No urgency in Emergency

Lying in bed at 6 A.M. a few weeks ago I felt a sting and when I brushed my hand against my wrist, felt something fuzzy there. I didn’t know it but I had just brushed off a hornet or wasp or bee that had stung me. I jumped out of bed, ran to the kitchen to inspect my throbbing wrist, ran back to the bedroom (mind you these runs are only 10 feet long) to wake my husband. We turned on the light and there was my attacker on the wall near the lamp on my dresser. I began to freak out.


While I expected my husband to nurse me in some way, he sat down with his computer on his lap, his typical early morning work routine. I was flabbergasted until he began reading off a web site what to do for bee stings. As he read the anaphylaxic (allergic reaction) life-threatening symptoms: throat closing, light-headed, dizziness, weakness etc, I was having them all. I was so weak I had to sit on the kitchen floor, my head spinning and my legs falling out from beneath me. Then through my fog I heard my husband’s voice, “Check your blood sugar, check your blood sugar, check your blood sugar.” With shaky hands I did and it was 57, most likely the cause of my weakness and shaky symptoms — along with a good dose of panic.


After I gobbled some glucose bits, my blood sugar returned to normal but my panic was only slightly abated. I’ve never been stung by a bee. How serious is this? My Aunt is allergic, if she gets stung I know she can die. Is there a stinger in my wrist we have to get out? We followed all the steps advised on the web site should there be an embedded stinger and then I said uncharacteristically, “Let’s go to the ER.” It was Saturday and I knew I couldn’t reach my doctor.


We walked the six blocks to the hospital, and as we walked I questioned whether I really needed to go. But I was worried and wanted someone to tell me it was O.K. so we kept walking. 


Entering the ER was nothing like on TV.


We arrived at 7:15 A.M. Only two people were in the waiting room and I thought this is great, I’ll get seen soon. Then the drunk showed up strolling the room and talking aloud to no one and then the woman who’d been sitting there quietly started yelling and every 10 minutes went to the public phone nearby to yell to someone how much pain she was in and no one was paying attention to her. More like she was off her meds. I saw they paid attention to her when security finally came to calm her down. What a freakish scene I found myself in, on an early Saturday morning, in a place I’ve never been, hoping for quick medical attention.


When we had first entered the receptionist asked me a bunch of questions, only one having to do with my bee sting, and typed my answers into her computer barely looking at me. A half hour later I was called up to another desk where the woman asked me the same questions and typed my answers into her computer. As I tried to engage in at least some conversation, we spent more time talking about her failed diet than my bee sting. 


When I finally saw a physician’s assistant, 3.5 hours after arriving, including the one hour wait after being called into the inner sanctum of the E.R. where I was utterly ignored, she told me all looked fine, go home and take some pain reliever. 


In truth, I was relieved to hear a medical person say, don’t worry, it’s O.K. I guess that’s what I came for. And I surely understand that if there were people arriving on stretchers then my bee sting could wait. But having one simple nurse up front could have sent me home in less than a half hour and receiving one simple smile could have ameliorated the cold, fearful wait. 


As I left I thought let me never come back here again unless it’s through the back door on a stretcher. 



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