When a dear friend of mine became quite sick at my house last week and decided to go to the ER, I jumped in the car with her. Not because I love the ER (oh, my heavens, no), but because I thought that I might be able to keep her distracted on the long drive (her hubs was driving) and help her in some way when we got there. I’ve spent quite a lot of time in the hospital this year, and I kinda know how things work now.
For example, I’ve learned to be assertive but nice at check-in. Don’t de-emphasize your symptoms at triage, or you might wait forever, yes, even after that agressive lady with the hangnail. Know what tests you’re getting, and, if you haven’t had them after an hour or two in the exam room, ask why. If no nurse comes back to check on you for a couple hours (!), go check on her. Ask questions. Ask about risk/benefit for any drugs prescribed. Ask about the appropriate level of pain relief. But remember, it’s ultimately your choice, in almost every case, whether to have any given procedure, drug, or pain medication.
I think it’s the loss of control that frustrates me so much at the ER. Or at least it did until I realized that much of my visit was up to me. The nurses and doctors see you for only an instant in time; if you present full and relevant history, it can really help quicken your visit and diagnosis.
(It’s not complaining if it’s a symptom and you’re telling a nurse.)
But I digress. The part that I really wanted to tell you about was when we were joking around with the nurse (after she took my friend’s vitals and took care of business) and one of us made an offhand comment about how I must just like hospitals since I’m in them so much. The nurse looked carefully at me and said, “Oh, were you sick?”
Was I sick?
Um, yeah. “Can’t you tell by the short hair?” I asked, always my tactful tactless self.
“What about the chest?” Oh, I was so beyond tacky now, there was no going back. Besides, she’s a medical professional, right? If she wouldn’t tell me the truth, no one would.
“Oh, sorry. I had cancer. I’ve just finished treatment, and it kinda feels like everyone can tell by looking at me.”
“No, hon. I just thought you had a cute haircut, that’s all,” and then we talked about something else.