelming, we were driven out rather quickly. Some of the high end galleries have fancy hors d’oeuvres and wine.
After seeing all the sites, we had dinner at Patton Alley and listened to a local band that was actually pretty good, but not a single one of the members looked old enough to be out of high school, let alone playing music in a bar.
When I finally maded it home, I began to have a very frightening pain in the right side of my neck, with corresponding pain and pressure in the right upper arm, along with a “pins and needles” sensation in the right forearm, hand and fingers. I asked Linda to accompany me to the Emergency Room, since it was 9:45pm and the Urgent Care Clinics were closed.
We presented to St. John’s ER at approximately 10:09pm and immediately saw the crowded-almost-to-capacity waiting room. We discussed leaving and coming back later, but the symptoms I mentioned above resumed, so we decided to stay.
The young woman who took my vitals explained that they had been “slammed” most of the evening and I might have to wait several hours to be treated. I told her that I’d already seen the waiting room, but felt it would be in my best interest to stay, and was willing to wait patiently. She apologized once more, and thanked me for being so understanding.
During the wait, I had an opportunity to bond with several of my “co-patients.” One man, who looked exactly like Frank Zappa circa 1978, stated he had been waiting since 6:00pm. Another lady, who had brought in her father, told me they'd been there since 5:00pm. A younger man told me he'd brought his wife in at 6:30pm.
10:45pm: a man presented with a facial laceration. He related that he’d been struck in the head by a glass bottle someone had thrown. When the triage staff had his information entered into the computer, one of them handed him some gauze 4x4s that had been wetted with saline, told him to apply pressure to the laceration and to have a seat in the waiting room. He sat there with blood running down his face and was still sitting there when I was taken back to a room.
Over the next two hours, three people checked in with severe stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. They were directed to sit in the waiting room with the rest of us, and given emesis basins. We got to see and hear them vomiting, and wondered how long before they infected the rest of us.
1:00am: the Assistant Director of Nursing for the trauma center came out and tried to speak to each individual, explaining how busy the physician/nursing staff were in the back, apologize for our long wait, and to see if there was anything she could do to make us more comfortable. I asked her if she could give me a ball park estimate as to how much longer I’d have to wait. She consulted her clipboard and stated there were eleven people ahead of me, and barring any unforeseen ambulances/helicopters/life threatening traumas, I could probably be taken back in the next two or three hours.
3:00am: the elderly gentleman in the wheelchair had a tonic-clonic seizure and vomited all over himself, his wife, his daughter and the floor. Two of the triage staff members brought out towels and attempted to clean him off. They resituated him in the wheelchair and took him back to one of the trauma rooms. The vomit and towels were left on the floor. Approximately fifteen minutes later, two Housekeepers arrived to clean up the vomit, but when they finished, they rolled their dirty cleaning rags up into the vomit covered towels, and dumped the whole mess in a laundry hamper right there in the waiting room.
4:00am: an elderly woman joined us. Her face was so edematous and swollen that the skin was stretched taut and shiny, and her eyelids were almost swollen shut. Her hands matched her face and her feet and ankles had developed a purple, bruised appearance.
5:00am: I'm finally taken back to a treatment room and a doctor came in just minutes later. He apologized for the long wait and stated they’d been “slammed”. We discussed my symptoms; he did a cursory exam of my neck and shoulder, then ordered x-rays and a cervical MRI.
5:07am: A young lady came to escort me to the MRI department. It took thirty minutes to finish the exam, and I was taken to the radiology department for x-rays of my right shoulder and arm.
6:00am: I returned to the treatment room and my nurse asked if I needed anything for comfort or pain relief. I told him I thought I was okay for the time being. He gave me the call light switch and said I should use that if I needed anything at all.
9:00am: When we hadn’t seen or heard from the staff for three hours, my sister went to the nursing desk to see what was going on. One of the nurses stated they were still awaiting the radiology/MRI results. Linda asked if she, the nurse, or the physician could call for the results. The nurse moved some folders and paperwork aside to access the phone and found my radiology reports.
9:20am: a different doctor came in and diagnosed me with a herniated disc between C5-C6 vertebrae, and that he’d spoken with a neurologist for advice on the proper treatment and medications. He gave me prescriptions for steroids, a mild narcotic pain reliever, muscle relaxers, and a sling for my bum arm. We talked for a few minutes more; he answered several questions and then said I could go home.
9:35am: When Linda and I began the walk from ER to the Pharmacy, we saw the elderly gentleman who had seized in the waiting room, still sitting in one of the trauma rooms. Additionally, we saw the swollen lady sitting in a chair in the hallway; she wasn’t even in a room.
9:55am: After we filled my prescriptions and ate some breakfast in the hospital cafeteria, we had to walk back through the ER to access the parking lot we used night before. As we passed the waiting room, we saw the man with the facial laceration still sitting there, looking much worse than before, his whole face looked bruised and his eyes were swollen and puffy.
Saturday, 08/06 - arrived home at 10:07am, and did nothing but sleep and take medicine.
Sunday, 08/07 and Monday, 08/09 - The symptoms were greatly reduced and there was much rejoicing.
Tuesday, 08/10 - I feel even better than yesterday, and if I'm very careful, I can do whatever I need to do without pain or numbness. I'm going to take Thursday and Friday off, just for good measure, and won't make a follow up appointment with the neurologist unless the pain and spasms return.
Now I ask you friends, is that a vacation or is that a vacation?!