Such a beautiful Sunday, so full of possibilities, all of the tranquil variety. I’m trying to choose one, when suddenly a light in my brain clicks bright red. I have a row of these internal dashboard indicators, most monitoring an appendage or an organ. This one says “Check Kidney.” A sharp pain has appeared, upper back, left side.
I casually remark to Linda that we “Might have a trip to the ER today. Just letting you know.” She doesn’t get excited, just nods. We’ve had this drill before.
A few minutes later, I suggest we “Ride to the ER and just wait in the parking lot.” Five minutes pass, and I indicate we need to leave NOW, and I hobble to the passenger seat of her car while she scrambles to gather phone/keys/charger/jacket/purse and then jumps in the driver seat. Where to, she asks? Presbyterian, I say. They changed the name to some corporate medicine-sounding thing, but we still call it “Presbyterian.” I’m not Presbyterian, but that word sounds more comforting, so off we go.
Linda is an obey-the-rules driver, but I give her permission to speed. If a cop stops us, one look at me (feet on the floorboard, shoulder on the seat back, butt in mid air in ironing-board posture, yelling and singing “I’ll See You In My Dreams” off and on) and he’ll let us go, gladly.
She drops me at the ER entrance and goes to park. I make my way to a chair in front of a woman behind a computer, who waits patiently for me to say why I’m there. I’m actually quite good at this: short bursts of information between waves of pain. “Painkidneystone.” “Wifeheresoon.” “S-t-” “o-ec” “kel.”
She gives me a plastic bracelet with my name spelled correctly and a wheelchair, and someone pushes me into the waiting room. It looks different--they’ve put new plants in or rearranged the chairs or something. And it’s quiet.
No one is talking or grimacing in pain or (like me) groaning and grunting with every breath, trying not to scream. I’m not sure if they’re patients waiting their turn, or merely waiting for some other miserable soul in the bowels of this place. I’m typically un-embarrassable, but being calmly stared at while in this state unnerves me, and when Linda arrives, I ask her to push me into a private corner so I can moan in peace.
We wait and wait, and when Linda whispers maybe we should try the less-crowded Mint Hill branch (something she suggested at the beginning, but graciously does not say “I told you so”) I agree. As we start to leave I hear my last name called, and it’s familiar and oddly soothing to hear it pronounced wrong.
Then it’s the examining room, where my blood pressure gets a raised eyebrow from the nurse, who notices my legs bouncing up and down as I sit on the examining table and suggests I get something for my pain. “Mmmm..” is all I can say, and she counts to three to tell me to be still while she puts the IV in. Which she does, quickly and expertly, and in a few minutes when the meds kick in, I say something to the effect that I could propose marriage, and she says something to the effect that they get that a lot.
Then I’m on my back, wheeled through corridor after corridor as I stare up at the light fixtures, which look like passing train cars. and I say or think (I’m not sure which) “Wheeee!” as we make our way to the scanning booth, I call it, and I wait for a chuckle from the orderly that never comes.
(to be continued)