Monday, May 13, 2013

What you don't want to hear in the ER

I spent the evening of Mother's Day in the emergency room.  I woke up with an acute sore throat on Saturday; by Sunday afternoon my temperature started spiraling upward, and shortly after dinner it reached 100.4 degrees.  That's the danger point at which I have to drop everything and go to the emergency room to get an array of broadband antibiotics and all kinds of cultures and tests.  Because immune-compromised systems can't stop infections, temperatures can rise quickly from there to really dangerous levels, so it's strongly impressed upon all lymphoma patients that we can take no chances when the mercury reaches 100.4.

It was a very quiet Sunday night in the ER;  there was no one at all in the waiting room.  I was disappointed - where was the excitement you always see on TV?  No gunshot wounds, no triage, no drama, and worst of all, no hunky nurses or docs rushing out to meet ambulances...  one might almost think that what they show on TV isn't real.   

The advantage for me was that I didn't have to wait at all, I was ushered right in to a room.  But the disadvantage was that I was a very simple case - draw some blood, run some tests - and (ominous-sounding dum de dum dum) there was a brand new nurse on the floor, right out of school and just perfect to be assigned to such a simple case. 

She was high energy, sweet, well-meaning, and whatever she thought was out of her mouth before she even finished the thought.   That's how we discovered that the shoes she was wearing had been soaked with blood from a prior evening but the blood washed out just fine, leaving the neon orange laces almost good as new.  (Apparently I just missed gunshot and major trauma night.)

I know that most people who come to an ER need bleeding stopped instead of blood drawn, so it's unusual to get a patient with a port.  But if it's your first time to access one to draw blood,  I recommend that you don't ask the supervising nurse how to do it in front of the patient, and say "does this look right?" before you push in the needle. But what really instilled confidence, after the first try didn't work and the head nurse left to get another kit, was the one comment I never want to hear in an ER with what you're paying for those specialized services:  "I've seen it done on Youtube and it looked so easy!"  

Fortunately the head nurse did the rest and all is well.  I was back home after midnight armed with a new array of pills with names I can't pronounce, and today my sore throat and chest infection already seem to be doing better.  I think it's because they're scared to go back to the ER.


  1. "I've seen it done on Youtube and it looked so easy!" -- Well if the head nurse didn't take over I would have demanded it after a comment like that. I guess they do not provide decorum classes in nursing school. Sheesh.

  2. OMG! That reminds me of the Will & Grace episode with the candy-striper trying to take Grace's blood... In the outtakes, Grace/Debra Messing can't stop laughing because the candy-striper keeps saying, "This is hard!" every time she messes up!