I’d been having dizzy spells for ten days, and finally acquiesced to my husband and co-workers and decided to call the doctor’s office.

“We highly recommend that you go to Urgent Care and get this checked out” said the nurse.  So much for my plans.  After checking in, I took out the iPad that I take with me everywhere, so at least I had something to keep me busy and keep my mind off all the “sick” people sitting around me.  Every cough, sneeze and whimper made me want to bolt for the door before I caught whatever these other people had.

I finally got called back to the triage area, where I answered a few questions, and had my blood pressure and temperature taken.   Then it was back into the waiting room, only to find that a lady with a vomit bag was sitting in what I had deemed my “safe zone.”   I positioned myself as far away from everyone as I could, moving from one chair to another as necessary, until it was my turn to be seen.

When my name was called and I was escorted to a room, I was greeted by a tall, handsome doctor who asked more questions.  He had me stand, lift my arms out to the side and close my eyes.   It took only seconds for me to lose my balance and Doctor Gorgeous had to catch me before I fell.  This of course is every grandma’s dream or at least fodder for a new romance novel; were that my type of prose.

He looked me in the eyes and said, “Honey, you’re going to the hospital, and I can’t let you drive yourself.  I’m calling the transport team to come and get you.”

I had just a few minutes to grab my phone and break the news to my husband that our dinner would have to be postponed before two young men, a Paramedic and an EMT helped me onto a gurney, strapped me down and transported me to the hospital.  I was disappointed that I didn’t at least get lights and sirens.  Darn!   

Since these young men were the same ages as my boys, I felt within my motherly rights to ask about their jobs.  They schooled me on the differences between a Paramedic and an Emergency Medical Tech., and after arriving at the hospital, while they waited for paperwork, blood pressure checks and an IV, I learned about their hobbies, aspirations, and in the case of the EMT, a favorite fishing spot.

Because the ER was so crowded, I joined the ranks of the hallway gurney guests, aka those for which there was no room in the inn.  The comings and goings in the ER can be fascinating if you are of a mind to watch.  My piece of the wall was near the ambulance bay doors, close enough to the sensor that had I wanted to, I could have opened the doors with a wave of my IV strapped hand.  But since each opening brought a rush of cold night air, I chose not to use my temporary super power.

A sizeable slice of the incarcerated population, wearing gaudy orange jumpsuits, passed by my perch.  They remained silent except for the jangle of shackles as their feet scuffed across the floor. The guards assigned to them ranged from the behemoth male bodybuilder types to the more petite females, but all wore the same large guns, holstered to their belts. Guards held on to the back of the prisoner’s belts, like someone holding a dog’s leash, and even though I knew each one probably deserved their handcuffs, I felt a slight pang of pity.

Doctors, nurses and aides paced the halls taking care of the noisiest guests first, eventually getting to the patients with more patience.  Only at the overhead announcement of “Code Blue” or the shrieking young woman about to give birth in the waiting room, did their brisk walk increase to a run.

I noticed a pattern of events; doors opening and closing, gusts of cold air, gurney wheels, machines beeping, and charts clicking open, then closed as vitals were taken.

“We’re taking you for tests and then we’ll get you into a room as soon as one is available.”  Rewind and repeat. It was almost enough to lull one to sleep except no one can really sleep in the ER.  Time for another phone call home.

“Honey, dinner isn’t going to happen tonight.  They’ve decided to keep me for observation and tests.  No, you don’t need to come down here.  Yes, I’m sure.  You’d just get irritated at the staff.  I’ll call you in the morning.”

Though difficult to tell when you’ve been looking at ceiling lights all night, morning eventually comes.

“We’re moving you to another area of the hospital.”

The scenery changed slightly—who knew there were two ERs in the same building?  The main ER is the base hub, were everyone starts and initial assessments are made.  ER South is for those in a holding pattern between being placed into an actual room or being sent home.  The noticeable differences are that ER South is much smaller, there are no EMTs, and while I was still a wall hugger, there was the potential for food.

You can’t be too picky when you are at the mercy of the hospital kitchen.  I was thankful for the scrambled egg substitute and soggy toast with gelatinous “fruit” spread.  I was even grateful for the decaffeinated coffee, but drew the line at the solid mass labeled oatmeal.

More waiting, and then a new face appeared; another doctor, and apparently, the decision maker.

“We’re going to send you home.  Someone from Physical Therapy will be by soon and then you’ll be discharged.”  While I was not sure why I needed to be seen by a physical therapist, after he escorted me through two laps around the nurse’s station to make sure I wouldn’t keel over, he deemed me stable, and I was freed from the tethers of tubes and wires.  It was time for another phone call.

“They’re going to release me.  Nope, they didn’t find anything, but the ER doctor changed a bunch of my medications.  I should be ready to go soon.”

While waiting for my knight to rescue me, lunch carts arrived.

“Would you like your tray?” the nice nurse asked.

“No thank you.  My husband will be here in a few minutes.”

“Ok, I’ll have an orderly take you to the front door and you can wait there.  Please be sure to follow up with your primary care doctor.”

As soon as he pulled up to the loading zone, I asked my knight to take me to lunch.

It may not have been as good as our postponed steak, crab and champagne dinner, but I’m sure it was better than whatever stayed hidden under the brown plastic cloche back in the ER.

The things that occur on a given day can greatly affect one’s attitude and outlook, and while we may not be able to control our circumstances, we can control our response to them.  When one has plans, like a relaxing massage followed by a romantic dinner with your spouse and you end up in the ER instead, it can either ruin your day or you can find things to make the experience memorable.  I chose the latter.

While I have made fun of my adventure, I want it known that every person I had contact with during those 16 hours treated me with the greatest care and respect.  I have the highest regard for our local medical professionals and first responders.  I want to extend my thanks to Kaiser Permanente, Hall Ambulance and San Joaquin Hospital for all that they did to help me.