Yesterday, almost immediately after I finished my blog post, I took my smaller kid to my bigger kid’s school where the nanny met us. I promptly ditched the kids and skipped happily towards my car, which I piloted to the Emergency Room at Weiss Hospital, which is, for those of you not familiar with Chicago’s north side, located in one of the last outposts of true Cubsland weirdness, Uptown. As I pulled my car into the parking lot I realized that the self park lot for the ER was hosting a farmers market, which, as an injured party trying to get as close as possible to the hospital, I found to be a little shortsighted. I flipped around and managed to snag some street parking less than a block away and then made my way through the farmers market to the doors of the ER. On my way, I bought a bear full of local honey, the consumption of which is apparently the best way to combat seasonal allergies. I gave the guy a fifty. He bitched about it. I told him that ‘fuck it, man. I don’t need the honey I guess. I’m really just here because I’ve got a broken rib and this shit’s between my car and the hospital.’ His wife overheard this and bitched him out like only the wife of a beekeeper can. The phrase “he’s got a busted rib for chrissakes” was even bandied about a bit. I got the honey and a mumbled apology.
The reception area was empty except for a pretty, young Latina receptionist and an Asian guy in a long white coat (not sure what that implies) buying a Sierra Mist from the vending machine. I approached and gave my information (“Hey, I was up in the middle of the night to pee, I tripped on a misplaced footstool and fell on a chair and now my rib is broken. Here’s my insurance card”). She seemed very concerned and had me go sit in the waiting zone.
The triage nurse, who was an Egyptian looking, large, pretty woman wearing a headscarf that looked too whimsical to be religious but too big and all over the place to be appropriate if it wasn’t religious brought me in and asked me a few questions, like if I was on drugs or if I had ever had a heart attack. She was extremely nice and had very kind eyes, which I decided was a great quality to have if you’re a nurse. She seemed to sympathize with my pain and ushered me back into the real ER zone where I was immediately confronted with an unshaven bald, hairy man in a robe splayed out eating some kind of brown goo/rice combination off of a molded green tray. The nurse in the headscarf took me to a small waiting area, which could be made private by pulling a shower curtain across it. She had me sit in the chair and then pulled the curtain leaving me somewhat isolated. Almost immediately I noticed that my little spot had some thick fumes in the air. It smelled like nail polish and was getting progressively stronger as I sat there. I had to pull back the curtain eventually because I was getting dizzy.
The first receptionist came by and asked me if I was doing okay. I assured her that so far, everything was cool. I sat there for about forty five minutes or so before the doctor, a young blonde woman who was either gorgeous or weird looking (I couldn’t quite decide) came by and kind of smirked at me. “So, broken rib, eh? What happened?” I told her the story and she had me unbutton my shirt. She traced my ribs with her finger super lightly and asked me to tell her where the pain was. The thing is, her touch was so light I couldn’t even feel her fingers at all, so I took my finger and pointed to where it hurt. She smirked again and said “well, I don’t think it’s broken, but we’ll do an X-ray just to be sure. Most likely we’re gonna tell you to take ibuprofen and get on your way.”
At this point, I’m sitting in the ER, looking at this doctor and I say “Oh, so you think I’m just some pussy making a big deal out of nothing? I can’t fucking breathe over here. You know what? Now I hope my rib IS broken just to kind of stuff it up your smug, naysaying ass. How about that?”
Actually, I said “Yeah, sure. I’m just here because the pain keeps getting worse every day. Thank you.” After the doctor left, I sat there stewing for about another 40 minutes before burly dude that looked like he’d be right at home wearing a leather apron and fighting for his life in a dusty pit under the name “The Butcher” came and brought me to the X ray area. Once there, he opened a folding chair right in the hallway and indicated that I should sit there. I thought maybe I was getting the old “this asshole isn’t really hurt, let’s stick him in a hallway and see if he bails” treatment, until they wheeled in an old guy with tubes in his dick and nose and left him beside me to die (I’m just guessing about the dick tubes, if we’re being honest). In an attempt to ignore the morbidity that was suddenly so prevalent in the hall, I pulled out my computer and did a little hospital websurfing for a while until the Butcher came back and brought me to a locker room where I changed into a gown. Next, the Butcher and I went into the X-ray room where we took pictures of my ribs. The Butcher, it turns out, is one of the most remarkably sweet and gentle people on the earth. He put the lead screen up and said “It’s to protect your…erm…you know…You’re a young guy…” and blushed. I said, “ah, dude. I’ve got plenty of kids. I don’t need any more.” Later, when placing the lead screen up after I’d struck a different pose he said, “I know you said you don’t need any more kids, but just the same, to be safe….” Almost apologetically. He was really truly a nice dude, to the point where it was almost kind of sad for a reason I can’t put my finger on. I guess maybe it’s that the world is just so ugly that nice people seem more doomed and fucked than the rest of us assholes.
Anyway, we went through a few rolls of film and a whole smattering of sexy poses before I was led back to the locker room where I changed back into my clothes. I was led back to the tiny little nail polish remover zone where I’d sit for another 30 minutes before the young, blond, smug doctor came back. By this time I’d determined that she was, in fact, really good looking, and that she resembled that one art history major that I went on a few dates with about fifteen or so years ago…you remember her? We went back to her place and I thought FOR SURE that we were gonna bone and then she said something that implied that she was incredibly racist and so I made some excuse and left her house and haven’t seen her since. Maybe she’s a doctor now….Hmmmmm.
Anyway, the doctor came back and said “so, turns out your rib IS broken. I’m gonna give you Norco and send over the discharge papers.” She walked away and I sat there, not at all satisfied by these results. Sure, it was sweet to be vindicated for my pain and trouble, but having a broken rib means that this shitty pain is gonna keep on keeping on for a long fucking time, which blows. Also, there’s the Norco. Norco is cool. When I broke my knee I took Norco. The thing is though, it contains Tylenol which is real bad for your liver.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: So’s booze. Well, yeah. That’s true. The thing about booze though, is that it’s supposed to be bad for you. I understand that relationship. I don’t want medicine that hurts my liver. My vices are already doing a fine job. Plus, I’ve talked to a few EMT and doctor friends and they all say the same thing about acetaminophen/tylenol: “That shit is bad. Seeing what that does to people’s bodies is some of the darkest shit ever.” You get the idea. I don’t want to take acetaminophen. I know some people who have suffered liver failure at the hands of acetaminophen, and I’m not interested in that. SO, when the discharge guy came back, I asked if I could have some medicine that doesn’t have any acetaminophen. He asked if I had anything in mind and I said no. I’ve never been a ‘get high on pills’ kind of guy. I don’t understand pills, and the few times I’ve taken them recreationally, they’ve either upset my stomach or generally just been a bummer. So I wasn’t interested in getting pills that got me high. I just wanted something that will make my rib feel less shitty and that won’t eat away at my organs too terribly.
He went away and came back with a scrip for something called altram, which sounded fine. I skipped out and went to get some lunch over at Tweet, which is a great place to get breakfast or lunch in uptown. While there I got on my computer and checked out Altram, which I discovered was the generic term for Tramadol. Fuck. This was bad news.
I’ve had Tramadol in the past and it makes me sick. Like, it makes me nauseous and spinny and green. I needed to manage my very real rib pain, but in trying to theoretically save my liver, I wound up with a prescription for something that I knew I’d never take. I finished my breakfast and went back to the ER.
The triage nurse in the headscarf listened to my dilemma patiently. I said “look, I’d rather have the Norco than this. I really can’t deal with how this stuff makes me feel.” She went back to talk to the racist art history doctor and finally came back with “she says to just take over the counter ibuprofen. You’ll be fine.”
I said, “oh, great. Cool. That’s what I’ve been doing and it’s not doing shit. I have a broken rib. I KNOW there’s no physical treatment for it. I came here to get some medicine that will give me some relief.” She told me to wait and went back again. When she returned, she had a prescription for Vicoprofen, which sounds completely made up to me. It’s apparently hydrocodone paired with motrin (ibuprofen) instead of Tylenol (Acetaminophen). I thanked her profusely and apologized for being such a pain in the dick (a phrase that she seemed to enjoy) and went on my way.
So here I am. I have a broken rib and a bottle with NINE pills in it. If I began taking them according to the directions, I would be out of them by tomorrow at this time.
Now, I’m not one to sit here and complain, but….no. I am. That’s what this blog is for. Nice fucking pain management, ER. I don’t think my rib is gonna be healed by next month, much less tomorrow morning. Dumb bullshit. Sigh.