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I have a snack and go to bed early because I’ve been instructed not to eat or drink after midnight. Tuesday morning comes, offensively bright and sunny for mid-February. If there’s one thing you should be able to count on in Vancouver, it’s rain and grey skies in February but I wake up to obnoxious sunshine.
The OB/GYN’s office calls. My surgery has been cancelled. They are able to book an operating room but not a recovery bed for me. The hospital is too full. The OB/GYN tells me I need to go to the emergency room because my surgery needs to be done today. They are concerned because my HcG levels have been dropping and if I start to miscarry naturally they may lose the chance to biopsy whatever is growing inside of my uterus and I will hemorrhage. I’m told to go to the emergency room, tell triage I’ve been sent by the on-call OB/GYN, and wait. I will be admitted “through the back door” (this sounds more fun than it actually turns out to be) and my surgery will happen today.
Shawn and Grady drop me off at the hospital. I tell them not to wait with me because I don’t want Grady hanging out in a room full of germs. I have a book and I have my phone and I naively believe that I will be taken care of relatively quickly. I sign in at triage and I wait.
Within an hour I'm checked in, I've seen the triage nurse, the OB/GYN has been paged, and I'm waiting for my surgery. There is still no recovery bed for me, and now there is no operating room space for me, so I have to wait in the emergency room. So I wait. The on-call OB/GYN sends her resident to do a quick checkup. He is Grey's Anatomy-level beautiful, all blue eyes and dimples, and we have an in-depth conversation about my menstrual cycle and then he sends me back to the waiting room.
I have been waiting for five hours in the emergency room waiting room. I have not had anything to eat or drink for 20 hours at this point. The emergency room waiting room is packed. I am an introvert and I've been told I have the qualities of an empath; spending five hours in a packed room of scared, hurting, ill, emotional people is unbearable. As I enter my sixth hour, I break. I have started cramping. I'm in pain. I'm so hungry and dehydrated, I feel woozy. I approach the triage nurse and try to ask when I will be seen by the OB/GYN but instead I just start to cry. He takes pity on me and offers me morphine. I accept because I feel like morphine is my ticket to getting out of the emergency room waiting room and into the triage area. I am partially correct. The triage area is full so I'm given a gurney just outside the triage area, beside a boarded up construction zone. It is bliss. I am given an IV, and a dose of morphine, and I sleep for two beautiful hours.
There is a bit of a lull in the evening and I am moved into an actual curtained-off triage space. I even have a chair for visitors. My family has been offering to visit all day but I've been putting them off because the emergency room was so chaotic and full. I finally tell my parents they can come visit, even though I feel guilty because it is my brother's birthday. My parents visit and it is beyond comforting to see their familiar faces. They are there when the OB/GYN comes to see me and says she expects the surgery will be done in the next hour or so. (Spoiler alert: it is not.) They are there when the nurse realizes my IV isn't large enough to be allowed during surgery so it needs to be replaced. They are there when a paramedic student bungles four attempts to get a larger IV in both of my hands and arms before the nurse takes over and gets it going in my elbow on the fifth try. My parents leave and I doze off and on in my gloriously private curtained space until midnight.
At midnight I am wheeled to the emergency overflow area. It is a long, dark hallway lined with curtained off areas wide enough for hospital beds. There is no space for me so I am parked at the nurses' station, which is the only area that is not dark. I ask to be moved but I'm told there is nowhere for me to go. I lay directly under three fluorescent lights all night. I have no curtain and no privacy. The emergency overflow area is located in the hallway that connects the emergency room with the elevators that go up to the operating rooms. All night long, a parade of mangled people passes by me heading from the emergency room to be pieced back together.
My pain increases as the night progresses. My nurses are run off their feet, doing so much with so little. I am given morphine and I sleep.
I wait 26 hours in the emergency room / emergency overflow area for my surgery but on Wednesday afternoon it is done. I spend a few hours in recovery and then a few more hours in an actual hospital bed (the first time I've seen an actual hospital bed in the 32 hours I spend in the hospital) because I have to wait for my RhoGAM shot to show up. There is some confusion between the nurses ("does she need RhoGAM? She didn't have a baby.") but I have lost my ability to be surprised at how soul-crushingly awful my experience is turning out to be so I just sit and wait.
I am finally allowed to go home Wednesday night. I have not eaten in 44 hours. I feel empty.