Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Emergency Room

I’ve just moved into my new home. We’ve been here a week. We’ve got the basics running fairly well: the bathroom and kitchen are mostly put away. The living room, though bare of art, is pleasing to sit in, and the internet was installed yesterday. Yes, our clothes are still in cardboard boxes, but my bed is set up and such a comfort at the end of the day. And yes, I still don’t have a shower curtain rod in the main bathroom, but we can take a shower in the second bathroom that I am so grateful to have with two teenagers and two adults who all seem to need to poop or brush their teeth or bathe at the same time.
There. That was me reminding myself of all the things that work.
The other things that have come up in the ONE WEEK we’ve been here are: the kitchen sink is backed up so that I can’t use the sink, garbage disposal, or dishwasher (We now have a mountain of dirty dishes); there is a water leak under the house from the same kitchen area apparently; the fence guy installing our backyard fence so the dogs can go out unsupervised was injured on the job (we paid the medical bills), which means the fence still isn’t up; the dryer cord outlet was installed without enough clearance for an actual dryer cord to be plugged in; the cold water washing machine faucet leaked so much when the water was turned on, we couldn’t use it; and I’ve spent over six hours this week in emergency rooms.
I am, however, happy to say I’ve successfully washed two loads of laundry as of this morning.
It’s the little things.
As to one of the emergency room visits, grab a cup of tea, get comfortable, and I’ll tell you the story. (The other ER visit will have to wait for another essay.)
On Saturday I spent the morning and early afternoon finishing up the move-out, cleaning, and walk-through on the rental house I just moved out of. At the new house, my teens were playing a video game on the new-to-us Wii, our kitchen plumbing issue was being looked at, and my dogs were locked up in the bedroom. I waited around, half-heartedly looking at a Take Root magazine, until the MacGuyver Guy left and I let the dogs out, relaxed with some food, and put my feet up for a bit. Then I took my kids to their dad’s. It was Transition Day.
My honey was camping at a festival with friends and I had great plans for hanging up all my clothes so we didn’t have to navigate around the boxes in the bedroom anymore, to clean up the pile of potting soil in the carport caused from a ceramic pot that fell and broke from a loose shelf I’d forgotten about when I set the pot there, and to maybe even stack the dirty dishes in a more pleasing arrangement—thereby concealing their existence. I was hoping to get this all done before he arrived Sunday.
I started with my clothes.
I didn’t get through half a box.
The last thing I hung was my leather coat. I remember thinking that eventually it would be hung in the front entry closet, but right now I just wanted it out of the box. As soon as I hung it on the rod, the attached shelf above it—along with the rod of clothes—fell out of the wall (screws and all) and onto my right hand.
“Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow,” I said, loudly enough to scare Banjo, my twelve-year-old Shepherd/Husky mix. We call him Banjo Boyscout, he’s that sensitive and straight-laced. The only booming thought I had was ICE. I made a beeline for the freezer without even looking at my hand. I grabbed a handkerchief to cut the cold because none of my dish towels were clean, and then I looked down.
“Fuckin’ A. Is that bone?” I actually said it aloud, though no one but me was home, except the dogs, though there is still debate as to whether they can understand human speech.
I went back to the scene of the crime, bypassing the evil closet (which still gives me butterflies when I look at it today), climbed onto my bed and started icing.
I’ve never done anything down to the bone on my body before. Does one need stitches for that? It wasn’t really bleeding, so probably not. It didn’t even hurt that much, but curiously I felt nauseous. I wasn’t shaky though, and I knew my name and where I was, so I wasn’t in shock. In retrospect, I think I was mildly shocked—haha—because despite having already done the correct first aid on myself, there was a certain amount of confusion. What do I do? I don’t know what to do was a constant, ongoing, ticker tape in my head. Let’s call it microshock.
Ali was camping at the Black Sheep Family Reunion music festival. I didn’t want to worry him. (Turns out he didn’t have cell phone range where he was anyway.) My best friend, Tamara, was camping, too, at a different festival. My friend and neighbor, Jimmy, was also at the same Faerieworlds festival. My friend, Deanna, was on a date. My doctor friend didn’t answer the text I sent—she was at a memorial service—and due to some misunderstood correspondence, I thought my friend Sarah was hanging up an art show. I didn’t know who to call to ask if I needed to go to Urgent Care.
It’s not really bleeding. And it doesn’t even hurt really. The ice is working just fine. What do I do? I don’t know what to do.
I considered going next door to my new neighbor, whom it turns out I know from a class I took, like, nine years ago. I went through my contact list on my phone to look for someone to call. But then they’d have to come over, and I didn’t want to deal with crating my dog again. And I felt silly—even as my eyes teared up and I felt a little frightened of my perceived isolation.
What do I do?
I turned to Facebook as a resource. Someone will respond and tell me what to do.
Of the three people that did respond, they all said, “Go to the hospital. You need stitches. You’re in shock.” But they didn’t know me very well. Maybe they were over-reacting. I needed a close friend to tell me that. I wasn’t in shock. I didn’t really think I needed the hospital. What would they put stitches in? There wasn’t any bleeding. Why did I feel nauseous? How come it didn’t hurt anymore? The ice must’ve helped. What do I do?
Constant. Ongoing. Ticker Tape.
Finally, after enough Facebook chatter, I decided to go. No, thank you, I can drive myself. And then began the process of making it to my car.
I was wearing wrap-around pants that tied in both the front and back. What if I have to pee at the hospital? There was no way I could handle those pants with one hand. I changed into a skirt. What if it’s air-conditioned and I get cold? I slipped a long-sleeved linen shirt over my good arm and let the rest hang. What if I get thirsty? I filled my water bottle. I found a book to read in the waiting room. I found my keys.
My heart was starting to race and pound, but I still wasn’t shaking. Maybe I should get someone to drive me to the hospital. I could call Daryll Lynne, but she’d just cleaned her garage all day. She might be too tired. What about Tamathy, or Cherie, or Doug? No. If I waited for them to get here, I’d just talk myself out of going, and it took me a long time to talk myself into going.
Into the car I went. Pioneer Parkway would take me there. (I’m in a new town, remember?) I was fairly certain. I head that way, pass all the correct landmarks, go through the roundabout, and….end up in downtown Springfield. ??? I guess I turned the wrong way down Pioneer Parkway. I turned around and drove the opposite way. But then I started seeing the same landmarks I’d seen before on the same side of the street.
Wouldn’t Bank of America be on the left side of the street now?
When I got to the roundabout, I knew what I’d done. I laughed out loud in the car. Idid know the right way. I just malfunctioned when it came to the roundabout.
I pulled up to the Urgent Care clinic, grateful for the up close and personal parking space. But it’s closed.
Great. The ER will be more expensive.
My fingers were starting to tingle and go numb.
When I walked in the ER, a man at the check-in desk in a neon yellow vest and bluetooth walkie hopped up.
“What can I do for you?”
“I hurt my hand.”
“What’s your name?”
“Okay Valerie.” He wrote it down. “Sit right there in those triage chairs and as soon as a room is cleaned, we’ll get you right in. You’re next!”
I guess my face was white, or I seemed confused, because I received super speedy service. Certainly faster than the waitstaff at the restaurant last night. I cried a little when I sat down. I think I was relieved to have someone else making decisions and taking care of me.
I got my vitals checked—my pulse and heart rate had shot up enough that the techs asked me to just sit and calm down—and I did my computer “registration.” My hands had started shaking by now, Sarah texted of her imminent arrival to keep me company, and I got three x-rays taken. Once Sarah got there and started me laughing, the time passed even more quickly.
The ER doc was in and out within five minutes. He had me hook my fingers, one at a time, around his bent finger and pull to test that all my tendons worked, and he squeezed around the injury site to see if anything felt broken. He checked the xrays to make sure and then sent a nurse in to give me a tetanus shot. I didn’t need any stitches—which was actually what I was most afraid of.
I declined the tetanus shot. Mostly because I knew it would be over a $100, nothing rusty touched me, and I wasn’t at risk of diphtheria or whooping cough (both of which are now mixed with the tetanus shots these days.) I have mixed feelings about vaccines, I didn’t have time to research this one, and the side effects of these were sufficiently terrible enough to compel me to refuse. I could always go in and get it another time if I changed my mind.
The nurse washed my injury, smeared on antibiotic ointment, and bandaged up my hand.
And that was it.
I shouldn’t have gone in.
Yeah, I probably was in microshock, but I didn’t need anything but ice and a big Band-Aid. I’m not looking forward to receiving the bill.
Two things about this event particularly stuck with me. One, as Sarah and I were leaving the ER, our nurse said she really liked hearing us laugh so much in the treatment room. The poor stressed-out ER staff probably don’t hear much laughter back there. I’m glad we brought her some joy. I’m certainly glad Sarah was there.
can ask for help and receive care from my friends—even the ones I don’t see often. I am not as isolated as I can sometimes feel.
The second memorable occasion happened the following day. Because of the house disarray, I couldn’t find any Advil to abate a raging headache and my swollen hand. So I had a screwdriver. And then another.
I couldn’t finish the second. By 2:30 p.m. I was smashing drunk. Which I found hilarious because the Comcast Xfinity guy was there installing internet at my house, and my MacGuyver Guy was back working on my washer and dryer. Hopefully they didn’t notice.
Being unfamiliar with mid-day drunkenness, and realizing I’d only eaten toast and chai that morning, I was prompted to consume a delicious salmon burger with lettuce, mustard and jalapeno cheese, and tater tots with local Red Duck spicy ketchup. It was the best food I’d ever eaten.
(Sidenote: With the food in me I sobered up. Though along with the loss of inebriation, my headache returned full force.)
Today my hand-swelling is down enough to bend all my fingers, to write without much aching, and to grip a dog leash. I only hope I’m able to perform the couple of massages on my schedule this week before I head off to the Willamette Writers Conference on Thursday.
This summer got way too much for me all of a sudden.
I’m looking forward to the kids’ school starting in the Fall, when I can get my regular routine back in place. I’m aching for yoga classes, writing every day, marketing my now award-winning book, and living in an Everything Works home.
There just better not be anymore ER visits.