a night at the ER, an hour under the needles

Where can a woman go for a night of therapeutic self-care apart from the demands of the household and career? What if she also has a taste for gadgets and geeking out? Well, provided she has health insurance and a legitimate health issue, and she lives in my neighborhood, she can go to the emergency room and have a leisurely 6 hours, complete with well apportioned lounges and LEC(doh! too much christmas light hangover)D video screens. And when big pharma gets her down, she’s only an hour away from relief.

That’s how I spent Thursday night, from about 8pm to 2am. Earlier that day, I had developed pain in my chest from that pesky breathing activity. Given that I’d had pneumonia before, I figured a quick call to the after hours nurse would get me in queue for a MD visit. However, the nurse had other instructions: get thee to a radiologist and get a chest X-Ray. Stat.

It ended up being a relatively stressless time. I chatted with other patients, getting a sense of the world again, and watching TV programs that made me feel more like a cultural anthropologist than a Nielsen viewer. (The murder mysteries were the most engaging, except for the fact that the victims, without fail, were always young women in peril.)

I got my own room in time for the 11o’clock news – it still exists – and had my x-ray before Dave started. The chest x-ray was really beautiful – for the shape and form hinted in shadows and lines, the clarity of my lungs (no pneumonia for you medical detectives), and the perfect fit of my heart into where my hand rests at night, across my breastbone. I have a copy of the picture on DVD, but the software is not as high-tech as one might like. Windows only.

My MD was professional, friendly, and a fan of both early, daytime Dave and Flight of the Conchords. (He quoted lyrics from “the most beautiful girl in the room” when I mentioned them.) He diagnosed my condition as viral bronchitis, and said the most important thing was to get the lungs and muscles to stop spasming. The inhaler they gave me was foul – albuterol seems somehow related to vomit – but I managed to relax into breathing with the spacer. Some mild hand jitters followed, but not enough to make a difference in driving.

At the all-night pharmacy, I was struck by the sensation of being a single woman again – driving alone after midnight on empty streets, walking through the aisles of shampoo and styling products, letting the pressing concerns of my day and future ebb into ingredient lists, until it was time to pick up the back-up medications. The overhead fluorescents came home with me, keeping me awake until about 4am. Which was when my husband woke, and my son cried in his sleep. Not so much 1997 as 2008, all of those people and experiences in the same set of pajamas.

Later that day, I went to my acupuncturist and told her about my nocturnal adventure. Fifteen needles and 30 minutes later, I was breathing with no pain, and the phlegm was finding its way out. (No pics.) It is also a single person experience, but more like slipping into a phone booth, and slipping out. No one sees what’s happening, but I come out a little warmer, a little more vibrant. And not suffering.

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Filed under acupuncture, care, David Letterman, Emergency room, Flight of the Conchords, healthcare, night out, nighttime, nighttime adventure, treating bronchitis, xrays

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