That 5+ hour trip to the Emergency room last night

Last night around 6:30 I went to the Emergency room at Royal Columbian. I left shortly before midnight. This might sound like the beginning of a horror story, but it’s actually rather mundane.

I have a cold right now. It started with a tickle in my throat Monday afternoon and evolved into full sore throat/stuffed and/or runny sinuses and coughing since then.

The cold is not why I went to the Emergency room, it was jut an added bonus.

Yesterday morning I awoke to a soreness in my mid-back that felt like I’d been kicked by a horse. Not an accidental kick, either, one where the horse was feeling aggrieved and seeking revenge. I took some Tylenol (and DayQuill for the cold), but by late afternoon it was persisting. I should go to the clinic, I thought. But I delayed, had supper and finally decided I couldn’t ignore it, and by then all of the walk-in clinics were closed, so I had to go to Emergency.

It’s convenient. That’s where the happy part of this ends.

Upon seeing that the check-in area was full, I knew I was not exactly going to be in and out.

Just over half an hour after checking in, I was called to the second station, where I answered a few questions and had my temperature and blood pressure taken. I was not told the results, so I figured they were normal or normal-ish. I sat back down.

The two people I remember most clearly were a man likely in his 50s (not me) with a scruffy beard and one of those always-shouting kind of voices, so whenever he said anything, everyone within a hundred meters could hear. This is how I found out he had some kind of steel in his eye and he wanted to get it out. He chatted with several other people and would sometimes wander off for awhile, then come back and chat some more, his jokes and commentary ringing out like machine gun fire.

He seemed defeated, though, by the barfing girl. An older couple brought in a young girl, perhaps three years old. Cute kid. I looked over and whatever she had eaten earlier began burbling out of her mouth. Then it sluiced out. Then I stopped looking over that way. They got a cute little blue barf pouch for her, but I think it was probably too late. They left for awhile, presumably to clean her up. I didn’t find out why she was throwing up because they spoke in normal tones. The girl herself seemed very chill about the whole thing. I’ve never seen anyone so casually vomit.

Another half hour passed–it was now about 7:41 p.m.–when a nurse came along and took me aside to get a blood sample. This was new, but since I’m fine with blood being taken if I don’t fast for 16 hours first, no big deal. She did a remarkably good job of getting the needle in. Today you can barely see the mark. I was sent back to the check-in area with a taped-down piece of gauze on my right arm.About 40 minutes later I am finally moved to triage, which is as full as check-in. I find a seat near the end and fiddle around on the phone, watching the battery slowly diminish. Most of the people here have no immediately identifiable cause for being here, which is a relief. The girl sitting to my right asks if it’s cold or if she’s dying. That’s not exactly what she said, but she spoke very softly. I told her it sure wasn’t warm, which was true. She talked a bit about why she was there. Something about her eye. I nodded and smiled, hopefully in the right places.

At 9:34 p.m.–almost an hour later– I am finally taken to an exam room, where I am told to take off my shirt and put on a gown. This is later revealed to serve no purpose. The nurse asks some questions, takes my temperature an blood pressure again, but this time she notes that my blood pressure is a little high. I have mystery pain in my back, am suffering from a bad cold and have already been here for three hours, so yes, my blood pressure is a little high. She shrugs it off and laves.

Nearly an hour later, the doctor arrives and after a few questions, gives me a bottle to pee in. As it turns out, I really had to go, so this is convenient.

I have to wait for someone who seems to take a very long time in the one available washroom. I don’t want to know why he is taking so long. I go in, provide a generous sample, put it on a napkin on the sample table, then return to triage. It is now 10:46 p.m.

About 45 minutes later the doctor comes by to tell me the blood test looks fine, and there is no sign of infection in the urine. All good! But there is a tiny bit of blood in the urine (the amount is too small to be visible). He says this could be due to being older (he is a young doctor and at least he says “older” and not “old”) or a sign of a kidney stone. I am told to wait (ho ho) for someone to give me a form for an ultrasound, after which I will consult with my doctor over the results.

I get the form and leave. It is 11:37 p.m. I get home a few minutes before midnight and eat a Clif Bar because I’m hungry and in a bad mood.

Today I schedule an ultrasound for 3:15 p.m. tomorrow. I am told to drink three cups of water an hour before and to not pee them out until after the ultrasound. The test is conveniently at Royal Columbian. Less conveniently I will be at work, so I will have to leave early.

What’s funny in retrospect is how I didn’t flip out or go squirrelly with how long it took. I think I just knew going in and accepted it. Also, there was only one crying baby, briefly, in the background.

But the next time I feel compelled to get a health issue checked out ASAP, I am not waiting until the walk-in clinics have closed. That, or I’m taking a laptop next time and writing half a novel while I wait.

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