…will do wonders for your sense of perspective on life.
Yesterday morning I was taken in an ambulance and admitted to the E.R. at Methodist Hospital for the sudden onset of chest pains. At first, it was pretty scary. I’m a fairly healthy, young person with no risk factors for heart disease who was inexplicably having chest pain for the first time in her life. Anxiety and indigestion were quickly ruled out, which left few attractive alternatives.
However, after a couple (okay, more like 6 or 7) hours in the E.R., it started to become clear that the problem wasn’t cardiac either. My blood work, Xrays, and EKG were all fine. Doctors would look at me in surprise when they pulled back the curtain to my “room” and fellow patients – most either puking or bleeding uncontrollably – would eye me with envy. Apparently, I was healthy as a horse.
But the pains weren’t going away, either. Despite my lack of risk factors and good test results, the E.R. doc didn’t want to discharge me. She admitted me to the hospital proper where more tests would be run and I’d be observed overnight. So began the long wait for “a bed on the floor” (aka a space opening up upstairs so I could escape the E.R.). 13 hours after first being admitted, I was finally taken upstairs to a relative oasis of calm, settled in with my diabetic, incontinent 80 year old roommate and left to “sleep” through the night. The cardiologist saw me this morning and confirmed that my heart was just fine.
Turns out I have some sort of muscular-skeletal issue – possibly inflammation around the ribs. Uncomfortable and annoying, but nothing serious. 3 more hours after being pronounced good to go, I was finally discharged. I’m home and clean (though I debate whether there is actually enough soap in the world to wash Methodist Hospital off me). Oh, and my chest still hurts. 36 hours at the hospital and the only difference is that now I know I can ignore the chest pain.
The experience, though, gave me more than that. It left me with plenty of time to experience the full range of human suffering (in the form of my fellow patients) and reflect on what it means to be healthy.
I’ve spent some time in hospitals before, but never have I been the patient left alone in the madhouse after visiting hours are over, never have I lain in the semi-darkness listening to cries coming from through the curtain or down the hall that hardly seem human–in short, never have I fully appreciated how wonderful it is to be healthy.
Health is something I’ve taken for granted – feeling sorry for myself when I have a pulled hamstring or contracted a cold virus. The last 36 hours have shown me people who are *truly* unwell, and I can safely say it is a gut-wrenching, sad, and horrible sight.
I learned some smaller lessons in my time at the hospital too — like NEVER let a medical student draw your blood, and that “soon” actually translates into 1.5 hours give or take in medical parlance — but my true take-away was a profound sense of gratefulness.
I’ll try not to forget it.
In the meantime, I think I may go take another shower…