A year ago, around this time, I was in the hospital with pneumonia. PJ was in a room around the corner with the same diagnosis. We probably contracted it in England as PJ felt sick on the plane coming home and I started going downhill the next day. Other than that, this story has only two things to do with travel:
1. It’s one of the main reasons we didn’t travel much last year, as we both met our insurance deductibles in record time.
2. As a vacation, the hospital stinks.
At first, it just felt like we had bad colds but as we got worse, we finally decided it would be prudent to call our doctor’s office. They said they could only work in one of us, so we went to an urgent care clinic instead and they called an ambulance from there. PJ wanted to drive to the hospital but they talked him out of it and assured us that we could leave our car in their lot for as long as we needed to. (“It happens all the time.”)
I had never wondered what happens if they squash two sick people into one ambulance. FYI, they still charge you two full fares. Make your illness plans accordingly. Based on our vital signs, PJ got the stretcher and oxygen and I rode in the back with him, strapped to the side beside the paramedic like a healthy person. As it turned out, I should have gotten the stretcher and oxygen but I try not to be bitter. I had been trying to make myself drink some fluids over the previous several days but apparently hadn’t been doing a good job of it; I was really dehydrated and my blood pressure was so low that I bought myself an overnight stay in the emergency department so they could screen me for sepsis. Lesson learned. PJ was in better shape and beat me to a real room by over twelve hours.
Eighteen hours in an emergency room is not fun. For starters, emergency room gurneys really aren’t designed for eighteen-hour stays. As time passes, they get exponentially less comfortable. Also, it doesn’t occur to anybody to take care of you once you’re sort of coasting. Basic things like food and water aren’t on the radar of emergency room care. They have more important things to think about, and most of their patients are transient and don’t need froo-froo stuff like that anyway. We got there at noon and at 3 am, when a nurse stuck her head in to see how I was doing (nobody had thought to give me a call button), I asked if I could have something to eat and she managed to find pudding, apple sauce, graham crackers and orange juice. How delightful. It was the first time in days I felt hungry and cleaned my plate.
I have a Nook app on my phone but I didn’t know when I’d have a chance to recharge it so I was reluctant to use up the battery reading. The TV was on but there was no sound, and I suppose someone had decided that the easiest thing to enjoy without sound is sports. Eighteen hours of hockey and basketball, interspersed with conversations from other rooms that I did NOT want to hear but couldn’t tune out. Had I died after all and gone to health care hell? By the time I made it to a regular hospital room at 6 o’clock the next morning, it almost did feel like I was on vacation in a luxury hotel. I had a real bed, a TV that I could control, and somebody would shortly be bringing me delicious hospital scrambled eggs.
PJ got somebody to go to the gift shop and buy a charger for our phones, and we passed it back and forth for the four days we were there. We texted several times a day and talked briefly a couple of times a day, but we were both coughing a lot and didn’t have a lot of spare breath for conversation. We were admitted just before a winter storm brought the city to its knees, so although friends knew we were in the hospital, nobody could come to visit until the day before we were discharged. In the meantime, I was once again free to make use of my Nook app and read, and there were some really good old movies on. When a large portion of your entertainment is television, sole control of the remote is important.
At the beginning of this year, I’m grateful both that I’m not in the hospital and that I have good healthcare.