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6 Surprising Things I Learned From A Visit To The ER

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I have a friend whose husband says she suffers from IDS... Instant Death Syndrome. In other words, she's a hypochondriac. I have been known to be affected with the same syndrome -- as a child, a headache often meant a brain tumor and a stomach ache meant acute appendicitis. It's a wonder that until last week, I'd only been to the ER once... and that was for a legitimate reason.

When severe chest pain awakened me from a deep sleep, I didn't think much of it. I am one of the "30 million people" who suffer from acid reflux, and being awakened by heartburn is pretty common. It usually occurs very early in the morning, but this time the clock said 1:30 -- way earlier than I can remember it ever happening before. As I lay in bed, I realized that my shoulder was bothering me, and it was then that I remembered a video I had watched earlier that day about Heart Attacks.

Would it be crazy of me to head over to the Emergency Room at the nearby hospital and just have them check it out?

"No!" said my husband, who, believe me, has been witness to many of my bouts with IDS. So, we hopped in the car and entered the Twilight Zone. I checked into the ER and at 2 a.m. and then actually spent the day there, getting pricked and prodded, and monitored. Luckily for me, it was deemed that my heart was not the culprit. (It was more likely that the Kale/Brussels Sprouts Salad from the previous night's dinner aggravated a possible ulcer.)

The experience wasn't too horrible, but don't get me wrong, I would have much preferred being at a day spa (and the fact that I got a little running in via my stress test didn't mean that I could count that as one of my gym days). There were a few things that I did learn from my day away from home: Unfortunately in some ways, and thankfully in others, the ER in real life, is nothing like the ER on TV.

6 Things I Learned From a Day in the ER:

1. McDreamy was McNowhere. No offense to all the wonderful men who toil away in the Emergency Rooms around the country, but not one of those guys I encountered came even close to resembling Doctor McDreamy. I would have settled for a Dr. Doug Ross (George Clooney) lookalike, but alas, I struck out in that area as well.

2. Nurses are great at multitasking. It made me smile to know that even while drawing blood, installing an IV, and taking my blood pressure, nurses can multitask and still deviate from the situation long enough to notice what color nail polish I was wearing. At least four of them complimented me on it. (BTW, it was Smokin' Hot by Essie.)

3. Men do not suffer in silence. As I sat there trying to block my pain and nausea with deep breathing and meditation, my efforts were very nearly thwarted by the moaning man curled up in a ball on the chair across from me, and another guy who was behind a curtain screaming way above a stage whisper.

4. I am allergic to Latex. It has always been my experience to answer, "No," when any nurse asks whether I am allergic to the tape they use to adhere various "things" to my body. And so it was on that day. However, now that I have square and circular-shaped welts all over my chest and abdomen from the EKG electrodes, I think from now on I will answer, "Yes" to that question.

5. Nurses are truly angels of mercy. While waiting for one test or another during my day at "Med Spa... NOT," I was able to listen in on various conversations between nurses and patients. What I often heard brought me to the realization that some of the things nurses have to do to get their patients ready before a doctor will even look at them are downright disgusting! When one nurse passed me entirely covered in what looked like a HAZMAT uniform, carrying a basin and sponge, I almost shouted, "Give those guys and gals a raise!"

6. Hospital food is not that bad. If the only thing you've put in your mouth all day has been gelatinous, white and chalky, and citrusy/salty, the food that you eventually are given in the ER is pretty yummy. (Provided it is wheat toast and butter.)

Here's the video I watched that made me both profoundly paranoid and knowledgeable about women and heart attacks. I suggest you watch it too, because it could save your life. And while we're at it, take note of the Heart Attack Symptoms. They're a little different than the ones men have, and again... it just might save your life!

Heart Attack Signs in Women

Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.

Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.

Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

If you have any of these signs, don't wait more than five minutes before calling for help. Call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away.

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