A doctor I’d never seen peeked around the curtain of my Emergency Room cubby hole and softly announced I have clots in my lungs.
My entire joyless face broke into an involuntary smile.
“That’s great news,” I said.
The doctor pulled his head back, turtle-like, as if he’d delivered the news to the wrong patient.
“There’s a simple solution, right? No surgery? Just pills?”
“That’s right,” he said.
In the thirty-six hours I’d been in the E.R. I’d learned a few things.
First of all, most hospital employees say “E.D.”, as in emergency department, rather then E.R. I was in the E.R. because I couldn’t catch my breath. A few hours of oxygen fixed that. Nurses and doctors kept saying, “it’s good you came to the “E.D.” Everytime I heard it, I thought of those commercials for little blue pills. On the other hand, when I hear E.R., I think of George Clooney.
Second, a nurse asked me if I wanted to be admitted. Was that my decision? My friend Kristina, who came to rescue me from fear and confusion reminded me that we have to say “I want to be admitted”, to satisfy Medicare. If you hesitate in making that declaration, you’ll be farther down on the waitlist for a bed upstairs. And let’s face it, if you’re seventy-five years old and find yourself in the E.R. with tubes in your nose, you’re going to end up admitted upstairs.
Three: There are no beds, no blankets and no extra pillows. The board you lie on is a padded gurney. The E.R. is a whistle-stop on the way either back home or upstairs. No need for frills.
Four: The E.R .does not have food service. You may find out about the secret stash of turkey sandwiches, graham crackers and apple juice. But no one’s in a hurry to get you food. If you toss it, well, there’s the clean-up.
Five: The call button for the nurse is like an emotional support dog. It’s a comfort lying next to you, but won’t answer your call for help if you need to drag your tubes and drips to the bathroom down the hall.
Six: The E.R. has all the equipment for all the tests. It’s designed to get results fast. When someone says, “you can have a CAT scan here or you can have it upstairs”, get it done in the E.R. The upstairs equipment is for the entire hospital and there is a long wait, even for someone with clots in the lungs.
Seven: Watch for clues. When a doctor says we want you to take Eliquis but it’s expensive, that’s your clue to call your friend and find out what online Canadian pharmacy she uses. And yes, buying drugs from Canada is legal.
Eight: There are a lot of doctors, nurses and technicians coming and going using words you’ve rarely heard. Call in a savvy friend like Kristina, to rehash the diagnosis and the prognosis.
Most important of all: take a breath and let them take care of you.