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Tuesday, January 08 2013

 


Considering what I do for a living, I am never happy when images from my "work life" lap over into my "home life," but nevertheless, there are lessons to be learned from walking so closely with the dead.

Lesson #1: "Healthy" people drop dead all the time.

This world is filled with busy people who either ignore warning signs, or don't get the warning signs to major problems. They think they're healthy but they're not. 

Lesson #2: Don't get so arrogant as to believe it won't happen to you. Death is the great equalizer.

     With those two lessons in mind, after a day of ignoring shortness of breath, I finally fessed up and told Other Half that I was having trouble breathing. Please keep in mind that it was his birthday and we had just spent the morning hauling cattle cubes and hay to hungry cows.  I had just tromped through the mud, struggled with heavy uncooperative gates, dumped several 50 lb bags of cubes and helped him push a 500 lb round bale off the back of a truck. I had done all this with no visible problem.

But I knew that I was having to take much deeper breaths. I was yawning a lot more. I could fill my lungs with oxygen and moments later I would still feel the urge to force a deep breath again.

     Later at lunch the problem persisted. It was clearly not an issue with physical exertion, but then I knew that.  Having had a history of minor chest pains, I decided to spill the beans. And just like that, our day was f@#*d and we were headed to the ER. I didn't want to ruin his birthday, but having a heart attack would ruin his birthday anyway, so we erred on the side of caution.

The cowdog was still in the truck. Other Half and I were both muddy, and I was wearing bright pink rubber muck boots. It was embarrassing. He dropped me off to walk inside while he parked the truck and gave Blue Heeler a potty break. Thus began the long wait and my period of enforced observation. They observed me. I observed them and everyone else in the ER.

Here is a smattering of images:

The rubber cement they use for the EKG is sticky stuff. Why is it that someone compelled to go to the ER still wants to lie about how much they weigh? There are a lot of sick people in the ER. I can look at someone in the ER and recognized that condition in dead people.  ("Danger! Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!") At least they came to a hospital where they belong. There are a lot of sad people in the ER. Nurses are angels.

Over a period of 4 hours we watched one woman, sitting by herself, call many, many, many people looking for someone to get her car, feed her dog, give her sympathy, and pay her light bill. Each person clearly hoped she'd find someone else. I noted she was quite an active person to be having a heart attack. In the time I went to the bathroom, she called 5 people. In the time Other Half went to the bathroom, she called 4 more. And while we sat and waited, she called and called and called. She clearly had a lot of acquaintances but no friends. I felt sorry for her.

My heart went out to the old man coughing up his toenails as he sat alone reading magazine after magazine. For hours he tried to control it. Finally he left and came back wearing a particle mask. He made no phone calls. No one came to join him. He was alone. I felt sorry for him.

The single working mother with the sick toddler looked familiar. Turned out she worked at a restaurant we frequent. In time, she was joined by family who shared her wait.

The gangbanger with the busted head did not garner my sympathy. He was a gangster wanna-be - a white boy with tattoos over every visible part of his body. His pants were belted below his buttocks and he walked around the waiting room with the familiar shuffle caused by holding your pants up with one hand. He looked like an idiot. He also had no family, no friends, no other gangstas that came to share his wait. I stared at his appearance and wondered how he would ever get a job when outgrew this phase. (assuming his lifestyle didn't lead to an early death) 

A heavy young black man was wheeled into an area where he could see the television. I felt sorry for him. He clearly had some major health problems. The good thing was that although he didn't have friends or family waiting with him, he did know some family members of other patients and they visited with him.

Hospital staff doesn't get enough credit for being the wonderful angels they are. Over the hours, their patience and compassion clearly showed.  I listened through the curtain as they tried again, and again and again to contact the daughter of an elderly man. His wife had died in the same hospital months earlier and now he was here for himself. It was heartbreaking. He couldn't remember his daughter's phone number. The staff tried over and over again. They never gave up. He was more worried about his dog than himself.

I noted this was a common theme in many conversations, not just for him, but for several others.

"Will someone feed Boomer?"

Even the woman long on phone numbers but short on friends had a dog - the one true friend everyone can have. But unfortunately, they cannot wait with you at the hospital.

Smart phones have clearly changed the face of the hospital experience. Everyone was playing on their phone.  Without a charger (this will NOT happen again) my phone battery ran out pretty quickly and when they finally took me away from Other Half, I couldn't even text him. Bummer Dudes!

So I decided to just pull out a pen and paper and write down my impressions from the ER. Wrong! I didn't have a pen in my wallet. I had left it on my kitchen table. DUH!  So I sat there, with muddy pink boots, muddy blue jeans, and a funky green hospital gown. I was a true fashion statement. I sat and listened to the dramas unfolding around me. No sense wasting this experience. I opened my eyes and embraced it.

I worried about the old man behind the curtain beside me. I listened to make sure he didn't fall. While I couldn't catch him, I could pick him up. Fortunately, the nurses were watching him closely too. He was grounded when they finally took his pants. That did it. No self-respecting man of his age was going to climb out of bed in search of a bathroom wearing just a hospital gown. In time, they found his daughter and all was well for everyone.

I also followed the drama of the young prisoner. He was two curtains away from me. I watched his guard leaving him repeatedly. I just ASSUMED that he was handcuffed to the bed. DUH! The staff (and I) thought he was faking his seizure. They were most short and rude with him. This was my first clue that he was faking.

 "Clean yourself up!" they kept telling him.

Apparently in his desire to not go to jail, he had faked a seizure and pooped on himself. There's a trip to the hospital for ya! So I listened to the drama with great interest. This cat was a runner. I waited for him to run past my curtain, wondering if I should tackle him. I decided that I would. It would make my wait go by faster and since I had no cell phone, it was the best excitement I could muster. I started to text Other Half and tell him to look out for this clever cat but my phone was dead.

Sure enough, the guard left the guy alone again and he made his move - out the OTHER doorway.  I never heard it open. He didn't pass my curtain, so I didn't realize he had made a break for it until the nurse told me.  ARGH!!!  I asked her if my Other Half did anything  since that door opened to where he was waiting. She said that Other Half had seen a naked man in a hospital gown trying to leave the hospital and alerted someone. That's when she found out my cell phone was dead and offered to charge it for me. God bless nurses!

Fortunately my Other Half did not tackle the naked man because Other Half is recovering from hernia surgery and can NOT be going toe-to-toe with naked poopy people in the hospital. 

According to Other Half, he had seen the prisoner when they brought him in and had told the lady next to him that the guy was a flight risk, so when his poopy-naked self ran past, it was no surprise to Other Half and the lady beside him. The lady thought Other Half was clairvoyant or something. No, he's not a mind-reader, he's just been a cop for 33 years. The woman turned out to be the daughter of the old man beside me, so Other Half got the other side of the sad story. Thankfully the staff found his daughter. She had been waiting for 4 hours in the ER while they had been calling every combination of wrong telephone numbers.

It was unclear whether or not the prisoner got away. Some nurses said that Other Half's warning did the trick and they caught him down the hall. Others said he hadn't been caught yet. Regardless, I told Other Half that he had chosen wisely. He was NOT supposed to be tackling someone else's prisoner while on short-term disability. Besides, prisoners like that are frequent fliers. If he gets away today, we'll catch him tomorrow.

So after an EKG, a chest x-ray, and blood work, nothing showed up for me. The doctor wanted to keep me overnight for observation, but I figured our 6 hour stay had already run up over $3000. If I wasn't having a heart attack, then it was time for me to go home. There were sicker people who needed that bed. So we left. I gave Blue Heeler another potty break, loaded up on frappuccino, and headed back home to the farm, making mental note to be thankful for my family and friends. (and always keep a cell phone charger, a pen and paper in my purse!)

 

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 12:39 pm   |  Permalink   |  10 Comments  |  Email
Comments:
Yr observations are so clear even with out pen. Bought both tears an smiles. Reminded me of my recent stay in hospital [hip] Yr right I don't know how the nursing staff do it.
Posted by Liz (Vic Aust) on 01/08/2013 - 03:37 PM
I hope you stay well. I am so glad you went to be checked out rather than ignoring the symptoms. I hope any follow-up visits you have remain uneventful too!
Posted by CarolG. on 01/08/2013 - 04:48 PM
I'm so glad you're feeling better! But don't ignore symptoms...they are trying to convey a message. More women die from heart attacks than men because we ignore symptoms. OK, done lecturing. Sherri, just gotta say, I LOVE YOUR BLOG! I love your stories, your writing style, your photgraphy! My other half and I both work in healthcare, and own a farm, and have too many dogs, milk goats, etc.....our lives have so many similarities! Your blog is medicine for my soul....thanks for being a brite spot. :)
Posted by Mary Powell on 01/08/2013 - 05:19 PM
Glad u r ok. Being in the ER is like being in the hearing room at district court on a Monday morning - many tales of woe with some human decency and bits of real compassion mixed in with all the muck! Take good care of yourself.
Posted by clairesmumm on 01/08/2013 - 07:58 PM
Glad you're ok! I think one of the things I love most about your blog is the humanity you see and describe everywhere.
Posted by AlbertaGirl on 01/09/2013 - 10:43 AM
Thank you! I tell people that I am caught in a world somewhere between "Dirty Harry" and "Walt Disney." I would prefer to live in the 100 Acre Wood with Winnie the Pooh, but "CSI" has a nasty habit of creeping into the wood with me, thus, the best I can do is try to look at the world through the eyes of Pooh Bear.
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 01/09/2013 - 03:38 PM
You did the right thing. Glad you are OK. You must stay healthy.We would all miss you so much! (and I can't think of one other person that I have never met that I can say that about)
Posted by Janet on 01/09/2013 - 06:38 PM
Awwwww ((hug))
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 01/09/2013 - 07:02 PM
I work in a hospital (statistician, not a physician as I tell every patient I talk to) and first, lemme just say that your two lessons are things EVERYONE should take to heart. Second, a heart attack really WOULD have ruined the hubby's birthday. Finally, you make me feel better that all the time I spend just chatting with patients is probably quite meaningful to them. I enjoy it, but your observations make me think it's more than just passing time for them. Oh, and I'm glad all turned out okay AND that you got yourself checked out!
Posted by Dr. Liz on 01/09/2013 - 08:24 PM
Glad you are doing ok and hope follow up will show this was "just one of those things". I live by myself with dogs (in a condo so there are people around) and I have instructions posted on my frig as to what is to be done with dogs in case of emergency. Fortunately many of my friends are dog people. Feel so badly for those forced to do the ER thing by themselves and worry about their pets.
Posted by Susan on 01/10/2013 - 01:32 PM

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