So, Thanksgiving was not the way I’d planned it. The signs of its unusualness started on Monday with sinus pain that worsened by Tuesday. The trip to my sister-in-law’s parents’ home that I had been looking forward to was starting to look like it wouldn’t happen. I made the call most of us dread—to get a doctor’s appointment, only to discover the only available one was 11 days away.
I can tough this out, I thought. Ha. A few nights with little sleep thanks to pain caused me to ditch that plan and head to the ER on Friday, after a turkey-less Thanksgiving spent at home. Now, one does not head to the emergency room lightly. You have to come prepared. I brought a book, my Nintendo Switch, and a writing pad. Hmm. Which one would I choose? If you answered none of the above, you would be right. I sat there instead, trying to sleep, just wanting the pain to stop.
Now picture in your mind the sound of a record scratch. If you were born after a certain year, you might not know what that sounds like. Go here to hear it. A record scratch, according to Merriam-Webster is “something that abruptly calls attention to surprise or change.”
There I was, feeling sorry for myself when a woman arrived with an infant carrier. When asked the baby’s age, the mom replied, “Four months. She tested positive.” And then I heard the most chilling sound I think I’ve ever heard in my life: an infant wheezing—a tiny, gut-wrenching sound.
More sick children were carried in. Sick adults came too, some in wheelchairs. I was surprised at the amount of lower back pain people were experiencing. Some had had a fall, which left one woman concussed.
All of us waited for hours to see a doctor. I heard a nurse tell someone that the estimated wait time was two hours. A low estimate, I later discovered. Another nurse announced a stroke alert after a man came in with numb fingers. A woman came in with chest pain. The patient shuffling began with high-risk patients like these.
After four hours I saw a doctor for probably less than five minutes. His pronouncement—dental abscess—was met with prescriptions for a high-powered antibiotic, a probiotic, a high-powered pain pill, and a lesser potent one.
But though I came for what I needed, I was left with something more: a remembrance of that baby wheezing, a tiny note of fear and helplessness that caused me to pray and think of someone besides myself.
Photos by L. Marie.