Adventures in Nursing Blog
My late-night ER visit reinforces how amazing nurses are
By Rich Smith, 05-12-2023
You’re all heroes in my book — especially Batman
It was a Monday.
September 12th. Right at 5:30 p.m.
Five days before we had to leave for TravCon 2022.
I was sitting at dinner with my wife and son. Pizza and a beer, nothing fancy. It was supposed to be a quick dinner, we had haircuts scheduled for immediately afterwards.
My son’s hair was fine. Mine looked like a style straight out of a 70’s tv episode. No way I could go to Las Vegas looking like Mork from Ork. (Look it up. Pretty much the look I had going on.)
I hadn’t really felt well all day, but the day before was pretty much just football, beer, and junk food. I chalked it up to poor life choices and went about my day.
Fast forward to 5:30 … it wasn’t poor life choices.
Under pressure — something’s not right
I was staring at my pizza and beer and, somehow, all of a sudden, I didn’t want either of them. My chest began to tighten. It became hard to breathe.
I took a second and tried to calm myself, but it didn’t stop.
My eyes welled up from the pain, and at that point my wife asked me if I was ok. I definitely was not ok. But I hoped it would just pass. It didn’t.
The pain would come in waves, feeling at times like a bear hug from my friend Justin Pietig. The kind of hug he’d give if we hadn’t seen each other in a while. But a hug that didn’t stop — and got progressively tighter.
I tried to just breath through the pain. It didn’t work. My legs felt weak. I looked up at the TV in the bar, trying to distract myself from the pain, but the words on the screen didn’t really make sense in my head. Something was wrong. Really, really wrong.
Another tear. Another wave of tight pain.
I was getting scared now.
I just wanted to go home and rest. It had been a stressful couple of weeks getting ready for TravCon and I thought that’s all I needed — a little rest.
My wife wasn’t having it though. “I’m taking you to the Emergency Room,” she said. I argued, but I didn’t have the strength to really put up a fight. Five minutes later, I’m standing in a packed ER.
Waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
All. The. Tests.
I’ll fast forward a bit to spare you the minutia of the night. I was there six hours. EKG, EEG, blood work, chest x-ray, and other stuff that’s a bit of a blur.
I chewed some baby aspirin, was poked and prodded, and had some chalky drink which even now I’m not sure what it was for.
The good news: it wasn’t a heart attack.
The bad news: they don’t know what it was exactly.
I’ve struggled with GERD and acid reflux for the better part of 20 years. Could have been that. Could have been a panic attack, or stress related. The follow up appointments with my primary physician hasn’t really produced a diagnosis either. So, I’ll try the new medication, try to exercise more, try to eat better and drink less alcohol.
Travel nurses are often the frontline to patient care
How does this relate to all of you? And what I do every day?
Each nurse interaction I had that night in the ER was a travel nurse.
The first one, who was just finishing up his 12-hour shift, was a traveler with CrossMed. The second one, the one taking his place and just starting her 12-hour shift, was a traveler with Triage. Once I finally got a room my nurse was a former Atlas traveler, but was then with AHS.
Each of these travel nurses made me feel safe, no matter how scared I was or how bad the pain got.
I’ve learned so much over the past 18 years in this industry. Travel nurses are the best of the best. They can adapt and change to each individual situation, no matter the circumstances. Travel nurses are resilient. They have a gear on the top-end that others may not have. And most importantly they care. No matter how brief our interactions, it was clear I was the most important thing at that moment for them.
Be kind, take that adventure, tell a nurse thank you
I don’t know what tomorrow holds. As I get older, mortality becomes more and more real to me. So, I’ll leave you all with this — something I thought about a lot when I was waiting in that ER: Hug your loved ones. Be kind, always, even when the other person isn’t. Take that adventure. Do something spontaneous (even if it scares you). Try new things.
Our time here isn’t guaranteed, so make the most of every second.
Now that I’ve sounded like the inspirational sign aisle at Target, I’ll give you the epilogue to my ER visit story.
While I was sitting in the bed, talking to my nurse, I noticed the whiteboard on the wall in my room. It had all the normal stuff you’d come to expect from a whiteboard in a patient’s room. Except for one detail.
On the board, after where it says Doctor, it clearly said “Batman” in black dry erase marker.
I chuckled and asked, “Batman? There is no way the doctor’s name is Batman.”
“It is,” the nurse said. And it was. Dr. Batman.
His last name was ACTUALLY Batman. It was at that point I knew I wasn’t going to die. Batman was there.
I’ve been a nerd all my life. And now Batman was here … in the flesh … and somehow, I knew it would all be ok.