Hello, friends. Here, for your amusement, is my latest adventure at the ER, which seems to be my favorite place these days. I had a bandage on my neck the past few days. It was covering a painful swelling. It was not a boil, but an infected sebaceous cyst. I was soaking it and using antibiotic cream, hoping it would get better on its own. Not to be.
So a few days ago we were off to the emergency room at HeywoodHospital in Gardner, Massachusetts. Though not an actual emergency, they don’t have walk-in clinics that can handle day surgery out here. Rosemary and I were there from 1:30 PM till 8:00 PM. The first hour was an efficient intake process. I saw four people at four locations, answered forty questions, and presented three forms of ID: Picture ID, Medicare Card, Secondary Payer Card. Since I just turned sixty-five, my retiree medical plan via Proctor & Gamble now takes a back seat to Medicare.
Finally alone in the exam room, the intake nurse asks where my problem is (neck). “OK,” she said, “Just checking whether you have to get naked.” And that is the last laugh for a good while.
After an hour or so, Rosemary joins me. We wait together. Misery does indeed enjoy company.
Then the fun begins. They inserted an IV, drew lots of blood, took multiple pulse and pressure, and queried about my level of pain (one through ten). “Five or six,” I said. Whereupon I was offered Vicodin. I hate taking opiates. So I passed on the pill. Fool that I was.
After an initial exam, I was sent to the CAT scan room where I was given an iodine injection (via my permanent I.V.). I told them I was allergic to shrimp. They told me one of the side effects of iodine, for those allergic to shrimp, is: DEATH! However rare. But we went ahead, with emergency teams standing by. Such drama. All was well and it was back to the exam room to await administration of pain.
Finally, the efficient, but humorless, nurse practitioner entered with a tray full of bandages, swabs, needles, and various other torture implements. I make jokes under pressure. But not good enough for this serious lady. Rosemary, however, laughed at the good ones:
Preparing a needle of anesthetic (useless, by the way), the nurse asks,
“Do you have any other allergies, Mr. Rapson?”
“I am highly allergic to pain,” I said.
Unamused, she proceeds with the usual deceptions during torture. My favorite:
“You’ll feel a pinch,” she says.
I have been pinched a few times, Gentle Reader. And I have done some pinching myself. I am well acquainted with the giving and receiving of pinches. I can confidently tell you that what I felt next was well outside the set of sensations categorized as “a pinch.” More accurately, she might have said, “You’ll feel a white hot poker knifing into your flesh.”
After repeated stabs, comes another deception, “One more, ” she says. And delivers three or four. She did occasionally apologize for the torture. Something even real torturers might do.
After several minutes of me pretending to be brave, and cracking jokes to avoid whining like a girly man, it was over. At least the administration of the pain was over. Pain lingers, however. And linger it did. So when drug pusher nurse walked in—Chelsea was her name and she was lovely—I begged for those drugs earlier refused.
“And your pain is now what…?” she asked. Keeping up the tough guy front, “Oh, eight or nine, I guess.” It felt like eleven or twelve. A small white pill was produced. Fifteen minutes later I was heavy lidded, smiling a silly smile, and nearly painless. So this is what all the fuss is about!
After being instructed what to do if things don’t get better (they have), we filled prescriptions, bought pizza, watched The Voice. And so to bed.
And that is my latest ER adventure. Coming so soon after three months of bliss in Florida, I have a new appreciation for the difference between pleasure and pain. They may be different sides of the same coin, but it must be a darn fat coin.