Emergency Room Camping

Last summer, Shaun and I went hospital camping.  She had surgery, tried not to die, while I comforted her gently: if you die, I will KILL you.

This Sunday, we went Emergency Room Camping.

Holding Shaun’s good hand while she was on the gurney, I said, “Next year, how about Yosemite? Or the ocean? Something less…fluorescent. No one looks good in hospital lighting.”  Bad vacation pics.

Shaun had a horse accident, without the horse.

I get this.  Done it myself several times.

Horse accidents, especially those in which the rider hits the dirt, are distinctive: there’s usually some airborne time, along with the physics of velocity combining with gravity, just before the earth tilts, and the ground suddenly veers sideways, slamming into your body.

I heard the thud, a crack, a cry, and I RAN.

I saw the twisted neck, the thumb pointing the wrong way, the smashed face, and went instantly into horse accident mode.  Luckily, her neck was fine, just twisted funny.  I knew the thumb was grim: either badly dislocated or badly broken. It was a face down landing, with nothing to break her fall (if we don’t count the thumb). She was pretzeled into a scary crime-scene type outline.

Like every other horse person on the planet, I knew she had about 15-20 minutes of shock to buffer the pain, before it really started to hurt. The hospital was 30 minutes away: the last 10 minutes are up a nice windy road, the asphalt pocked with sink holes from the rain.

I might have used a swear word.  Or ten.

She’s hurting badly by the time we ease into the parking lot. I hunt for the Emergency entrance.

What hospital puts a kazilllion speed bumps in front of the ER??

Luckily, the ER was full of coughing people. The receptionist took one look at Shaun’s hand, and hustled her to the front of the check in line. The magic words, “she hit her head”, got a nurse and wheelchair before the paperwork was finished .

I’m telling you, it was a horse accident.

I did learn something from last summer: sweetly saying “I’m going to kill you if you die” doesn’t instill a positive, healing, attitude in the injured person.

Who knew?

I look around for humor. I have this theory: No matter how bad or scary something is, there is usually something funny in the situation.

Trauma rooms are downright depressing, with all the groaning, crying, blood, and drunken swearing.  The police, once they finished holding down a crazy guy until the sedative took effect, brought Shaun some ice chips because the nurses were busy.

Police bringing ice chips is just…sweet.  Not funny. Shaun’s accident. Not funny. Horse accident without the horse, in the house, when you don’t even like horses: funny later.

The ER doc gives Shaun a complicated explanation of why he’s painfully injecting a numbing agent around the nerves in her thumb to get a better idea of where to look.

“Why is he doing that?” Shaun whispered, in major pain, “that’s where it hurts the most!”

(I’m her personal doctor slash medical translator. I don’t know why.)

“He needs to block feeling in certain parts of your thumb and hand”, I say in a normal voice, “If anything still hurts after that, he knows for sure there’s a problem and can find the exact location.  He doesn’t want to jerk on your thumb if your hand has a break or fracture that didn’t show on the x-ray. It might make it worse, and it would hurt more than the shots.”

The doctor looks at me.  Later, outside, he asks me if I’m a doctor.  No.  Nurse? No. Vet? No. He looks mystified.  I sigh.

“Horses”, I say.

He looks at me blankly, clearly not understanding how nerve blocking and horses go together.

“Uh, that was the best explanation to a patient I’ve ever heard.  Mind if I use it?”

He puts a hand on my shoulder, squeezes. “Great bedside manner, you should have gone to medical school.”

After three hours or so, he put Shaun’s thumb back in place. REALLY not funny. A tech casted her arm. We were waiting for the EKG and CAT scan results. Doc thought he detected whacked out heart rythym.  Wanted to make sure she didn’t fall from heart attack. (Of course she didn’t, because, well…I would KILL her.)

I settled for maybe humorous.

I told her Shaun was now a full-fledged member of the Hit the Dirt Club. She found this mildly amusing, knowing I was telling her it was a horse accident. However, taking narcotics into consideration, she might have chuckled at the ceiling.

Shaun’s arm, (our sofa pillow, provided to ER at no cost):

The grooms among you will recognize the hospital is seriously cutting back on supplies. The rolled cotton bandage is held shut with…Scotch Tape. It lasted all of 5 seconds. I mean, really?  An admin with an office stapler would have done a better job. A horse person? Shaun wouldn’t be able to get it OFF for months.

“Did they just use Scotch Tape on my bandage?”, Shaun asks me, when the tape popped up, and the bandage began to unravel.

“There’s VetWrap in my car”, I say. “Can you hold it closed until we get home?”

“I guess I’ll have to.”

We sit quietly. I’m holding her good hand, trying not to cramp the IV, and stay in her line of vision, so she doesn’t have to fight the cervical collar (whiplash) to see me. I absently look at the wall opposite. I stare blankly at it for a full five minutes before I get what I’m seeing, and grab my cell phone.

We are here:

And directly opposite is the hospital calendar, in the triage of the ER:

Whoa. They REALLY want to keep their jobs. They are seriously grateful for their jobs. What was the hospital THINKING?!?

It’s a Disaster Of The Month Club calendar!

What else could it be? A frail-looking, mostly naked woman, in her underwear, galloping on a giant Friesian without a helmet, (heck, without a bra), barefoot, through a field of high grass. (Have to hide those unsightly gopher holes).

Toss in a low flying helicopter. With speaker system and sirens. Holy crap!

I look at Shaun, and point at the calendar.  She gets it. We can’t stop laughing.

I get up to see what July’s disaster is going to be.

At that moment, the doctor pulls back the curtain, and frowns at my hand lifting the calendar page.  I’m touching semi-private hospital property. I quickly drop it.

I’m seriously bummed.  We left without seeing July’s disaster.

I think we should all try to get ahold of our local hospitals’ calendars, so we know what disasters they hope to schedule, don’t  you?

21 thoughts on “Emergency Room Camping

  1. See this is why we, your readers, adore you. Because even in the face of a calamity, you manage to make us laugh. Thank you, as always, for finding humor in pretty much everything! And I hope that Shaun is starting to feel better. Never good when one ends up in a crime scene outline pretzel position. I speak from experience….

  2. I can’t stop laughing at the calendar and your description of how you couldn’t look at “semi-private hospital property.” What will you guys do without knowing what July’s disaster will be?

    Liz is right–vet wrap is our version of duct tape (though I have used duct tape AND vet wrap together on occasion, probably prompting some kind of rent in the time/space continuum).

    Tell Shaun we hope she feels better soon.

    1. I’m giving Shaun everyone’s good wishes and sympathy, thank you!
      The semi-private calender was completely blank, it was clearly up for decoration. I don’t know why it bothered the doc that I looked.
      I took the calender issue one step further today. I’m dying (not literally – ACK – bad choice of words) to know what disaster is projected for July. I went to the company website. They have a lot of stuff for sale, but alas, the calenders must be out of stock this late in the year. Thinking maybe they had a couple laying around the office, I called the office and asked. Nope. But they gave me the phone number of Corporate, so I called the corporate office, and was somewhat abashed when navigating their phone tree. Option #2 was Press 2 if you need an emergency medical airlift helicopter, and you will be routed to dispatch.
      Um. Gee. You know that uh – calender – you put out….?
      I don’t think I want to bother people who, um, save lives…
      I hung up without leaving a message. 😉

  3. After getting kicked in the face by my horse last summer and my many horse related injuries that have landed me in the ER and surgery…well, now I have the urge to find the ER calendars and check them out…..except without my own injury to get me there. gah!
    You’re very funny….Thanks for the smile.

    New Mexico

  4. Sorry to hear it, but not surprising. It’s clearly fall off a horse-kind-of-injury month.

    Hope Shaun is feeling better (with the aid of pharmaceuticals if necessary – better life through chemistry!) very soon.

    (Maybe horse owners should have a wrapping clinic at the ER sometime soon. Could help keep the bandages on a bit better)

  5. Shaun had better start riding. It probably would be safer. You have both spent too much time in emergency rooms. Like your deductible, your time in them should be used up by now. I know that after my “vacation” before Christmas in the hospital and my son’s recent detour on his way home from school (the last time he’s driving for a very long time) we feel that as a family we’ve done our share for the Massachusetts health care system.

    Everyone should have a roll of vet wrap in their car. Like duct tape, it holds the world together.

    I hope Shaun feels better soon. It sounds like you are taking excellent care of her! (In contrast, I know that when my husband tells me everything will be fine I need to drive myself to the hospital immediately because I’m probably on death’s door!)

  6. Hey Jane,

    Just saw your post regarding the Crown Dressage bridle – too tired to remember what site it was on, and have already closed out. Anyway, go ahead and send that back to Dover, silly! They stand behind their product 150% and will gladly return your money or send you something else, regardless of amount of wear/date purchased. The leather and look of their new Warendorf line of dressage bridles is gorgeous, although the fit is similar (slightly bigger but not much) to the Crowns. If you need the large browband, a used Vespucci is DREAMY…

    1. Probably on Tack Guru? Great site. You should sign up to review stuff. It’s horse people helping horse people find out the scoop on products. I can’t send it back to Dover, ordered it through a tack shop that has closed. BUT, it’s working for me now. The workmanship really is good, and I’m only using my stuff on Hudson, who doesn’t even need a cavesson, so the lack of padding is a non-issue. It’s strictly decorative. 😉 And I discovered I love the reins, never seen them for sale. They’re webbed, with a bit of rubber, but not enough to feel clunky. Great feel. I’d still save for a better quality used bridle, but the Crown would SO work for an Arab, or small horse.

  7. SHARING A GREAT BLOG Someone recently asked about why Facebook numbers were declining and I suggested it was because more and more people were getting into blogging. The advantage: Things don’t fall off so that if you post in the morning and someone doesn’t read until late in the day, you post is probably gone. Also you can save your blog and turn it into a book which is what I hope to do with my STAYING STRONG TIPS. I recommend Word Press because in addition to posts that change, it has a feature called pages and they stay the same and are pretty much like a web site. Also it has a number of features that point you to other blogs you might like. My Daily Post Challenge link has put me in touch with a number of interesting bloggers. Here is one who shares my love of horses and literature and in this post modeled how to handle an ER visit with a child. Enjoy

  8. That is an impressive bandage/cast. Hope it heals fast. I broke my little finger and all the connected bones up to my elbow years and years ago (horse related) and having a hand in a cast has got to be one of life’s most frustrating feelings. Unless you like whacking yourself with a club several times a day.
    I think Kate outdid nearly everyone, I read her blog. Face plant off a horse and before they let her out of the emergency room they installed a pacemaker. Sheeeesh.
    Tell Shaun to heal up fast and Aleve is a wonderful friend when the narcotics run out.

  9. OH SHAUN! You’re supposed to be the responsible grown-up in the relationship!

    Jane, was she wearing her helmet? Don’t let your wife wander around without a helmet in the future!

    Loved the nerve block explanation. AND the calendar deconstruction!

  10. yeah, how is it that docs can do such a good job patching people together and do such a p*ss-poor job of bandaging? When I slashed open my hand (missing the tendon by a fraction, thank heavens), the doc admired my self-bandaging job with great praise (triple anti-biotic + gauze pad + purple vet wrap), stiched me back up, and put a splint and world’s flimsiest bandage on it. Sheesh. Why not just spider webs and a paperclip, doc? On the way home I stopped at the feed store and bought more PROPER bandaging supplies.

    Love the Disaster-o-month poster. The underwear model forgot to bring a white plastic grocery bag to flap under the Friesian’s nose, though. You need those plastic bags to scare the wits out of the creature, and then you can use the bags later to tote body parts to the ER.

    1. I’ve been daydreaming about stealing the calender, since the company is out of them. Alas, I am constitutionally unable to steal. I wish I knew someone that worked in the hospital! My guess is it’s a freebie the medical airlift company gives out. How strange would it sound if I asked for the nurses station in the ER, and begged for the calender?

      Fine. Not strange. Twisted. And Sick.

  11. The only problem with developing horse-owner responses to emergency (i.e., remaining sternly calm until all the emergency part is over) is that if the time comes when you are involved in an emergency that *might* have been a crime, the police look at you funny, because you are a woman NOT having hysterics. 😛

    Good thoughts to Shaun, and uninjured thumbs up for your horse-accident sensibilities.

  12. George and I spent our last anniversary at the ER (after i fractured my back – not hitting dirt) and I agree the lighting is just all wrong. Would it kill them to add some soft lighting? Kinda kills the romantic mood. Sending Shaun healing vibes.

    Doesn’t everyone ride braless and shoeless in a see through white flowy dress with helicopters hovering? Holy crap batman. Again sending Shaun healing white light. Hope it’s a speedy recovery.

  13. I had my own emergency room visit this weekend, followed by a four-day hospital stay, just home today. Your visit sounded much funnier than mine (except perhaps for the poor accident victim), although to be fair I wasn’t awake for much of the emergency room part that I can remember. Anyway, glad the thumb/hand/arm will be OK – sending best wishes.

  14. Oh, Shaun get better soon. I know what it’s like to break a thumb. Mine was misdiagnosed though and never reset. Art school finals with an exacto knife was trying to say the least. And those shots? Worse then breaking the bone. I found out when I did in my big toe. Enough about me though. Get better really, really soon.

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