Monday, June 4, 2012

What You Look Like When You Call 911

My brother once told me that it's important to wear clean underwear every day in case I'm in a car accident and end up in the emergency room.  Would I want the doctors and nurses to see me in dirty underwear?

I cannot imagine wearing the same underwear two days in a row, so I never thought much about my brother's advice.  I've only been in one car accident, a fender bender with no injuries.  But this year I've had to call 911 twice for myself.  So, what did I look like and what was I wearing each time?

First of all, I was sick.  Who cares what one looks like when sick? 

The first time I'd been showering and shampooing my hair.  I'd just finished my hair and was on the final rinse when I began to feel nauseous.  Since I have a gastrointestinal disease that sometimes gives me nausea I didn't think about it much.  At least until I realized it wasn't going away and I ended up kneeling at the bathroom throne.  I was there for a while.  When I tried to get up, a wave of dizziness sent me reeling and I quickly returned to my kneeling position.  The dizziness was something new and a bit scary.  I could not lift my head without being overwhelmed by it.  I waited.  Didn't make any difference.  I was stuck in the bathroom, nauseous and dizzy and in need of help.  Since I live alone, my one recourse was to call 911.

Wrapping a towel around my air-dried body and carrying the clean underwear I'd hung on the doorknob, I crawled out to the phone, called 911, and then pulled on the underwear.  I remembered to unlock the door.  The EMTs arrived ("What's going on?"), both female, which gave me some relief since I only had my underwear and a towel on.  They found my bathrobe and slippers, helped me put them on, found my purse and then helped me walk to the ambulance -- my spatial orientation was way off and I kept veering to the left.  I was relieved to lay down in the ambulance, relieved I didn't have to move once we arrived at the closest ER, relieved that I'd gotten the help I needed.  It didn't occur to me until hours later, when I was feeling better and the dizziness (an inner ear issue) had subsided, that I thought about my hair, matted and tangled and a mess on my head.  What I must have looked like!  A wild woman!  The nurses reassured me that no one had remarked about it or even thought about it.  Fortunately, I carry a comb in my purse.

The second time I called 911, I had not been able to eat for over 36 hours and just the sight of food made me nauseous.  This occurred about a month after the first episode but was a little different.  No dizziness.  And the nausea had not begun in the shower but gradually on a Tuesday evening.  By Thursday morning, however, I could not keep anything down and it was time to get help.  I had time between bouts of dry heaves to get dressed and pack a bag, just in case, before calling 911.  This time, two male EMTs arrived -- "What's going on?"  I was convinced it was the chronic gastrointestinal disease giving me the problems and asked to be taken to the hospital where I knew the surgeon worked who'd operated on me in the past, just in case.

Because I was dressed, it was more of a chore to change into the hospital gown in the emergency room, but otherwise this visit was similar to the last visit, just a different hospital. I realized that the nurses and doctors are so focused on treating the patient and figuring out what's wrong that they don't notice whether the patient's hair is combed or not, or what she's wearing or not wearing.  I found this completely reassuring that if I ever got into a serious car accident, my underwear should be the least of my concerns.

Now, I'm home and fully recovered, feeling back to normal.  I want to give a big shout-out of gratitude and appreciation to the Hennepin County EMTs, the doctors and nurses who took care of me at the Fairview Southdale Hospital and the doctors and nurses who took care of me at UMMC, Fairview.  And to say, please don't take this personally, but I do hope I won't be seeing you all again anytime soon....   

Fairview Southdale
UMMC, Fairview

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