Waking with a toothache Wednesday morning gave no indication it meant a trip to Vancouver General Hospital ER by Friday afternoon. We’ve all had toothaches – they start with an undeniable throb, maybe a twinge of pain to hot or cold. Popping some Advil, I reasoned the dentist could wait until next week, Thursday morning dawned with considerably less optimism. My face showed visible swelling, no amount of Advil knocked it down. Too late to bail, I stopped at a drop-in clinic for antibiotics on my way to work, somehow managing to muddle through six hours of food and drink for prospective buyers of a $5 million dollar home. I don’t remember driving home. I’ll not soon forget waking Friday morning to a grotesquely transformed face.
Problem tooth was an “eye tooth”, never before has that designation been more apparent. Not only was half my face swollen beyond recognition, the infection reached my eye, not content to stop at discolouring a now enormous and angry red “bag”, but creeping to my eyelid. I drove the company truck to work, work drove me straight to the emergency room.
Entering ER is like crossing into another dimension. It begins at “Triage” – state your name, produce your medical number and take a seat. Time passes without point of reference, all I could go on were movements of those around me.Waiting patiently for a nurse to call my name, time passed with moans, outbursts, vomit and chatter of the queue. To my right – elderly woman (exhibiting signs of dementia ) complaining of shortness of breath, next to her abnormal menstrual cramps, construction worker with makeshift dressing on his leg and a skate-boarder who clearly face planted concrete. To my left – a projectile vomiting woman, slumped over pajama clad man and line of parked wheelchairs ranging from “ass pain” to pins and needle toes poking from freshly plastered casts.
“Be patient, we attend to the most seriously ill first”. Fair enough, perfectly reasonable priority – or so I kept reminding myself. After an hour mute tears landed in my lap. Attempting eye contact as a plea for help, proved a pitiful failure. “Look at my face, I’m obviously septic!” – of little use against steely efficiency of the ER. I lapsed into a comatose state of existence.
My name came as a dream – ushered out of purgatory, I found myself in solitary confinement. Stripped of visual reference, I relied on auditory documentation. Behind the adjacent curtain, a doctor told abnormal menstrual cramps her ultrasound was normal, and no he wasn’t going to prescribe Oxycontin or give her a shot or Morphine. WTF cramps! Nice try and on what planet are you talking to a doctor before me? See you later cramps.
How long has it been? Have they forgotten me? Footsteps! Not so fast – muffled voices behind yellow curtain – same doctor heard saying “she launched a human rights complaint”, unknown female (presumably nurse) “we apologized, that should be the end of it” Oh, if only I could make out every word – stop vomiting out there, I’m trying to eavesdrop. Another moment of indecipherable whispers, followed by doctor’s parting “don’t say anything, you keep your mouth shut” Oh my – remember me? Here I am!
I must have fallen asleep. Cheerful young doctor (not behind yellow curtain doctor) appeared out of thin air. “my goodness, this isn’t good”. No shit Sherlock! Moments later a nurse ushered me to a row of IV chairs. Take these she instructed, placing a glass of water in one hand, paper cup with six pills in the other. “Painkillers and antibiotics, now give me your arm to start an IV”. IV in place, nurse handed instructions for a “fast track” ER appearance the next day, and a sheet of “care” regarding the IV port staying in my arm until things were “under control”. Doctor breezes by with prescriptions for painkillers and more antibiotics.
Four and a half hours after venturing in, I stumble out of ER in a codeine haze, bandaged IV port on one side, fist of RX and care instructions on the other. I won’t bore you with details of the following day so called “fast track” IV, suffice to say they were doing the best they could, and 3 hours was better than 4 1/2. That was two days ago and I’m feeling much better.
Went back to work today. The root canal has to wait until next week when antibiotics are finished and the lump under my eye subsides. At least I don’t look like a bloated cadaver anymore – thank you VGH emergency room.