Emergency room etiquette

For those of you who have never had a kidney stone, congratulations. I never knew how bad I could hurt until my first. I’ve had three.  Three, just so I will never forget how badly I can hurt.


Kidney stone

This is a really big kidney stone, not granola (Image via Wikipedia)

While I was going through my last kidney stone/emergency room experience, I had a lot of thoughts. I’m pretty sure a lot of them were brought on by the endorphins my body was cranking out to keep me from having to be peeled off the ceiling.

Sitting there waiting, I could not help wondering what the other people were there for. Still, it is considered bad form to do something akin to the jailhouse “what are you in for” thing with your fellow ER waiting room occupants. I think that is a shame. I’d have had no problem telling someone who asked that I had a kidney stone. Why do we go through this charade of acting like we don’t want to know?

I hope this is my last kidney stone for a long time. In the event its not, I am going to stagger in to the emergency room, fill out my form and fall into a chair. Then I’m going to look at the person next to me and say “kidney stone, how about you?” I think someone has to break the ice. I wish each of you well, but if you end up in the ER before me, please consider being that ice breaker.

I Go Backstage At The Hospital

What a sweet ride (image via

I was triaged, put on a gurney, rolled back into a room and given a sufficient quantity of controlled substances to keep me out of pain. It was decided that I was going down the hall for a CAT scan.

I’ve been rolled around in hospitals before, but for whatever reason it never occurred to me that I might want to greet my fellow patients as we crossed paths being shuttled around the building.

Yesterday, it seemed to me that I ought to do that. I mean, really, why wouldn’t I? I wave at neighbors as we cross paths entering and leaving the neighborhood. I see people on Harleys wave at one another as they pass. The teller at the bank always greets me, but she doesn’t really know me. Yes, it made all the sense in the world to do it.

I Execute The Plan

On my way to the CAT scan, I was disappointed that I didn’t see another patient and wasn’t able to put my plan into action. Following the test, I was put in the hall until someone could come get me. I waited a few minutes. Finally, another patient came rolling around the corner on his gurney, being pushed by hospital staff.

I nodded and waved as he approached. He didn’t reciprocate. Somehow that made me more determined. It is possible that by it making me more determined that what I really mean is it made the controlled substances running through my veins more determined.

I went with “what are you in for?” He wasn’t saying. He just looked at me like I’d lost my mind. Perhaps I had. I went on and told him I was heading back to my room now and asked if I could deliver a message for him to anyone on the outside. He just looked at me and shook his head no.

Mrs. Omawarisan

When I was wheeled back into my room, Mrs. O was just returning from calling the Omawari-son to update him on my status. I told her of my attempt to remake hospital society. She apologized to the man who had brought me back. Sometimes, when you are an innovator, it is hard for people who see you every day to recognize it.

I don’t think the guy I spoke to is going to take the idea and run with it. I hope we all can stay healthy and don’t cross paths in an ER.  If you find yourself there and someone attempts inter-gurney communication, it is me. Say hello.


37 Comments on “Emergency room etiquette”

  1. tsanda says:

    just don’t sit next to the guy who is in there for alien incubation in his chest…thats gonna get messy

    Yeah, I’m going to have to pick someone whose problem isn’t really self evident.

  2. queensgirl says:

    I hope you’re feeling better!

    I currently have three prescription bottles that are keeping me feeling better until I get this thing out of me.

  3. Kathi D says:

    Good lord, man, why do you keep manufacturing kidney stones? That’s a really bad idea. Waving at fellow patients, on the other hand, is an excellent idea! Starting a group song would be nice also.

    Thank you, I liked the idea too. We are sick when we go to the hospital, not anti-social. Well, the guy I talked to was pretty antisocial.

  4. Kate says:

    Eeks, kidney stones! I’ve had them in the past, the first time being a few years ago right before Thanksgiving. No one could figure out what was wrong with me (some ER doctor had the nerve to tell me I probably had an STD) until I passed a stone on Thanksgiving Day. Most painful experience of my life (and one of the scariest). I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you’ve had the last of yours!

    Oh man, they’re terrible. The only nice part about this one is they built a hospital within a mile of my house…very few pot holes to hit on the way.

  5. linlah says:

    Oh ouch kidney stones, not for those with low pain tolerance, or really anyone.

    They’re breath taking. The other kind of breath taking.

  6. planetross says:

    Drink a lot of cranberry juice for kidney stones … or maybe it’s for gallstones … either way cranberry juice is good.
    I’m not making this is up.

    Some people you can tell what they’re in for: head wound, power saw accident, missing eyeball, nail through elbow, …

    No, I’ve heard the cranberry juice thing. I was kind of hoping for really good tequila.
    I should speculate on why that guy was so standoffish. I think he was in for something non biological in origin. What a weirdo.

  7. Keli says:

    You have my respect for attempting to create your very own brand of hospital etiquette while in pain. However, do keep in mind that while riding a Harley, sailing or strolling the ‘hood are typically leisurely, laid back activities, hospital visits are not. Therein lies the weakness. By the way, perhaps cranberry laced brandy may do the trick.

    Very true, and the ideas I think are great with an IV of god knows what running into me aren’t always the best a week down line when my system is clear. But it was sure fun at the time.

  8. theerdoctor says:

    Just saw your post. You may be interested to know that every ER triages kidney stone patients right away. It is considered one of the most painful conditions to have and you are bumped to the top. So take heart, you were undoubtedly one of the “sickest” persons in there. Also, if/when it happens in the future, don’t just automatically keep getting CT scans. Now you know what you have, if it feels the same, just ask for help with the pain. Better yet, have a copy of your CT report with you (so the ER doctor doesn’t think you are a drug seeker, that’s important when you only want narcotics!) and if s/he really wants to do a test, they can do an ultrasound. Too many CTs are not good for you either.

  9. omawarisan says:

    Thanks for the info Doctor! I felt the sickest (but I’m guessing we all think that) and they did get me a room pretty quickly.

    Interesting that you advise asking for help with the pain. I was so scared to ask for it because I was terrified they’d think I was drug seeking and I’d end up waiting longer.

  10. theerdoctor says:

    I had to write once more, b/c what you said about asking for pain meds. Only those people that don’t need to worry about it, worry about it! We really can tell the difference! And kidney stone pain is really bad. The problem for you is that in the future, if you don’t want to wind up with a CT every time, you best have a copy of the report, or they are going to want to CT you every time, especially if you come right out and ask for meds. Just trying to streamline your experience next time, and having that report will be worth the weight of the kidney stone in gold!

  11. Lucky Eye says:

    What’s is a kidney stone? No, seriously. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll search it.

  12. […] months ago I wrote about an adventure I had while being treated for a kidney stone. That stone hurt a lot. The emergency room physician diagnosed me quickly and got me relief from […]

  13. Abe's Blog says:

    I’ve been to the ER a few times in my life…seems like those times have been increasing over the past few years. But not for kidney stones. I pray I don’t have those. I’m going to try the friendly what-are-you-in-for routine. I know people like to talk about their health issues, so I think it’s going to work well. Unless…I have a friend who used to work in the imaging department, and apparently there was an inordinate number of hapless individuals who had things stuck…in them…in the place that you shouldn’t put things. She got to see the pictures. In this small town, the frequency of people getting things stuck in a place you shouldn’t put things seemed high. So I’m thinking that many of those people you see may fall into this class, in which case they would prefer to die before telling you what they were in for.

    • omawarisan says:

      I’ve heard hospital folks have files of images from those people. I’m always amazed by the fact that people feel the need to do that. Why on earth would I want to know if Thomas The Tank Engine fits there?

  14. 36x37 says:

    I’m sorry, Omiwarisan. I know kidney stones are just awful. My father-in-law has kidney stones at least once a year, and he swears it hurts more than childbirth. Once, I asked him how he knew that for sure, and his answer wasn’t very nice.

    But. He also told me about this guy he knows who passes a kidney stone every few weeks. The guy is in his late 20s, and he’s had this crazy kidney stone problem since he was in his late teens. I said, “Wow! At least your situation isn’t as bad as that guy’s.” His answer to that wasn’t very nice, either.

    Hope you’re feeling better!

    • omawarisan says:

      I’ve heard the same thing about childbirth, and had it confirmed by someone who’d done both. I’ve still got to give the nod to childbirth though.

      I know someone who does the kidney stone every few weeks thing. I don’t know how he manages.

  15. Brother I know the pain. Went through that a few years ago. Talk about not being able to find a comfortable position. With most pains you’re able to lay or shift a certain way to alleviate some of the pain but my goodness… not even going fetal helped. I can’t say they were very helpful at the ER either. After grilling me for my personal information for about 20 minutes I got to sit there for another 45 minutes waiting for a doctor to call for me. I passed the damn thing by the time they got me in to be checked. (I kinda cheated. They told me not to drink anything when I came in but I was so parched that while I was waiting I crept into the bathroom and drank some from the tap.) Probably too much info there but oh well… 😉

    • And I didn’t have a car at the time so I had to public transit it back to our home city from where I work…wondering if he was dying from some internal organ explosion or something. When I got to the hospital he said “Well, it doesn’t hurt as much now”…phew. Stupid public transit…so slow…

      The only time I’ve been wheeled through a hospital was when I was in a state of severe ketoacidosis. That means my mouth was so dry that I could barely breathe, let alone communicate with anyone. I may have been half knocked out too…I can’t be sure. But if I were up and at ’em, I certainly agree with your hospital society plan. Is this party of the Omacare Health Care Plan in your platform?

      • omawarisan says:

        Did you see it when you passed it? Mine are so ridiculously small that I still can;t make sense of them hurting. I’ve been hit by a car and kept working, and this thing the size of a period cripples me.

        Ha ha ha…Omacare! Under Omacare, everyone who wants healthcare gets it. Those who say no, don’t, but they cant change their minds later.

  16. planetross says:

    All I know is … is that no one should ever have Rolling Stones these days! … because there is cure … and those guys are really old now.

    note: having their albums/tapes/cds is okay though. It’s contagious, but not life threatening.

    double note: I knew I read this one before because “cranberry juice” immediately popped into my head.

  17. pattypunker says:

    i applaud your trying to remake hosptial society. it’s so damn boring in there. i say upon admittance every adult gets some controlled substances and ice breaker tips. hell, hospitals have valet parking now, why not make it a more convivial atmosphere.

    ps: mrs o is hot.
    pss: hope that stone is gone gone gone and never to come back.

  18. jammer5 says:

    I had what I thought was a heart attack once, sweat, chest pain, etc.. The bad thing was my cell phone was from Missouri and I was in Kansas, so 911 didn’t work. And the house I was staying in had no line phone. So after it subsided, I drove to emergency, told them I thought I had a heart attack, and was rushed into the back room. No waiting.

    I spent three days in the hospital and they found nothing wrong, and couldn’t tell me what happened. Weird, dude.

    • omawarisan says:

      Maybe if I have to go back I will tell them I had a heart attack to get into the treatment area, then, when they ask where it hurts I will point at my kidney.

      “that isn’t your heart”

      “Oh, sorry. Since I’m here, could you go on and fix it?

  19. I hope you’re feeling better by now, Oma…

    This post reminded me of sitting in the ER with one of the kids many years ago…the woman sitting across from us took great delight in telling us why her husband was there…he’d been cleaning his ears and the cotton from the Q-Tip was stuck in his ear. It certainly cheered the other folks up…probably didn’t do a lot for the guy with the cotton in his ear (if he could even hear us!)…


  20. ldsrr91 says:

    During my brief visits to the hospital I could always tell if I had been in this room or that room before … I would recognize the ceiling.

    Another great slice of life, thanks.


    PS: I am curious, how is it that you keep getting these reoccurring nightmares? (Kidney stones) I mean, what triggers it?

  21. It took me awhile to read this because I was imagining the pain. I hope (for both of us) that you never wave at me in a hospital. Unless we are both there volunteering and are very healthy.

    • omawarisan says:

      I saw a t-shirt that said pain was weakness leaving the body. Apparently I was very weak.

      If we volunteer at the hospital, lets take turns wheeling each other around while we’re on break!

  22. Well, after this there is a big red tag in your file that says “Overly reactive to pain killing drugs.” Next time you come in, you might be lucky to get an aspirin!

  23. June B. Stewart says:

    I felt your pain! Literally, on Aug. 30 this yr. Had just moved 2 months prior & only knew 1 person so I called her @ 2a.m. to take me to the hospital. I didn’t even know where the hospital was. Here they call them Medical Centers!? I thought those were office buildings for DRs. Anyway, we got to one and as soon as I got to the desk to register I asked if they could give me something for the PAIN. Wasn’t in the waiting room too long although it felt like days. Having never had kids I could only imagine the pain of childbirth, but now I think I have a much better idea. Can’t understand how women could go through that without drugs.Once that I V started dripping I became a much more plesant person. As long as they’ve got me hooked up I don’t care how long it takes. Dr. finally comes in and doing his thing, poking & asking “does this hurt”?. “Well it did when I came in, but now not so much”. Then he told me he had to test for pregnancy before he could do CAT scan. HAHAHAHA!!!!! Almost fell off the gurney laughing. I reassured him there was no question, I wasn’t prenant. He replied ” That’s what Mary said”. WHAT??? I told him that I couldn’t remember having sex (it’s been loooong time) & that the menopause fairy had already been to my house. Again he said ” That’s what Mary said”. OK, whatever. So, after CAT scan it’s confirmed that I have a kidney stone. DUH!!! I knew that much from Web MD. They gave me some drugs, a funnel with a screen at the end, and paperwork & told me I could go home to pass it.

    • omawarisan says:

      Isn’t the funnel screen just a joy? And the poke…does it hurt here thing…i’d be perfectly willing to point out all the spots.

      I’ve had 3. Only once did I have to wait very long at all. Once I started vomiting in the waiting room trashcan I was invited backstage pretty quickly!

So, what's on your mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s