Last week, I told you about how I slipped on black ice in my driveway and injured my wrist and arm. The irony was that at the time, I was wearing ice cleats that supposedly were recommended by an official bobsledding team.
Let’s just say I have a bone (pun intended) to pick with them.
Anyway, I went to Urgent Care where X-rays confirmed I'd fractured my ulna and radius. The arm was splinted in something similar to concrete (or at least it felt like that) all the way past my elbow. I then was instructed to go to the nearby hospital’s emergency room to have the bones set by an orthopedic surgeon. I also was told not to eat anything, to prevent vomiting. I was pretty sure my stomach was safe, however, mainly because I hadn’t eaten even a bite of food since dinner the night before.
Welcome to Hell.
When I walked into the emergency room at about 2 PM, the first thing I noticed was how huge it was. The next thing I noticed was nearly every seat was occupied.
I checked in at the desk and was informed that all of my information, including my X-rays, already had been sent to them, and because I had to see only the orthopedic surgeon, I probably would be called shortly and not have to wait my turn after the 42 people ahead of me.
That made me feel better because at that point, I didn’t know which was going to kill me first – starvation or gangrene. My stomach was making noises that resembled those of guys in horror movies as they transformed into werewolves, and I could feel my arm swelling inside the concrete, which, by then, had all of the comfort of a tourniquet. I also noticed my fingers on that hand suddenly felt as if they’d spent the night in an igloo.
I took a seat in a row of seats facing another row, where a pregnant woman whose eyes were closed as she slowly massaged her stomach, was sitting directly across from me. She looked calm, so I figured she probably wasn’t on the verge of having the baby in her chair. In fact, the guy she was with looked more distressed than she did, so I suspected maybe he was the one who was ailing, even though all of his body parts seemed to be intact and he wasn’t gripping his stomach or groaning.
An hour later, I still was sitting there. One by one, the other people were called. The nurse said to at least two of them, "I'm taking you to a recliner."
I thought that was nice – making people more comfortable as they waited. Little did I know at the time what "the recliner" actually meant.
Another hour passed and I still was sitting…waiting, and so was the pregnant woman.
“By the time they call your name, your baby will be ready to go to college,” I joked with her. She didn’t seem amused.
That’s when I began to fear, to my embarrassment, that maybe she wasn’t actually pregnant and was there for some kind of stomach-bloating condition.
Although I tried to ignore it, a few minutes later my bladder started to send urgent messages telling me that if I didn’t find a ladies' room fast, I'd be sitting in a puddle. So I headed to the restroom. I had no trouble unbuttoning and unzipping my jeans with only one hand, but when it came time to re-fasten them, I was helpless.
Admitting defeat, I, still unbuttoned and unzipped, walked out of the stall. As I did, a woman entered the restroom. I rushed right up to her.
“Can you please button and zip my jeans for me?” I asked.
At first, she gave me a look that made me feel as if she were debating whether or not to call security. Then her eyes dropped to my arm and she seemed to relax a bit. Of course, everyone was required to wear a mask, so for all I knew, she could have been muttering obscenities at me underneath hers.
But at least I got my jeans zipped.
By 5:00, I was feeling as if my arm were caught in a trash compactor. I went up to the desk and asked how much longer it would be because I was beginning to lose the feeling from my elbow to my fingertips.
“Oh, I understand how uncomfortable you must be,” the woman said with what sounded like genuine sympathy. “But good news – you're now at the top of the list!"
So I sat back down feeling optimistic…until two ambulances rolled in with patients who had life-or-death emergencies. Understandably, my arm immediately lost its place at the top.
At 6:30, my friend came in to search for me.
“Brought you a present,” she said and handed me a bag that contained a box of my favorite cookies.
Never before had I wanted to tear open a box with my teeth and devour every crumb inside than I did at that moment. But the previous warning at Urgent Care not to eat anything stopped me. I mean, vomiting up my favorite cookies had the potential to make me not like them any more, and that, to me, would have been a real tragedy. So I opted to wait to eat them...which turned out to be even more painful than my injury.
Finally, at nearly 8 PM, my name was called. I felt like dancing a jig…but I didn't want to risk injuring another body part.
I was led to one of the aforementioned recliners – all of which lined a long corridor and contained a patient. This, I was told, was where I would be treated because all of the cubicles were full. At that moment, surrounded by bright lights and people walking by, I was thankful I wasn’t there for something embarrassing, like a pelvic exam.
A medical person finally appeared about 15 minutes later and introduced himself as an ER physician, so I guessed the orthopedic specialist probably had skipped town. This doctor was friendly, though, and put me at ease, even as he described the tortures he was about to inflict upon me.
“First, I’m going to hang your arm to stretch it, and then I’m going to give you an injection of lidocaine to numb you. After that, I’ll reset the bones, take an X-ray and put you in a temporary cast.”
“Sounds like fun,” I said, rolling my eyes. “So why did Urgent Care tell me I might vomit?” I just had to ask.
“Because sometimes the pain or the lidocaine can cause nausea. Or with severe fractures, we might have to put a patient under general anesthesia, so it’s better to have an empty stomach.”
And as he promised, he did everything he said he was going
to do. I smiled and looked unfazed through each step because I didn’t
want the people walking past me in the corridor to think I was a big
sissy. Also, screaming “Dear Lord in heaven, please have mercy on me!” might
have frightened the little children.
IN THE EMERGENCY ROOM'S RECLINER
By 9 PM, my friend and I finally were headed home. I stuffed my face with cookies during the entire ride.
The next morning I received a call from an orthopedic surgeon’s office and was asked if I could come in at 2:00 that afternoon. I hadn’t expected the call so I found myself wondering…what now?
Next week, the saga continues…
# # #Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science-fiction. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org