I had to go to the ER last night. It’s actually quite a stupid thing. The short of it is, I was eating a cheeseburger for dinner. I was also talking to my son while eating and ended up choking on a large piece of burger…..(lesson: don’t talk with food in your mouth). Instead of coughing it out, I ended up swallowing it down without going into a full-blown panic. As I went to bed a few hours later, I felt as if something was stuck in my throat still, and thought I’d better make sure it wasn’t something that would obstruct my airway while I slept. I left for the hospital and arrived at 12:02 am. Here begins the real purpose for me writing this tonight….
As I arrived at the ER, I saw that it was a hectic place for being midnight on a Thursday. There was only one woman managing the patients as they came in, and she had to check each person in and do all of their paperwork alone. Poor woman! She was running here and there and stopping to ask questions from the people waiting in the lobby from time to time. I started to question if I really needed to be there, as I looked around the crowded waiting room. There was a woman in a wheelchair with her husband standing next to her. I could tell she was so sick, and he was trying his best to keep her comfortable. There was a woman with a young baby. Her little boy was only in a diaper and was so rosy-cheeked, I could tell he had a fever. She was struggling to carry him, his diaper bag, and his infant carrier as she came to sit down. A gentleman who was waiting to hear news of his loved one, who was with a doctor, got up and carried her infant seat for her. There were so many stories in this one little waiting room. All of us gathered for our specific ailments, almost as if we were united as a front of sick and injured people, waiting for our chance to go to the back where the doctors were.
12:45 – they finally call my name to get registered. I was taken to a little office, so the one woman working all alone could get my information and insurance cards. I asked her how her night was going. She said she was tired. The other person that usually helps her had called in, and she was swamped. I could tell she was edgy, and I’m sure that was due to stress. She put my armband on and told me to go back to the waiting room for my name to be called.
As I walked back to the room, a family came rushing into the ER. The mother went right to the window and was crying to hear news about her son. The woman working behind the glass, the only woman with 100 things to do, remember her? She told the mom that her son had not been brought in yet, but was on his way via ambulance. The mom turned, to who I assumed was her husband, son, and daughter, and just began to sob. They all circled the mom and embraced in a big hug. I could feel their pain and worry. It was very sad. Shortly after, the double doors opened, and her son was rushed past on a stretcher. The mother fell to her knees wailing as she saw him. It was so raw and so real. Her pain, their pain, the unknown.
1:25 – My name is called finally. Did I still even need to be here? Probably, just in case. The nurse listened to me tell her why I was there. I told her I felt so stupid, and she reassured me it was better to make sure everything was ok. I asked her how her night was going. She said it was ok. She told me she was supposed to be off at midnight but was still needed, so she stayed. She was so pleasant and upbeat. To be honest, if that would have been me, I probably would have been quite grumpy. She took me back to my room and told me a different nurse would be in shortly. And she was. Her name was Rachel, and I remember this because she too was so nice and upbeat. She told me that it was good that I came, and to not be embarrassed about it. She told me she was happy because I was about the only “normal” emergency there all night. She apologized for how long I have had to wait and said the doctor would be in when he could.
She left the room and I laid down. I was so tired, and had to be back up at 6am to start my day again. I fell asleep. 2:30 – I am woken up by a male doctor, who seems in a rush and seems stressed. He listened to my concerns and looked in my throat. He told me that it seemed that I didn’t have anything obstructing my airway, but wanted to get a neck x-ray to be sure. I was taken to the x-ray technician, who was also pleasant and nice. She took my x-ray, and we talked about 11-year-old boys and their mystery smells they always seem to have. Ha! She was so funny! She walked me back to my room.
2:45 – I’m waiting for the doctor to tell me what my x-ray had to say. My throat still felt like something was in there, but I didn’t feel as worried about it anymore. I was wondering what was happening with the young man brought in on a stretcher. I was worried about his mom. I wanted to know how the woman in the wheelchair was doing. I could hear the baby boy that was sitting next to me earlier, crying down the hall. Poor little guy. I overheard that someone was being life-flighted to the hospital, and felt worried about their situation, too. So many people, with so many heartaches. And the staff. I wonder how the woman in admitting was handling it all. I could hear monitors, soft talking, and doctors being paged over the PA system. So much activity in one confined place.
3:45 – The doctor finally came back to my room to tell me my x-ray was all clear. There was nothing in my throat, but I did have abrasions on the back of my throat caused by the force of the burger. He said that would definitely make it feel like there was something in my throat, but it was going to be ok. I was cleared to go. I was so tired.
4:15 – As I was walking out of the ER, I looked around. There were all new patients in the waiting room. No faces that I recognized anymore. I left almost feeling guilty that my problem was so minor compared to others that were there with me. I wondered how they all were doing. I was happy to be going home. At 4:45 I crawled into bed next to my husband, and my daughter who must have come in after I left. I fell right asleep, so comfortable. As planned, I was up at 6am and managed to survive my whole day.
I am still thinking of everyone from last night. I wonder if the woman in admitting is back at it again tonight. I wonder what happened to all of the people I encountered last night. I pray that they are well. It’s so funny how people’s paths cross at certain times. How we were all there at the same time last night. It made me realize that everyone you encounter is fighting some kind of battle. That during your moments of distress, there will always be someone who has it worse. There will be battles that are big, and battles that are small. For me, it took a four hour trip to the ER to renew my perspective again.