Monday, October 24th, 2016

Getting a first hand report on emergency room health care the hard way


As some of you who follow me on Facebook know, I spent a good chunk of the day in the emergency room at Waukesha Memorial.  I’m okay, and I’m taking it easy today at home with some pain killers and antibiotics. I’m not sure of the street value of this stuff.

It was not a heart attack (the ticker is fine) but a severe pain just below the ribs made me turn my car around and drive to the emergency room. Yes, I drove. Spare me the lecture. If I just stopped the car and called 911, God knows where the ambulance would have taken me. As long as I was capable of driving I was going to drive.

It’s funny what you think of in those moments. My thought really was I needed to go to Waukesha Memorial because my wife would find me there.

The too-busy receptionist asked me what was wrong then gave some forms to fill out. She wouldn’t even answer my questions. I doubt she heard me sarcastically yell at her, “Thanks for helping!” After that, I have to say the rest of the staff was very helpful.

I had to laugh at the technician or nurse that stuck my hand for the IV. She gave a version of the standard, “Now this might sting.” Compared to what? The severe pain that was causing me to barely breathe? “Death, where is thy sting?” She got the IV tube in me and then they offered the morphine.

To give you an idea of the pain, the first blast (first ever) of morphine didn’t help. I was even remembering bits of poetry by Coleridge. (I was the only one to get the joke.) However, when they upped the dosage – that was pretty good. Except staring straight ahead was like being in a glass elevator going down, only to suddenly start over and then back down.

By this time Doreen was there. The hospital wanted a urine sample. The nurse really wanted me to use the bedpan but, since he was not totally opposed, I opted for walking to the men’s room with Doreen’s help. “I’ve made it to plenty of bathrooms in bars,” I assured them.

The EKG and the chest x-ray ruled out the heart attack. The staff was convinced it was a kidney stone except the pain wouldn’t cooperate by being in the right place. No back pain, the pain wasn’t moving, etc. The CT scan couldn’t kind any kidney stones. Doreen and I thought it was my gall bladder but that’s on the wrong side.

Doreen and I ran through my diet the last couple of days in case my recent healthier eating habits were trying to kill me.

Finally the doctor decided it must be an infection, as I have a nice little pocket of fluid just above the diaphragm.  We’re not 100% sure that’s what it was, but given that I’ve been fighting fluid in my inner ears for the last week, it seems possible.

So I’m taking it easy today. For some reason nobody wants me to drive on these pain killers. But the good news is I’m okay, just a little shaken by the whole experience, and a little foggy from the Oxycodone. And I can’t get the stupid probes off.

The things I do just to get out of cutting the grass.

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