Tales of a Downtown Emergency Room

i have been known to panic myself into psychosomatic symptoms. the week my brother-in-law died, i had bronchitis and managed to combine that with a panic attack to end up in the ER, convinced i couldn’t breathe. a breathing treatment and some time to calm down later and it was revealed that there was nothing wrong with my ability to breathe besides my ability to panic myself into not breathing.

last night i fell into a similar pattern. my throat had been sore all night and getting progressively tighter as the night progressed. at about 11:30 i tried to go to sleep, but laying down made me feel like it was almost closing, which pushed me into panicking (i know i’m panicking when i get really hot across my face, i breathe faster, and my heart starts to race). i tried for a full hour to calm myself by various methods: watching tv, reading, putting a hot cloth against my throat to relax the muscles, talking to myself…no go. i got to the point that i knew that i would not be able to sleep til i had a professional evaluate me and calm me mentally so i could be calm physically, so i got myself all dressed and headed to the nearest ER at the ku medical center.

i have never been to a downtown emergency room, and compared to my experiences at an overland park and a south kc emergency room, there were many quickly evident differences. for one, i had to walk through a metal detector and get my bag searched just to get in to the ER. a tad intimidating. i was the only white girl there, and once admitted to triage was put through the usual questions of age, symptoms, and when my last period was (how this affects my sore throat i don’t know). but then the triage nurse asked me if i had done any drugs lately (“coke, dope, meth?”) in a very monotone voice – she may as well have asked if i tied my shoes this morning, by her tone of voice. after that she asked if i was in a domestic abuse relationship, in the same tone of voice. never been asked either of those, and it just made me wonder what kind of answers she hears through the nights there.

once admitted i spent a long time waiting, talking to my nurse howard, talking to my doctor, and fighting my gag reflexes as they tested and tried to look for strep throat. i also watched the style network on my in-room tv as i waited. and waited. finally they decided that i pretty much had strep, and that this called for a shot of antibiotics to knock it out. i pulled my sleeve up only to hear howard apologetically tell me that we were going into the hip for this one. he did not warn me, however, how much pain i was in for. he just told me that the medicine was “very thick, and there is a lot of it,” so i prepared myself merely for the needle prick. that was nothing compared to the searing but dull pain that took over my whole hip and butt as he pushed the medicine into me for a solid 2-3 minutes. i was white-knuckled and crying by the end of it. then i was told that i needed to walk around to work it in, so i hobbled around my room, crying, trying to work through the pain. finally it got somewhat bearable, and i was discharged. the whole saga, start to finish, took about 1.5 hours at the ER.

i went home and got ice cream to soothe my throat temporarily and was finally able to pass out. today has been spent in bed and hobbling around the apartment feeling like i have been stabbed in the hip/ass. if his aim was to distract me from the pain in my throat by stabbing my hip, howard succeeded.


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