Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Other Side of the Gurney

What happened?
I feel wet grass and mud on the back of my head and a searing pain shooting through my body.
Where’s my son?
I feel a sense of relief when I call out to him and he says he’s fine.
Can I move my legs?
Do I have to go to the ER?
How am I going to get there?
Husband’s not home.
Can’t believe this happened.
Can’t believe I don’t have disability insurance yet.
I remember my neighbors were outside a minute ago.
NEIGHBORS!!!! I need help!
They rush over.
I’m not sure if I can move.
They help me up.
Throbbing headache, but everything works.
Neighbor takes me to ER, other neighbor keeps son.
Head injury gets me quickly into ER bed. I lie there lonely, thinking of worst case scenarios. Praying. Husband is on his way home, will be here in an hour. Call up to Labor and delivery to see how busy they are, they sound slammed… I don’t tell them why I called (hoping they were slow and someone could come down and sit with me while I wait)
ER doc is really nice. I recognize his voice from many phone calls.
So what happened, he asks.
Fell off trampoline, landed on the ground, on my head. The “safety” net broke.
Let’s get a collar on you and a CT scan.
I tell him the irony was we have scheduled to get rid of this trampoline the next week. It had came with the house and was getting old.
He chuckled.
I didn’t.
Then the orderly (I think they call them ‘tech’s now) wheels me through the hospital to radiology.
The whole thing feels surreal. I’ve walked these halls hundreds of times, but I’ve never looked at the ceiling. It’s a normal ceiling.
Strange to be on the other side. I fell anxious and embarrassed.
More than anything I feel vulnerable. Being pushed around the hospital. Flat on my back. Unable to move. Wearing only a hospital gown and underwear.
The tech tries to make small talk, but no one explains anything because they assume I know.
I see people doing double takes out of the corner of my eye. Is that Dr. RH+? Why is face tear stained and her hair wet and muddy?
The CT doesn’t take long just a few minutes.

Another trip through the hall and hubby arrives.
We’re both relieved to see each other.
ER doc gives a good report.
Headaches and neck pain for a week, but luckily no long term injuries.
Hug son extra hard when I get home.
I feel blessed.


  1. You made a few statements that resonated with me:

    "I feel anxious, and embarrassed. More than anything I feel vulnerable."

    "The tech tries to make small talk, but no one explains anything because they assume I know."

    If you, one of their "teammates", feels like communication isn't happening, isn't it possible that your patients feel like communication isn't happening either? If you feel anxious, vulnerable, and embarrassed, isn't it reasonable for your patients to feel that way too.

    Is there any way that you can find to learn the lessons you learned today into your day to day practice to improve patient care. To find a way to make your patients feel less vulnerable or embarrased. To improve communication, so that you don't assume the patient hears or understands something important?

    I don't know. Even though I've found a doctor that I really like, and I'm comfortable with I've found that we don't always communicate clearly. What I do know is that I'm an expert on me even though I don't have an MD behind my name.

    It sound like this is an opportunity for you to learn how to be an even better doctor than you already are.

  2. So glad to know you are okay and blessed. Take care.

  3. Thank goodness you are alright. And thank goodness for your neighbors being there.

  4. Very scary. In the few experiences I have had being a patient since I became a doctor (including childbirth x 3, but also threatened abortion and other less pleasant interactions with the medical world), I also felt many of the things you describe. It makes me cherish the really humane doctors I have crossed paths with and informs who I am as a doctor every single day. How could it not?

    Thank goodness you are okay. Glad that trampoline is hitting the road. They are right up there with convertibles on the list of normal things that scare me.

  5. I completely agree w/ Tempeh's comments. Glad to hear you're ok now and hopefully the HAs and neckpain have already lessened.
    As my kids say to things that hurt them: "BAD TRAMPOLINE!! BAD!!"

  6. To Anonymous 5:39. I read your post last night and it has been bothering me for awhile. I finally figured out why. You stress to RH+ that although she just went thru a traumatizing experience, you callously tell her this is an "opportunity for you" to become a better doctor by being more compassionate, caring, and aware of her patients. And yet, in your post, at no point did you exhibit any compassion or caring for her despite the experience and pain she just went through.

    I can tell you from experience that most doctors do come away from being a patient w/ more awareness of their patients. The concept does not need to be force-fed to them.

  7. I'm so very glad you are okay and that this ordeal ended with extra hugs and full recovery. As Tempeh has posted recently, anything can happen (no guarantees) and the worry never ends. The worry in your post was palpable balanced with your calm self-assessment and good fortune (neighbors, nice ER doc, neg CT).

    Glad you'll rid your home of the trampoline... may not be the right time to read this, and it of course ruins the fun (as did your experience, no doubt) but for the technical report and recommendations, see

    Trampolines at Home, School, and Recreational Centers

    (Policy statement reaffirmed in 2006)

  8. I am glad that you are ok!! It is always interesting to be on the other side, but knowing too much can be a really dangerous thing. Being mothers, especially, I doubt that many of us here have opportunity to "forget" what it is like to be a patient, if not for ourselves, for our children. It just isn't a role we like to find ourselves in! Hope you are on the mend in no time!

  9. Hope you are better soon!

  10. Hope you get to feeling better real soon. I fell recently and needed stitches. ER was all patients have ever told me it was. The doctors, however, were great. Wish I could say the same about the nurses and intake staff. Bad attitudes, all around.

  11. I am glad you're OK! This could have been much worse. I'm so sorry you had to go through this!

    I had to add a couple of things here. I noticed that the neighbors helped you get up. I would remind everyone - please, please, when you have had an accident involving your head and/or neck, NEVER move or allow yourself to be moved until the EMS arrives. Injuries like this too often involve the cervical spine. Getting up, moving your head and neck, even changing position can cause or worsen a spinal cord injury resulting in permanent loss of neurologic function. The neighbors really should have called 911.

    Also, remember that trampolines are BAD. It does not matter if you have a safety net. Those can fail. Kids can land on their heads trying flips, seriously injuring themselves. There are other forms of entertainment that are much safer. (These do not include 4-wheelers, by the way.)

    I hope the rest of your summer is accident-free!


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