Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My 9-1-1 Emergency

I received this writing pompt:  emergency room.  It wasn't an easy one for me, since I only have one emergency room story to tell. I have been fortunate. Very, very fortunate in many ways, but in particular, I consider it lucky that I have only ridden in the back of an ambulance once.

I was twenty-seven years old. I was sitting in my Tarpon Springs, Florida apartment watching Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass and munching on popcorn. It was one of my favorite movies. It should have been a relaxing evening -- it was a relaxing evening. Which made it even more strange when I suddenly had trouble breathing and thought I was having a heart attack.

My five-year-old son was asleep in his room. I didn't know what to do. Was I really having a heart attack? It didn't make any sense. I was generally healthy. But I couldn't breathe. I had pains down the left side of my body and through my shoulder. That was a sign of a heart attack, wasn't it?

Then the phone rang. It was a friend of mine from Ohio. "I think I'm having a heart attack," I told her. My breath was labored. She could tell something was wrong.

"Either you call 9-1-1, or I will," she said.

I knew she was right. I reluctantly called 9-1-1, not sure what I would do with my son. I called my grandmother who lived a few miles away. It was nearly 11:00pm. I'd never called so late. I'd never really called her needing anything, but I needed her now.

The medics got there before she did. They started running vital signs on me and asking me questions. They started to transport me to the ambulance, assuring me that they would watch my son until my grandmother got there. I felt panicked. What did they mean by "watch him?" Take him into custody? Stay there and babysit? Calling 9-1-1 had been a horrible mistake. I'd changed my mind. But then I saw my grandmother get out of her car and she got Mac and followed me to the hospital.

They ran their tests and everything came out normal. The doctor decided I'd had a panic attack and that I needed psychiatric care. Psychiatric care! Panic attack? Why would I have a panic attack? I'd been sitting at home watching one of my favorite movies. They released me and I went home, worrying that I was stressed-out and delusional beyond belief. I'd had no idea I was such a mess.

Then I talked to my Dad. I was telling him about the night before: the movie, the popcorn, the heart attack feeling and the doctor's prognosis. "Hhmm," he said. "That sounds just like what happened to your mom when she had gallstones. She had to go to the hospital after eating popcorn and they told her it was all in her head. I think they said she was having panic attacks, too."

Sure enough, I had gallstones. I saw a surgeon and had my gall bladder removed at the age of twenty-seven; the same age my mother was when she had hers removed. But I didn't call an ambulance to take me to the hospital. I drove myself. I've been very, very lucky.


  1. Eep! Glad your dad was able to help you ID the problem (although it's a shame that the DOCTORS couldn't...) and that everything turned out fine.

    I've been in an ambulance several times, but never for myself. Middle of the night emergency room trips are an occupational hazard of being an RA.

  2. Wow, Kristan! You have so many great stories to tell. I hope they're coming out in your writing somewhere.