*I’m republishing this from a previous blog. I wrote this piece three years ago, about a trip that happened 4 years ago next week. Enjoy!*
I sat in the small, white waiting room, not doing anything. I had been talking to my mom some, sitting to my left. My dad and sister sat across and a little down from us. We had just taken whatever seats were open when we arrived. I found myself barely nodding and mostly ignoring what my mom had to say. I wasn’t interested, it was not distracting me from the pain I was in, and I knew every word only marked us as Americans, foreigners. I hated feeling foreign. My sister had stuck her nose in a book upon our arrival two hours prior, barely lifting it out all that time. If I felt uncomfortable being foreign, I knew she was afraid to be.
We were fortunate that, being in London, the language was familiar. And soon after our arrival at the Chelsea-Westminster Emergency Room, we discovered the medical system was also similar. I was grateful. I had been in Emergency Rooms plenty of times prior to this: once with my sister who had been bitten by a dog, twice driving friends to get stitched up. My parents had been in them so many times with grandparents, and I was so familiar with those stories, I feel like it had been even more often.
This was my first time being The Patient in the ER.
I sat in a wheelchair. This was in part because I could not walk from the taxi to the entrance and in part because of how few open seats there were. I was also able to keep my right foot extended away from, perpendicular, to the rest of my body. This helped somewhat with the pain, somewhat being a very relative term. Taking Tylenol twice as frequently as was technically permitted so that I could even be sitting up, as opposed to lying in bed, my foot elevated on a giant stack of pillows, indicated the pain was bad. On a scale of one to ten in terms of my lifetime experience of pain, it was a ten. When the triage nurse had asked me to rate my pain, I said six. She offered me a stronger painkiller but I said no. There’s too much family history there. I refuse take anything stronger than what you can get over the counter if I can possibly stand it. Apparently even this level of pain qualified.