For a Tuesday, it was rather mundane, that is until I went to work. For me, work is at the home of ten wonderful and unique individuals, who by some disaster in DNA or catastrophe of chemistry, score lower on standardized tests than you or I. But a standardized test cannot begin to accurately describe these amazing men and women and their strong desire for human interaction, even though the ability to communicate is greatly diminished.
This particular Tuesday, I found myself at the frustrating intersection --where one of these awesome individuals, who desperately wanted and needed to interact, met his inability to do so. If you are like me and find it annoying when you can’t remember someone’s name or are frustrated when you can’t find the right word, you will understand this man’s deep irritation when he could not communicate to me he was in pain. He finally elected to show me and begin to pound me violently with his hands around my head and face.
All was fine after that; until it was time for me to go home. It was then I realized that the left side of my face was beginning to sag. It felt like I had a monster shot of Novocain to the entire left side of my face. I have had Novocain a couple of times, but on general principle, I do not use it even for drilling fillings. I enjoy feeling my face, I enjoy smiling, I enjoy being able to feel my tongue move out of the way of my teeth before I clamp down.
Having held steady at twenty-five years old for the past few decades, I am aware of the red flags that should spring up when half a person’s face begins to go numb and sag. It could be a stroke. As I was driving home, I called my mother in law, who is a nurse, I explained my symptoms and said I thought I should go to the hospital. She agreed. This was scary. My mother in law hates hospitals and definitely does not like emergency rooms. Most of her career as a nurse has been in hospitals, and I suppose that explains her dislike.
After I arrived home, Beloved, her father, and I went to the hospital. When I walked in, the wonderful key-tappers at the front desk asked why I was there. With sagging face, wiping drool from the corner of my mouth, I slurred the words, “The left side of my face is going numb.” I think it sounded like, “The leff shide of mu fashe ish gone numb.” There was that brief moment when I could see the shock in one of the key-tappers eyes just before she said that, yes, indeed it appeared to be numb.
Very soon, I was in a triage room, where a nurse asked some questions and took some vitals. When she took my blood pressure, I was amazed. It was dangerously high. She did not seem bothered by it and told me all the rooms in the Emergency Department were full and I could go wait in the waiting area.
I waited in the waiting area; for six and a half hours. That gave me a while to study the other inmates. There were a couple of homeless gentlemen, who thought it totally acceptable to speak to each other from opposite ends of the holding tank in loud booming voices. Their conversation consisted of one asking the other, “What time is the bus coming?” “Five-forty five” “Five forty five?” “Yep” This conversation occurred every few minutes, usually just as I was settling in for a little shut eye.
On my left hand side was a young woman who had a broken thumb. For her, I felt sorry. She waited, just slightly less time than I did, to be seen, and she was in pain. On my right was a delightful young lady whose chief complaint seemed to be the lousy service she was receiving. (She inserted a few cuss words). Twice during the night, a relative brought her food and beverages, which she consumed with great gusto and general complaints about sitting around the hospital. She also made numerous trips to the ladies room. It brought to mind the wise words of our pediatrician when we were concerned about our daughters being sick. “In general, if they are eating, drinking, peeing, and pooping, they are fine.”
The delightful young woman left shortly before I was called into a room. She complained, “This place makes me sick.” I think it may have been all the fried food she ate.