Chicago - May. 20, 2019
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I Was In The ER

Adapted from a recent Facebook post.

I realize that tons and tons and tons of people are suffering far, far greater maladies than the dumb little thing that occurred to me recently, but folks seem to like these stories when I write them up, so here goes.

I went to the hospital blood lab a few weeks ago to get tests my doctor ordered as a follow-up to some tests I took a month ago for numb hands and feet (still a problem), and also to just get the complete work-up because I'm a relatively new patient of his. I hadn't had blood drawn since 2011.

I have a history of not doing well with blood drawn, sometimes fainting, sometimes not. I'm not afraid of it, it's just a reaction that some people get. I always advise my blood-drawers of this. But a month ago, I did perfectly fine and thought I was done with that. It hasn't been all my life, it started one year many years ago when I was in the waiting room once after the blood draw, chatting with my mom, and the next thing I knew, I woke up on a bed in the doctor's office. One time I was in the waiting room - again, after, not during - the blood draw just shooting the shit with a friend and - I don't remember any of this - I threw up and passed out, like, at the same time I guess. But sometimes I'm fine, or just a little woozy.

So anyway, I'm in the blood-draw room in the hospital blood lab and I'm disappointed it's not the woman I had last time, who was so good at it I didn't even realize the needle was in. Instead, I had a guy who seemed both a bit too eager to get to it and a bit nervous at the same time. Plus, he wasn't very chatty. Then he stuck the fuck out of me. Just poked the fuck out of my left arm with the needle. "OWWWWW!" I yelled. "That hurts!"

I've never done that before. It's never hurt. I don't know how many times he jabbed me trying to get that needle in, but I want to say it was maybe four times.

No go.

So then he walks around to my right arm. And that's the last thing I remember until I woke up.

"I think I fell asleep," I said. Because I had actually been dreaming, even in just that short period of time! I was really tired going in. And I also hadn't eaten since dinner the night before, because some blood tests you are supposed to "fast" for.

So I said, "I think I fell asleep," and the blood-taker guy said, "No, you fainted. Twice."

Really? Does that mean I woke up and fainted again? Because I don't remember that at all.

Then I look up and there's like a whole army of doctors and nurses staring at me, like six to eight people, all in blue scrubs.

"Is this a Scrubs cutaway sequence?" I wondered. Mmm, Scrubs.

And I was like, "I just need a Coke and this will all go away." Which is true. I know that from experience.

And they're like, no, no , no.

"You're really pale," someone said.

Another: "You're white as . . . " something, I didn't catch what. Maybe white as a Donald Trump rally? I don't want to be a Donald Trump rally.

meer.jpg

And the truth is, I felt like shit. Totally groggy. I felt like Khalil Mack sacked me. But still, why are all these people here?!!!!

Because the guy who stuck me called the Rapid Response Team.

See, if I had been in my doctor's office, he probably would've given me a Coke. Maybe even a Mexican Coke, which has way better sugar, just like Canadian Coke, instead of U.S. Coke, because that's the neighborhood me and my doctor are in, and also, why does U.S.-sugared Coke suck? I bet it's the ridiculous sugar subsidies, and that should've been handled in NAFTA, which sucked by the way, but what Trump just did is even more ridiculous, but I digress.

Then I was like, "I think I'm going to throw up," and they all start yelling, "Bucket! Get a bucket!" like, Code Red-style, like the Rapid Response Team is ON IT!

And I'm like, slow day at the hospital? Bored much?

At least my situation was broadcast over the hospital PA, that was also a first.

I ended up not throwing up, not even out of spite.

Then they bring in a wheelchair. I'm like, "A wheelchair? I just need a Coke, this will all go away!"

But no. "We're taking you to the Emergency Room."

Um, what? Isn't that for, um, emergencies?

Anyway, it was my first time in a wheelchair, so there's that.

And also, I was pretty out of it, I have to admit.

But still.

So we get into an elevator, go down to the ER, and they roll me in to a "bay" and I lay down on the bed and one of the nurses - I think they were all nurses except the doctor, who talked to me like three times over the whole deal, it was the nurses who did all the work - and one of them asks, "Do you know where you are?"

And I say, "St. Elsewhere?"

Blank look.

"I like TV."

Plus, it's Norwegian Hospital, and it's pretty crappy.

So then she asks if I know what happened. And yes, I know what happened. "All I really need is a Coke and this will all go away!"

Then they start hooking me up to things. My first EKG! (And also, please be a little more delicate when you rip the EKG tape off when you're done. OWW!)

ekger.jpg

Then the guy who became my favorite nurse, Mark, came in. I had just overheard him doing Stripes lines so I was predisposed to like him. I wanted to tell him that I preferred something unusual in a gown.

So Mark starts asking about my symptoms, and I say, "I have this annoying song in my head and I can't make it go away." And he says, "Shaft?" Now, neither of us think "Shaft" is annoying, but I later learn he's got "Shaft" on his mind that day, that's all. And I say, "No, the theme song from The Price Is Right."

Which is true. That song got stuck in my head as soon as I entered the ER, and who knows why, except maybe both were from the same era.

Then Mark says, well, as long as we've got you here, why don't we try to get that blood from you. I'm like, are you kidding? There's no way I feel up to that, but unlike the guy who stuck me, this guy was good, and he's like, "Already done!" He had already hooked me in. Took a shit-ton of tubes out of me - my doctor ordered a lot of tests - and said something about an IV, and I'm like, "An IV? Really? I just need a Coke!" Like, this is all such a total overreaction. Although I did feel pretty lousy. But also, I don't want something else stuck in me, and he's like, "It's already in." And I was like, "Really? Wow, you're good."

So if you ever end up in the Norwegian ER, ask for Mark.

* * * * *

So they put the IV in because my heart rate was pretty low, probably because I hadn't eaten, so they wanted to pump me full of fluids. My first IV! So there's that, too. Who says you can't have new adventures after 50?

Now I'm just laying there. There's like, no TV or anything. What am I supposed to do, just think? It's like that Seinfeld when Puddy didn't bring anything to read on the plane and Elaine couldn't fathom how he was just going to sit there staring at the back of a seat the whole flight. I was Puddy! But involuntarily.

So I'm trying to occupy my mind. "OK. Topic One. Why did the Cubs trade Tommy La Stella? That really bums me out . . . "

Then I start listening to what's going on around me. The dude in the "bay" to my right, he was an apparent heroin overdose. The guy making a racket in the hall? They were trying to get him upstairs to Psych. "I called 911 on my son and the police brought me in!"

And also, I said to every person who came in to my little curtained area, "I'm really hungry. Plus, I just need a Coke and that will make all this go away."

Finally, one nurse said "A Coke? That's not really healthy."

And I'm like, don't get in the way of my homeopathy, lady! All your fancy degrees and you're getting your simplest case wrong!

Finally they order me some food. I'm a bit concerned, though, because 1) It's Norwegian, and 2) They didn't ask me what I wanted. I don't get to at least choose between chicken and fish?

Then there's the guy who comes in with the clipboard to ask you to sign the consent forms and stuff, and you're laying there all hooked up to shit. "Should I sign with my toes?"

Time moves slowly when you're laying in bed in the ER with nothing to do but contemplate how putrid those curtains are. When you stare up at the ceiling and wonder if the stains on the ceiling light are dried blood. When you wonder if the security guard you can see through the crack in your curtains has a gun. And when seemingly hours go by with no sign of food. Maybe they're starving me to death. Maybe this is what the Trump Administration does to dissenters, and the dude who stuck me was really trying to poison me, failed, and called in the Blue Squad.

Each person who comes in, few and far between, by the way, I ask about food. "Yeah, we ordered it," they say." One says, "I ordered it like four or five times, I don't know what's going on."

And I'm like, "You have a Subway in here. It's in the lobby. I saw it. Just get me a fucking sandwich. Foot-long tuna on wheat."

Finally, a tray of "food" arrives. Several styrofoam containers on a tray. I open up the main course and just laugh. "Really?" It was so, so awful. I will pay for the Subway.

Two tiny slices of dried up carrots, half-cooked broccoli, a small scoop of congealed, seemingly days-old mac 'n' cheese, a "dinner roll," "fruit cup" which obviously came out of a can from 1975, which fills out the Price is Right motif nicely, and something mysterious in a styrofoam "bowl." At first I thought it was French dressing. "Oh good, there must be a salad here somewhere!" I took a sniff of the bowl. Nothing. Then I noticed the food ticket. It was (allegedly) tomato soup.

Also a carton of milk - I hate milk - and a little styrofoam cup of what was allegedly iced tea.

I ate it all, but grudgingly.

ermeal.jpg

A little while after that, I had to give them a urine sample. I walked down to the bathroom and saw the hall lined with people in beds who looked like they were really suffering and I'm like, am I taking an ER space from these people? This is nuts.

Also, I'll do a urine sample for anyone who needs one for 10 bucks! Then I can go buy Subway!

* * * * *

At some point I realized my phone was in the back pocket of my jeans, which were still on; they just took off my shirt and put a gown on there, so I was laying on my phone the whole time, couldn't get to it, and there wasn't any service there anyway, or at least my phone didn't have service, and I later had to fix that through Verizon customer service, so nobody knew I was there, and both my sports podcast partner Jim "Coach" Coffman and my roommate Tracy were waiting for texts from me. I could've died there and nobody would have known! I kept thinking, I can't die yet, I haven't told Tim Willette that I no longer want "Wish You Were Here" played at my funeral because that's such a cliche now, but I want Vic Chesnutt's "Dodge."

I was finally discharged, and the truth is, my head didn't really return to normal until about 10 p.m. That guy stuck the fuck out of me and I already wasn't well. It doesn't compare to what everyone else there was going through, but apparently I passed out twice and then they took a shit-ton of blood out of me and fed me horrible food and maybe I was lucky to survive after all. Next time I'll bring my own Coke and maybe a pre-emptive Subway sandwich and tell them they don't need to panic if something goes awry.

You can find the original Facebook post here, along with the trail of comments. Feel free to join in, or comment here.



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Posted on December 28, 2018


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