On a cool Monday evening my leg began to cramp. It wasn’t a normal cramp. It was the type that had me worried it was something worse. There was a burning sensation that hovered over my inner thigh right above my knee. “What the hell?” I thought. Certainly my years of using birth control partnered with my age had me worried it was a blood clot—OK, so I may be a bit of a hypochondriac. Nevertheless, at 1:30 in the morning I messaged my friend Mike on Facebook and asked if he wouldn’t mind joining me on a nice trip to the ER.
I have always heard horror stories about the emergency room. Legs broken, heads bleeding, people dying as they sat waiting to be seen. Ladies and gentlemen: these stories are all true—well, when it comes to Good Samaritan Hospital on Wilshire and Lucas Avenue. At about 1:45 I registered with the man sitting behind the bullet proof window. I had to hand him my paperwork through a narrow slot that linked the oxygen in my room to his.
Then we waited.
The room itself wasn’t spilling over with ailing bodies, but the few that were there were definitely miserable. There was a woman wrapped in a blanket with her eyes closed mumbling incoherently. Her daughter sat beside her with a very impatient look on her face. There was a man curled into a seat in the corner. His face shielded from the fluorescent bulbs. Then there was the teenage boy who limped his way to the front desk only to declare he had broken his leg from skateboarding. And there I was—with nothing but a pain in my thigh.
“Jenny, Jenny Arzate,” the nurse spoke as she opened the door. I stood up and gave Mike this frightened look before I hurried through the door. She had me explain my symptoms as she proceeded to take my blood pressure and temperature. Then came the dreaded cup. “Please provide a urine sample. The restroom is right over there,” she said. I’m not sure if men have ever experienced this, but urinating into a cup is more complicated than it looks. I don’t think I’ve ever not pee’d on myself.
When she completed her checklist, she said that I should wait in the reception area until my name was called. I asked if it would be around an hour and she simply said, “I don’t know.” Great.
So, we sat. Mike was a good friend because although he was just about to go to bed, he joined me at the hospital to hand-hold should that become necessary. It wasn’t. About 20 minutes later, the man who was curled up in his chair had moved. He got up. He walked over to the (now) woman behind the window pane. He said, “I’ve been waiting here for five hours and I still haven’t been seen by any doctor or nurse. I have this huge abscess on my face. I can remove the bandage and show you if you like.” I have no idea what the woman told him, but I’m assuming she was unimpressed by his abscess. She’s probably seen worse—bigger ones, even. He sat back down and curled into a ball again. He just couldn’t get a break.
At that very moment, I turned to Mike and said, “I don’t want to wait five hours to be seen. I’ll take my chances at home.” He didn’t want to sway me either way because if I truly did have a blood clot, he “didn’t want to be responsible for my death” as he so blatantly put it.
We left. And if I have a blood clot, it hasn’t made its way to my lungs yet.
I still have time.