(Continued from Chapter 44)
Dr. Beatsme had no answer to why I couldn’t breathe and Nurse Ineptia was planning to treat me without knowing what was wrong when I left the hospital emergency room after four frustrating hours. They had done one helpful thing: I knew from the test results that the pacemaker was doing its job, the leads were in the right place transmitting the right messages. Too bad I couldn’t breathe.
Here’s what happens on an emergency room visit to Carroll Hospital Center, according to the hospital’s public relations report: “When patients come to the ED (Emergency Department), a greeter sends them to an intake area that can accommodate several patients at once. In this area, patients are assessed by a physician, physician assistant or nurse who determines where they need to go for treatment.” http://www.carrollhospitalcenter.org/upload/docs/Publications/Annual%20Report/Annual-Report-10.pdf
What happens on an emergency room visit, based on actual experience: a greeter sends you to a bench, where you sit for approximately 25 minutes before entering the intake area. The greeter will not be impressed that the cardiologist from University of Maryland Medical Center advised you to make sure the greeter knew you were there for a heart-related problem.
Others also waited on the benches, wearing the blank, expectation-less faces of people in bus or train stations or airport terminals. Some talked on their cell phones. Some stared into space. Eventually, I suppose, we all got to intake and got shoved into cubicles to wait for . . .something.
Four hours into the experience, I could think of no reason to continue it. I still couldn’t breathe, but Greta was waiting for me at home. A neighbor had kindly walked her while I lay in the emergency room cubicle. When I got home, I apologized to Greta for the inconvenience. She thumped her tail in acknowledgement. No problem.
In a choice between home and hospital, home is better. But even at home, I could not climb the stairs without stopping, breathless, at the top. I let Greta off the leash on our park walks, so she could satisfy her need to run in sheer joy, with the wind waving through her tail. Then, when I could not keep up, I had to call her back.
January 1. My sister wished me a Happy New Year, then got on my case about the shortness of breath. No, I said. No more emergency room, not unless I’m already dead. If you’re dead, you don’t mind being held incommunicado in a cubicle for an hour or more at a time. All right, I would call my family care practitioner.
“Go back to the emergency room,” my physician said, “and ask them to do a CT Scan. Looks like they did everything else to rule out.” He would call ahead and explain the situation.
I went back. Got into the intake area promptly, got a competent, caring nurse who kept me in the loop with what was happening, got the CT scan—which leaves you feeling absolutely certain that you must somehow have just peed your pants. It’s really hard to check that sort of thing when you’re being wheeled around on one of those mobile stretchers.
The CT scan showed fluid buildup in the lungs. Well, no wonder I couldn’t breathe! Will it go away? Will I ever again run up the stairs or hike with Greta across the hills and fields of Hashawha or ride my bicycle? I don’t know, at this point. I do know that a future propped in a chair watching daytime television is a future I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
Is not knowing worse than knowing? Yes.
(c) 2012 by Donna Engle