I’ve only been to the ER twice (as a patient). A few years ago I fell and broke my arm. It was on Mother’s Day and when I got to the ER around 3 p.m., I was the only one there and I was done in two hours. (I asked why it was empty and the staff joked that “the fighting hasn’t started yet”.)
On Wednesday I had two episodes of my heart skipping beats. The first lasted for 15 minutes and the second lasted about 30. When I got up Thursday, it started again. I waited to see if it would stop again and after an hour, it had not. I decided to go to the ER. I arrived a little before noon. And then spent the next 12 hours in the waiting room. 12 hours.
When I arrived, because I was having a heart issue, I was taken to a triage room and given an EKG while I was accessed. The tech said it looked like Afib and sent me back to the waiting room. Two hours later, I was taken back in for a blood draw and then sent to Radiology for a chest x-ray. Then back to the waiting room. Around 4:00 a nurse went through the waiting room and took vitals signs on all the patients there. We were told that there were no beds in the ER at present. Around 6:00 they started having us come into the triage rooms for our vitals. I asked if they knew about how long it would be before I could see a doctor and was again told that there were no rooms available. At that point, I was wondering why they did not at least have one doctor who could just see the waiting patients. They figured this out and around 8:00 a doctor starting seeing patients in one of the triage rooms.
At my turn, the doctor told me he needed to do more tests. So back to the waiting room again. I was extremely frustrated by this time. I had been there 8 hours sitting in the same chair in the corner, trying to keep away from the other patients. A lot of them were wearing their masks with their noses out. (You still have to wear them in medical facilities and our county has a whopping 30% vaccinated rate.). I had already resigned myself that some of these people probably had covid and who knew what other viruses. One guy threw up a few chairs down from me.
When I went in for my 10:00 vitals check, I told the nurse that obviously my issue was not emergency – I had been there 10 hours and nothing had been done for me. I asked if there was a way I could be discharged to see a doctor the next day. I was polite but I was really, really freaked out at that point. It felt like being in prison. I had no control over my life. My heart beat had gone back to normal and I wanted so bad to just go home. But, of course, they couldn’t do that. I had to have the rest of the tests and see a doctor before they could let me go. (I could leave without medical authority but then I would be responsible for the bill. The thought had crossed my mind more than once but even in that hellish situation, I wasn’t that stupid. And, there was something wrong with my heart.)
So back I went to my chair in the corner. I had read half of the book I’d brought with me. I’d heard hours and hours of “Friends” on the TV above me. Now it was some game show. A guy sitting two seats away from me fell out of his chair having a seizure. I wanted to curl up in a ball and hide. I had been texting with friends throughout the day. One of them said she was coming out there. I nearly burst into tears at her thoughtfulness. Someone was coming and I wouldn’t be alone.
About midnight, after 12 hours, I was finally called to the back. They had a room for me. My friend arrived soon after. More blood was drawn, I had another EKG and was hooked up to a heart monitor. And then, again, waited. But at least I was laying down and had someone to talk to. And I finally got the story of why all of this happened. The ICU was full. The ER rooms were being used as overflow. Between that and critical patients coming in by ambulance, there had not been a vacate room all day. I had picked a particularly bad day to have heart problems.
The doctor came in after 3:00 a.m. I honestly don’t remember exactly what he said because once he said I could go home, I didn’t process anything else. I know it was something about how my irregular heartbeat was not the “bad” kind. He referred me to a cardiologist and sent in a prescription. I have an appointment Tuesday and will be in a much better state of mind to deal with all this. I was finally released a little after 4:00 a.m. Over 16 hours after I had arrived. I know it was not a typical experience and most of the staff were very apologetic, but damn, now I’m not just worried about my heart but what illnesses I was exposed to in all that time. This was something I hope to never, ever experience again.