The following post is brought to you by my husband, Rob.
We just got the first bill in the mail today from my late night emergency room visit. Eighteen hundred dollars. Or does $1,800 look more impressive? What if I put it into Chipotle burritos? That would be over 250 burritos, at least enough to send me to the emergency room. When I was a freshman in college I would order two Chipotle burritos to go and eat them back in my room. Unless you’re Michael Phelps, eating a second burrito is tantamount to auditioning for Jabba the Hut. I guess I enjoyed seeing the corn in my poop the next day.
Anyway, so now Laura and I have this medical bill. We have other bills coming soon for more useful things, too. I think what bugs me the most about this particular debt is that I’m not getting anything cool in the mail (like razors!) or driving around in a new car. My ER visit lasted not even four hours and yet it cost us more than a vacation to the beach.
It all started around 2:25 AM. I got up to go pee because I didn’t feel like wetting the bed; when I returned from the bathroom I noticed a weird sensation in my chest. Not pain, but definitely disconcerting. I tried taking deep breaths to relieve my shuddering heart, hoping things would return to normal. Quietly, I laid back down in bed in the square foot of space Laura typically allots me. Nope, not getting better. I sat up.
“Hey, Laura,” I whispered. “Can I ask you something?”
“…mmm?” Laura mumbled, rubbing her eyes.
“Do you have your stethoscope? My heart feels funny. Would you check my pulse?” Clearly I had no idea what a stethoscope is typically used for. “I think my heart is skipping.”
“Rob, you don’t need a stethoscope for that,” Laura replied, sitting up in bed. I watched her grab my wrist, counting each pulse emanating from my sinewy, muscular forearm. “Yeah, your pulse is irregular. How are you feeling?”
“Really weird. It doesn’t feel right at all.” I stood there, focused on breathing. “What should I do?”
“Well, we could go to the emergency room,” Laura suggested. I agreed, and after a couple minutes of getting ready, we set out. At this point, ten minutes passed since I had originally woken up, and our 2012 Honda Civic was cruising through the neighborhoods at a swift pace of five mph over the speed limit. Laura isn’t grasping the urgency of the situation, I thought to myself. What if I don’t make it? What if I never get to see how Miley Cyrus does on The Voice? Will she tank?
“Hey, just run this red light,” I said. “No one’s coming and we’re just gonna sit here forever.” Laura obliged, driving through a couple more red lights as we raced towards the freeway. We chose to skip the local hospital in favor of a standalone ER in a better health network. Along the way, Laura and I fought a furious battle over the air conditioning knob.
“Rob, I’m burning up,” Laura complained. “Are you really that cold? Why do you keep turning off the air?” I informed her yes, I was cold, so cold in fact that I was shivering. (Looking back, I now realize that our car probably felt like a YMCA locker room.) We finally pulled into the parking lot and walked into the building.
At the front desk, I fumbled through a series of questions from the secretary; by this time I was very noticeably shaking from head to toe. After a minute or so, someone led us into a room with – BAM – thirteen people waiting around a hospital bed. Actually, there were probably only four nurses and/or aides, but in that moment I felt like I was in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I was stupefied.
“Please take off your shirt,” a nurse directed. She waited. I did nothing. “Sir, take your shirt off.” Still nothing from me.
“Rob, take off your shirt!” Laura yelled. Oops. I took off my shirt and reclined back in the bed. Three nurses quickly put sticky electrode thingies all over my body; another helped me into a hospital gown. My shivering had reached its climax by this point. Do I look like Leonardo DiCaprio right now? I wondered. Jack, I’ll never let go. That was stupid – Rose totally threw him into the ocean. Meanwhile, a male nurse named Will stood in front of a mobile kiosk typing in all my information. For some reason I treated Laura as my attorney, turning to her for just about every question Will asked.
“Have I had any recent major surgeries?” I repeated, glancing at Laura from the corner of my eye. She shook her head. “No…”
Our Q&A session went on this way for several minutes.
Will brought some warm blankets, assuring me that nerves were most likely the reason for my Jack Dawson Titanic impersonation. He was right. Now able to relax and look around, I noticed that in the whirlwind of my arrival I was affixed with an IV and a heart monitor oxygen clamp thinger on my finger. The bed and pillows felt nice. After a while, Laura and I were left to turn on the room’s television and watch whatever people watch at four in the morning.
Over the next two hours, a young doctor met with us twice; Laura and I caught an episode of Friends; and my heart continued to beat irregularly, though not as bad as before. I texted a coworker to let work know I wouldn’t be coming in that day. Finally, Will returned with medication. He explained that I was experiencing premature ventricular contractions, or PVCs, and that they could be stress related.
“Well, I did just have my fantasy football draft,” I reflected thoughtfully.
“Yeah, I know how that feels,” said Will, nodding in agreement. “Anyway, your potassium is a little low, so here are a couple of tablets. Also, this is up to you, but I can also administer Ativan, which is a muscle relaxer.” It was a small dosage, and Laura encouraged me to take it. I became slaphappy almost immediately after Will gave it to me.
“Laura, I can’t stop smiling,” I said, flashing my pearly whites. “Here, I’ll try to stop.”
“Rob, you’re still smiling.”
“Oh, I am? I just can’t stop smiling!”
“I know. You just said that.” By this point it was almost 6 AM and Laura wasn’t chipper; in a few hours she had to return to work while I, on the other hand, would be in bed playing Mario Kart. Luckily we were nearing the end of my stay. The doctor visited us one last time, and I tried my best to stop giggling as she explained that my PVCs were down to zero a minute. After she left, Laura and I pulled the EKG sticky electrodes off my body, which hurt almost enough to stop my newfound giddiness.
As we walked through the parking lot back to our car, I mentioned to Laura that I could probably still go to work. “Rob, you just took Ativan! You’re not going to be driving a car today,” Laura insisted. Duh, I can’t drive – why is she so much smarter than me, I wondered. I laughed the whole way home.
– – – – – – – – – – – –
Looking back on the past year, I can see that my life has been filled with worry. Worry over discovering my infertility; infertility treatments and pregnancy miscarriage; church drama and an eventual split, losing friends in the process; finding a new church; multiple car troubles; and the pressures that go with buying a house. Someone (probably Laura) once told me that worrying is like putting a down payment on future problems you may never have. The Bible tells us Jesus taught that we cannot add a single hour to our lives by worrying. So why do we do it? I’m not exactly sure. Maybe we think we are entitled to control every aspect of life. Could it be possible that sometimes things aren’t meant to go the way we want them to?
A few years ago I decided that John 14:27 was one of my favorite Bible verses. I should spend more time revisiting it: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”