In general, it is impossible to truthfully say “everyone likes…” or “everyone dislikes…” because you’ve always got that one weirdo who for some unfathomable reason doesn’t like chocolate (my apologies if that is you…but seriously?). However, I really, really want to say and believe I am correct when I do, that “everybody dislikes going to the emergency room.” But I won’t, because I know someone out there is about to say they kind of like all the over-bright lights, the moans from other sick people, the IV stuck in your arm, the wheeling off to various wings of the hospital, the wait…
I, however, am not that person. I hate going to the emergency room.
Not only does it bring back unwanted memories of my previous injuries or illnesses, but it just always seems somewhat pointless.
When I was 16 years old I got incredibly sick, like a cold gone wrong. To save you the gory details, I’ll just say that the mucus wasn’t only coming out of my nose anymore. I ended up running a track meet with a fever over 100 degrees and coughing so hard that I felt like my chest was ripping open…which, it turned out, it actually was.
On a Thursday evening, in the middle of my month-long high usage of tissues, my parents came home from an evening out with friends to find me huddled on the floor in our upstairs hallway, clutching my chest and telling them it hurt to breathe.
My dad was already halfway into bed, so my mom decided she’d better take me.
As we walked through the double set of automatic doors of the local emergency room, there was a woman walking out.
“Turn around now,” she advised us in a loud, aggrevated voice. “Save yourself! You’ll waste six hours and then find out nothing’s wrong.”
She was right about the six hours (despite my mom telling the front desk I had chest pain), but not about the nothing’s wrong. Not then at least.
Then I was diagnosed with pneumonia, bronchitis and costochondritis (tearing of the cartilage between the sternum and the ribs) and sent home with a pile of pills and orders to rest. I tried.
Six years later, however, I would head back to the emergency room, spend six hours and find out that despite my extreme pain, “nothing was wrong.” The doctor spent all of a minute speaking with me after sitting behind his computer right in front of me for the several hours previously while I cried.
At the time I was furious. My anger propelled me out of the bed, out of the hospital and lead me to use words that I almost never say (my boyfriend can confirm). With a visit to a specialist, three different medications, several more tests and one very unpleasant Easter (preparing for an endoscopy and colonoscopy) my symptoms eventually abated.
I was happy to be feeling better, but my anger at the way the emergency room doctor had treated me had yet to fade. Despite being from an extended family of doctors, I couldn’t help harboring a hatred for them…at least the ER kind.
Little did I know, that just over six months later I would be headed back to another ER. In a different state, for a different reason but with nearly the exact same outcome (a couple meds, a couple tests and no real answers) except for one crucial thing.
The doctor was kind. He looked at me. He talked to me, a lot. He listened to what I had to say and answered all my questions. He made me feel like the fact that I was in pain mattered and that he wanted to help.
He may not have done anything medically different than that ER doctor back in Connecticut. He did many of the same tests and came back with nearly all of the same results, but this time I didn’t leave the hospital crying or swearing or filled with a hatred for every medical professional I had seen. Instead I left feeling extremely thankful.
Thankful to be feeling a bit better (thank you pain killers). Thankful to not be heading into emergency surgery. And most of all thankful that I had gone, despite my past experiences.
So, so I hope to go again? Absolutely not! But if I have to, I might be a little more willing this time.
So, be kind, especially if you’re a doctor, it could make all the difference to the person on the other end.