You haven’t lived until you’ve spent the night in the Emergency Room of a sprawling urban hospital. And if you have the wrong name on your paper bracelet, it gets even more interesting.
My experience could be filed under the category of a “near death experience” except there was no tunnel with a white light and no heavenly beings escorting me along the way into the Great Hereafter.
I simply lay on an emergency room gurney and faced what I thought would be my last moments on this earth. My thoughts wandered from “I hope I’m wearing my good underwear” to “I forgot to turn off the coffee pot and my house is probably on fire.”
Just to back up a bit – I had been experiencing a mysterious pain for six days and suspected my glorious 10 months of remission from cancer had been canceled due to bad behavior. I had let my exercise program lapse and was back to the occasional sugar binge which begs cancer to come in and make itself at home.
I called my oncologist in Jackson and described my symptoms. He told me to drop what I was doing and get to the ER at St. Dominic’s before 5 p.m. I did as I was told. I filled out all the necessary paperwork under the name “Emily B. Jones” and the admissions clerk asked to see my driver’s license. No problem. Everything was cool.
I got hooked up to a machine and stashed behind a curtain while the medics handled a series of bizarre cases such as the guy with a concussion who said he was lead singer for the rock group, KISS. He belted out “I Want to Rock ‘n Roll All Night,” while a lady with a roach in her ear jumped around banging her head. That left plenty of time to do a little soul searching.
Fueled by a gargantuan cocktail of dilaudid and hydrocodon, my alter ego began to fly around the room and she was a meany. She began sticking me with a pitchfork for every evil thought or deed I ever performed in my 49 years on this earth. (Of course she banged me on my forehead for lying about my age.)
Through it all, the medical personnel would come in periodically and talk to someone named “Mary.” Why were they calling me “Mary”? Could I be in the psych ward? I glanced at my paper bracelet, and sure enough, it read “Mary Jones.” Oh my gosh! They were probably prepping me for an amputation or a lobotomy. I began shouting for a nurse, and discovered that my driver’s license read “Mary Jones.” Why have I never noticed that? True enough, Mary was the first name on my birth certificate but I haven’t used it since I was a teenager.
As the drug began to wear off I had more lucid insights into the years I wasted in my pursuit of material things as opposed to nurturing relationships. I sometimes thrived off conflict rather than fostering peace and love. For sure, I was living an inauthentic domestic life, trying to be Martha Stewart when I’m more of a Roseanne Roseannadanna.
I made a lot of promises to God and myself that if I got out of this somehow, I would live my life with more compassion for the plight of others. I would never let another moment slip by wasted and unnoticed, and I would stop complaining about every little thing that ruffled my feathers. I even toyed with a name change to accompany my new persona. After trying on the name “Mary” a few times, it just didn’t feel right.
Oh, and the tests revealed no cancer, only a few surgical adhesions causing the pain. Whew. Dodged that bullet and had an interesting Friday Night in the ER to add to my treasury of experiences.