Emergency Room Visits

health, NYC, storyVirginia HartComment

I have now had the delightful privelage of gracing NYC emergency rooms with my presence four times. My first Big Apple ER encounter was in 2007. My roommate and I had just moved our country bumpkin selves to the city. Life consisted of rotating our two interview outfits as we begged someone to hire us. We spent our days hanging out with the homeless people and their pigeon pets in Central Park as we drafted one desperate "Hire me! I'm awesome!" email after another. At one point during this chapter of life, our combined household belongings consisted of three things: one bed and two forks. Each day we made the important decision of whether we should have the $1 hotdog from the hotdog stand for lunch or for dinner. In fact, one of the most humbling (and mortifying) moments during that time was when a homeless man paid for my roommate's hotdog when she realized she didn't have her wallet.

Thankfully, our parents felt sorry for us and kept us on their health insurance plans until we found a job. This came in handy when, after only a short time in the city, I accompanied my roommate to the ER for a bad infection on her leg. At the time, I didn't know what was worse - the screaming patients or the kooky doctors - but I told myself that I would never have to go back.


The second time involved another roommate. I had tucked myself in bed and was just drifting to sleep when she pushed open my bedroom curtains (yes, curtains suffice as a wall/door in NYC). As she held her hand in a dish towel, she quietly said "Um, I think I need to go to the hospital". She had been washing the inside of a drinking glass and twisted her fingers to scrub the bottom and the glass shattered into her hand.

Let's just say it wasn't a pretty sight.

I honestly got a little light-headed with all of the glass and blood and "what-do-we-do's", but I couldn't allow myself to be queasy. It was my time to play "mom". The most entertaining part of all of this was attempting to dress the girl in something other than her minimal pajamas. At the ER, I filled out all of her paperwork and assured her that paw scars were cute as the nurse stitched up her hand.

The third time wins the oh-so-this-is-what-hell-is-like award. To this day, I honestly believe I had the swine flu before doctors knew enough to diagnose it. I have never been more sick in my life. Every inch of my body ached and everything that could go/feel wrong, did. In my worse-than-death state, I couldn't even process the act of calling someone to go with me since that would require holding my phone up to my ear. I somehow conjured up the energy to stand and I shuffled myself to the hospital. I don't even know if my paperwork was legible; I could barely hold up their germy ballpoint pen long enough to scribble my name, let alone long enough to answer questions about my insurance policy and family's medical history.  I waited for what seemed like 37 years slumped over in my chair trying not to hurl or pass out.

And then I finally saw a doctor --- who prescribed me Motrin for my fever and "lots of liquids and rest"...

At that point, I remember turning into a not-so-pleasant version of myself and storming out of my hospital room. As I walked towards the exit, the nurse yelled for me saying I needed to hang tight while they prepared my discharge papers.


I don't remember exactly what I said back, but I expressed my sentiment clearly enough to warrant a "Yes, m'am, that's fine, you can go".

The fourth time? The fourth time was last week. Yay.

I met friends for an outside happy hour last Tuesday with hopes of soaking up the last bit of nice weather. I noticed a couple of bug bites on my leg when I left and assumed it was a measley mosquito. Two days later, though, I started to compare my legs as something was a wee off. I asked my co-workers and they seemed concerned that my one ankle looked like it "belonged to an 80-year-old".

Later that night, I realized my ankle was burning/covered in blisters and my foot no longer belonged to a human, but rather an elephant. It looked like someone had blown up a latex glove; my toes were tiny little pegs sticking off the end of a round balloon. I reluctantly forfeited my plans to watch the Grey's premiere and dragged myself to a real ER...

The doctor entered the room while reading my chart; she looked up and gave a loud "OoooOOoohhhhh". Continuing in her astute and sympathetic manner, she informed me that I had a fever, needed a high dosage of steroids and antibiotics, claimed that I am allergic to whatever bit me and told me, "You know, it would have been helpful if you brought in the bug".


I hobbled to the nearest pharmacy, scraping my mammoth foot on top of my shoe. I went up to the counter and the pharmacist greeted me with "I'm sorry, miss, we closed one minute ago. You'll have to come back tomorrow".

What did I do? It went a little something like this.

image from here

"You don't understand! I need the medicine now! My ankle is on fire! I can no longer fit my foot inside my ballet flat! And I'm going to a wedding the day after tomorrow! And I need to wear heels! And I have a giant foot!! And I can't wear heels with a giant foot!!!!"

"Okay, okay - we'll make an exception," she said.

I sniffled out a "thanks" and nonchalantly perused the candy aisle while she prepared my Rx.
I went home and had to eat a "full meal", which consisted of an apple, two individually wrapped pieces of cheese, some grapes and a heel of a bread loaf with peanut butter. (Grocery shopping obviously didn't make the cut that week.) Despite being up all night with a racing heart-beat from 6 steroids and 2 antibioitic pills and having to call out of work the next day, I miraculously made it to the wedding that Saturday in one piece.
And I even wore heels!I suppose the morals of my stories are as follows:

  1.  Be nice to homeless people. You never know when they're going to buy you a hotdog.
  2.  Sometimes you have to be the tough one.
  3.  Stand up for yourself.
  4.  If all else fails, cry like a little girl.

until next time,