Sunday, April 15, 2007

My first trip to the ER

At the time, I had no idea that this would be the first of many trips to the emergency room. The ambulance ride was somewhat uneventful, as it seemed to go quickly and I felt more at ease just knowing that someone was with me. I kept thinking to myself, am I dying? did I have a stroke? What will my husband say?

I was married in September of 1997. So I was a fairly new bride still. All of these thoughts of my wedding and my husband were spinning through my head. Am I going to be able to work tomorrow? or drive myself to the airport so that I could fly back home? If something happens to me no one knows me around here.

When I arrived at the hospital, the emergency techs kept telling the doctors and nurses that I was having an allergic reaction to Relafen and Norflex. They kept pumping me full of Benadryl. It was making me drowsy and relaxed. I thought it odd that they accepted my own diagnosis of the situation. I would have thought that maybe I would have had an immediate reaction to the drugs when I had first taken them the night before. Afterall, I had thrown up the other muscle relaxant that the doctor in New Mexico had prescribed a few nights earlier. I had felt odd earlier that day so maybe they were right and it was just taking a little longer for me to have the full reaction. My body was acting out, fighting the toxic mixture.

The Boca Raton emergency room was crazy. It was packed with people. It was loud and there were people running everywhere. There was no room available in the ER, so the staff left me on the gurney in the hallway. There were other patients lined on gurneys against the wall with me. I thought to myself... this is just nuts! Were there others in the rooms that had worse conditions than ours? Was I in a bad neighborhood with gangs? Were gunshot victims in all of those rooms that lined the hallways?

Suddenly I felt like an idiot. Maybe I had dreamt the whole episode. It was at about this point that I realized that I was just in a t-shirt and underwear. I had decided back at the hotel room that I would hop into bed and watch TV after I ate. In all the chaos I completely forgot that I was just in a long t-shirt with no shoes or pants on! Luckily I had the sheet draped over me. The thought had not yet crossed my mind yet as to how I would get back to the hotel.

I started feeling a little nauseated and was getting very aggitated as I was constantly hearing machines beeping and alarms and bells sounding. People were on monitors and those were sometimes going off. The staff was so busy that they did not get to patients very quickly. The machines were loud and I felt like the noise was almost too much to bear. It seemed as if it was magnified. There were moments where I felt like I would go insane.

I happened to be on the side of the hallway where there was a large round clock hanging above my head. It stuck out from the wall and I could see it so clearly. It was not flush with the wall, but instead sat perpendicular to the wall so that people walking down the hallway could easily view it. I found it somewhat troubling to watch the clock. I knew exactly what time and how long it took for each person to get to a beeping machine or to check on a patient. No one acknowledged my existence.

I started to feel as if I would pass out. I held out my arm and tried to grab someone walking by. There was a male nurse that came to my side. I told him that I did not feel "right" and that I felt like something terrible was going to happen to me. He said that he would be able to get a doctor to me soon. I told him I didn't want him to leave me. He took my blood pressure and my pulse and promised that he would be back shortly.

After he left, I began the short moments of feeling the loss of time again. This time my head could not drop because I was laying down. I felt like I should sit up so that I could stay awake. Maybe the Benadryl was making me drowsy and that is what was happening this time. But I was wrong. I started the ugly cycle of going in and out of reality, but always just for a brief amount of time. I watched the clock and I was having these moments every 3-5 minutes. It was like clockwork. It was a cycle and had a pattern. What is happening to me? Am I dying? I will be so angry if I die on this gurney by myself in Boca Raton. It could be days before anyone knows who I am. I had no ID on me. My purse was back at the hotel.

I saw the nice male nurse again. I told him that I was having moments of loss of consciousness and that I felt like I had to fight to stay alert. He said that I had a lot of Benadryl. He told me that he wanted to take a blood sugar test. I told him that I had eaten a couple of hours earlier. When he checked it he said that it was "high". What does that mean? I knew nothing about blood sugar or diabetes.

After about a half hour, those brief moments of darkness had ceased. I felt like I was finally part of the world again. I was starting to feel better. A doctor came to me and asked me who my regular physician was. I told him that I did not live in Florida and that my regular doctor was in Nebraska. I had not been to a regular doctor in New Mexico yet. I had only lived there since I got married, but had not had a reason to go to a general practitioner for anything. I never got sick and never really needed a regular family physician in general. Ironically, at that moment, I caught a glimpse of the doctor that I had been working with there in Boca Raton. I told the ER doctor that "he" was sort of my doctor. "Please get him. I know him. He is my doctor in Boca Raton." He brought the internal medicine doctor over to me. He was surprised to see me. I told him that I thought I was allergic to the drugs he had given me. He told me that those drugs typically never bother any of his patients. He could not understand why I would suddenly have a problem with them. I asked him if he would be my doctor, but he said he had a patient who was in an emergency situation in the room across the hall and he needed to go to him. He wished me well and went on his way.

The ER doctor told me that he was going to dismiss me since I was feeling better. This really frightened me because I felt like I did not really get any answers. They were all just taking what I had said and turned that into my diagnosis. The nurse was then sent over to me with discharge papers. I told him that I was just in a t-shirt and underwear. I had no shoes and no purse. He told me that he would have someone call a taxi for me. He told me I could wear the socks that they had put on me. About 20 minutes later, I was told that the taxi was waiting for me.

I walked out into the darkness. It was moist and humid out. Typical Florida I thought. It felt muggy and I felt icky. It was almost 1:30 in the morning. I slid into the back of the cab and hoped that the driver could not see that I was wearing no pants. I told him where I thought the hotel was. When we arrived at the hotel, he told me what I owed him. I could not believe that he wanted me to go inside, in my underwear, and get money for him. How humiliating. He would watch me walk into the hotel in a t-shirt and underwear and wait for me to come out. I wanted him to take pity on me and let me leave with a shred of dignity. But unfortunately, that did not happen. I suppose he had to take a fee and I thought that since he did not really seem phased by it all that he must have seen much worse than me.

I walked up to the front desk. I told them that I was the girl who had been taken by ambulance earlier that night. I did not have a key or my purse. Even with no ID, they let me into my room and made me a new key. I grabbed my purse off of the bed and went out to the cab to pay my fee.

When I got back to my room I started to worry that if I went to bed that I would not wake up. I thought I should call someone. I called the girl that I typically reported to at the company where I worked. She was back in Nebraska. It was late, but I thought if someone did not know where I was or what had happened that I would not wake up and no one would miss me the next day. I told her what had happened. She seemed concerned and asked me if I would feel up to working that next day. I told her that I needed to work at the doctor's office and then drive to the airport to fly back home that afternoon. I just had to get back to New Mexico and put this behind me.

I slept for a little while and then got up and packed my bags, checked out of the hotel, and headed into the doctor's office. I was supposed to train his staff for a few hours before leaving to go to the airport. I was not feeling "normal" or "stable". I felt very weak and my memory was terrible. I was constantly double-checking everything I did. I would place something in my purse and then check it over and over because I had forgotten what I had just placed in there. I remembered the software that I was teaching them, but was having a hard time with anything that involved short-term memory. I assumed it was probably due to the lack of sleep from the night before. I asked the doctor if I could go ahead and cut out earlier than planned so that I would have plenty of time to get to the airport.

I felt very weak and tired when I arrived in New Mexico. By the time I drove myself home I was exhausted from the whole ordeal. I had spoken to my husband on the phone earlier that day while I was still in Florida. He was in flight training in Texas. He was a pilot and was being promoted to captain. He seemed concerned about what had happened but we both knew that it was not feasible for him to fly home right now and interrupt his training.

That next day I decided to get some work done in the yard. I found it very difficult to push the mower across our front yard. It must have taken me three or four times longer than it usually did to mow. I did not feel like myself. My memory was also not back to its normal form. My mother-in-law called later in the day to see how I was doing. I told her that I felt very weak. She told me that when your body goes through a stressful situation like that it takes a toll and it will be a few days before I would feel back to normal.

Little did I know that it would take years before I felt like I was back to "normal".
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