A night in the human ER (for positive veterinary comparison)
No sniveling complaints here. I’d like to prove with this post that I am indeed capable of offering up sanguine fare on the business of healthcare. Last night’s experience at the human ER was proof aplenty that human medicine can be done right—even in large, institutional settings. And I enjoy giving credit where it’s due. Here’s my story:
After work yesterday I stopped to score fresh veggies and a slab of barbecue-able fare at the local farmer’s market…then made my way home to cook it all up. Crunching on raw (unwashed, local, organic) veggies all the way home, I felt on top of the world. But by the time I’d marinated the meat, sliced the sweet potatoes, soaked the corn and stirred up a savory vinaigrette for the salad, I was feeling like someone had punched me in the stomach.
I’m not one to lie down on the job but I left everything out of the fridge as I deferred to my body and assessed its condition: no fever, lots of generalized abdominal pain with an extra bit of epigastric sensitivity, mild nausea, no gassy lower abdominal grumblings…
I’m a basically healthy person. I eat very well. I exercise daily (I’d just swum 1/4 mile and lifted weights at lunchtime.) I don’t drink or drug. Aside from my nasty smoking habit (the remnants of which I’d like to free myself from forever) and my sun-magnet lifestyle, I’m the poster child for good health. But you wouldn’t glean that from my ashy-faced writhings last night.
Because the pain was so sudden, intense and unrelenting, after an hour, I thought it best to deliver myself up to the care of another. I had my boyfriend abandon his business dinner (in progress) to come take me to the hospital.
Last month I saw a friend to his nearby city hospital and saw what calamities befell him in his search for decent healthcare. In the aftermath of his misadventures, I’d resolved to seek out better for myself and my family in the future.
After writing my post on our hapless stint in the hospital, I’d received a timely recommendation for more human, human healthcare in an ER setting. I’d have to drive a mere ten minutes further, but this sounded like it might be better for me. So off I went to Doctor’s Hospital in Coral Gables.
The drive there was bumpy and fast in my boyfriend’s sporty car and he couldn’t help but make jokes on how Bessie’s belly was bound to feel better after Farmer Joe loaded her up and drove her down bumpy roads to settle her stomachs. (This is a real-life vet reference to a common practice among cowhands: drive a colicky cow around and her GI settles—mysteriously). It wasn’t working for me, though, much as I would have enjoyed any successful comparison to a cow at that point.
The ER was hopping in spite of the rain and I was worried I’d be sitting around for hours. And it’s true, I did. But only four—and all of them attended to. I was triaged immediately, processed within half an hour, had an IV placed 30 minutes later and saw a doctor within 90 minutes of my stay—despite the activity of an obviously busy ER. Every time a staff member passed I was asked how I felt…if I needed anything…
This was good, I thought—real good. In my last ER experience it took over twelve hours to see a doc (and I’d had to yell to make that happen). Despite my pain and the doc’s quick but focused ministrations, I felt taken care of. (Isn’t that what we go to the hospital for?) Sure, having a loved one stroke your arm and worry over you helps—a lot. But knowing said family member isn’t stressing about yelling at staff to make things happen is a must.
I’d received GI drugs and an ultrasound and was feeling much better by the time midnight rolled around. My labs were normal and I’d not spiked a fever so a CT scan wasn’t in the works. Nope—they were going to send me home with a prescription for more GI drugs and a “let’s-see-how-goes-it” approach.
I was in my own bed and feeling much better by 1:30 AM. And I was offering a prayer to the good doc and staff who treated me so expediently as I drifted off to sleep…
I awoke this morning to the ringing of the telephone. It was the doctor’s office, calling to see how I was doing. I reported that I was feeling better…and that I’d never had a better ER experience. I only hope my insurance company makes sure they can take my opinion to the bank. If not, there’s some cash I can manage to make sure they do. Now that’s not something you hear often in human medicine.