MED SURGERY / OBS

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In the ER lobby.  Stooped over, two people ahead of me at the metal detector. It’s like the airport.

“Are you a visitor?” the elderly African-American lady in a blue smock asks.

“No. Patient,” I say.

At the reception desk. “My chest hurts. I can’t breathe.” I start to cry.

“What’s your name, honey?”

After I tell her, she reads out my social and date of birth.

“Yes,” I say. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. You don’t know what’s going on. Of course you’re afraid.”

“Yes,” I say. “Please help me.”

In Triage. My blood pressure is 190/__. The usual questions.

“Do you have a history of high blood pressure? Heart disease?”

“No.”

I am glad to be here. They will take care of me. That’s what I always wished for when I was anorexic. That I would get sick enough that I would be hospitalized and someone would finally take care of me.

An EKG, blood draw, an IV port, a plastic wristband.

“Are you admitting me?”

“Yes, ma’am,” says the beautiful blond nurse.

“Okay.”

“We’re giving you a magnesium drip. Your magnesium is low.”

“Okay.” It burns.

I am wheeled into a large room called “MED SURGERY/OBS.” It’s a barracks-like ward with two rows of beds, each with its own personal sky blue curtain.

I am safe.

They will take care of me.

Maybe I need surgery and I will die on the table. Then I will be with Lorin. Maybe that is what is meant to be. I am calm and unafraid.

They will take care of me.

It is loud and bright in MED SURGERY/OBS.

I have the bed nearest the bathroom. Lucky me.

Each bed has a number dangling above it. I am Number 8.

Every two hours: blood taken, blood pressure, temperature. I am grateful for their diligence. The nurses, doctors and aides are kind, respectful.

They will take care of me.

11 o’clock. The night nurse says, “I’m going to give you something to prevent blood clots. It’s subcutaneous, goes in the belly. It’s gonna burn.”

“Okay.”

The magnesium burns too. I am a sicko on fire, in a ward of sickos.

It’s impossible to sleep. I read a kindle book on my iPhone.

Snoring, bright lights, cell phones going off, the bathroom being cleaned, floors mopped at midnight. At 3:08, two new patients are rolled in. Questions, lights, odors, fear. I hear  ambulance sirens, reminds me of the car accident, the day I lost everything.

A sound like a 747 going off every 45 minutes. Is it the air vent or my ancient hospital bed? I don’t know. My neck hurts but I don’t want to ask for anything else. I try to sleep.

10:30 a.m.

No food for me. I am classified “NBM” or “nothing by mouth.”

In the morning they send me for a stress test. Dye in the IV, wait 30 minutes, images of my heart. The machine comes so close to my chest I feel it will crush me. Waiting. Power walking on the treadmill. Waiting. Another heart image. Waiting for someone to transport me back to the ward.

I’m back in Bed Number 8 at 1:30 p.m.

I am hungry. No food since lunch Tuesday. I do not complain. The nurse gives me ice chips.

5:00 p.m.

“Your cardiac enzymes are negative. Your heart looks good,” Dr. C says. “Have you ever had anxiety attacks?”

“Yes,” I say. “But nothing like yesterday.

“I want you to start on some anti-anxiety medication.”

And so it goes. I am grateful for the diagnosis. I stopped taking anxiety meds a long time ago.

I felt somewhat ashamed that I asked my boyfriend G (yes, the widow has a boyfriend—you might judge me. Widows are not supposed to seek love after death, some believe.) to bring me to the ER, that I was not dying. I start to worry about how high my hospital bill will be. I realize how mental disorders/illness are a cause of shame for so many of us, how we feel we have to explain to people why we are sick, why we have panic attacks or why we are depressed. Do cancer patients get judged this way? Perhaps growing up with a mentally ill mother has made me even more ashamed and susceptible to shame. I remember how many times I brought her to the ER and had her admitted into the psych ward. Shame, shame. I never thought I could get this way.

Four Days on the New Meds

I feel like a person. I do not wake up with a sense of terror or dread. My chest does not hurt. I do not have shortness of breath. A bit of dizziness from time to time, but I can deal with it. I feel in charge, alive and hopeful. I feel better than I have in a very long time. I am grateful I have health insurance. I am still working on not being ashamed.

13 thoughts on “MED SURGERY / OBS

  1. I take Nortriptyline for anxiety and I’m glad I do. I use to wake up at 2 in the morning worrying about all kinds of silly things. I could never get enough sleep with all the worrying. I looked like a zombie. But my neurologist told me when he wrote the prescription, don’t ever be ashamed for helping yourself cope with this world. We’ve all got mental issues, some just don’t want to admit it.

    Take care of yourself… jc

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Erica, thank God you’re okay! There’s nothing to be ashamed of. I had to go on anxiety meds when my parents got sick. When my mom died I had the worst panic attacks I ever had. My doctor increased my venaflaxine and I took clonapin as needed. Five years later im taking less and trying to meditate more. Have you ever taken meditation? I was surprised how calming it can be!
    You’ve been through so much in your life and you’re an amazing person. We are fragile beings on this earth and there’s no shame in that. Much love to you! 💗

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You should definitely not feel ashamed. There is a horrible stigma on mental illness, but that’s society’s problem, not yours. Too much stress can lead to heart attacks and strokes because the cortisol it releases is hard on the arteries. The ER gets lots of people who think they’re having heart attacks; it turns out to be indigestion in many cases. But medical personnel would prefer people be cautious about something that could kill them. Hope it goes well with the boyfriend. You deserve some happiness.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Erica,
    Thank you for sharing this frightening adventure and it’s beneficial outcome. Not the first time I’ve heard of panic attacks resembling heart attacks, so good on ‘ya for pursuing it. Very glad to hear that your life is taking a new shape.
    Much love,
    Lynn

    Liked by 1 person

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