The ambulance pulled up to Stanford Hospital ER while EMTs sprung into action, carefully lowering me out of the back and into the building through an automatic door. Fluorescent lights whooshed above my head as they wheeled the gurney through long, white sterile hallways. Though the bright yellow foam cervical collar I was wearing prevented me from turning my head, my peripheral vision allowed me to just make out concern worn on faces we passed.
Turning right sharply, we entered the hospitals ER’s trauma center and I heard the EMT rattle off the details to the attending nurses and physicians: name, age, the accident, injuries, allergies, vitals.
In a matter of moments, a dozen doctors and nurses descended on me barraging me with questions, grabbing my arms, moving my legs, shining lights in my eyes, testing for spinal injuries, asking “can you feel this?” and hooking me up to all sorts of diagnostic machines that beeped and whirred.
A diminutive, mousey nurse in glasses, her long brown hair pulled into a low ponytail approached and said, “I’m so sorry, I’m going to have to cut off your shirt and bra.” I nodded sullenly and felt the scissors slice through the fabric feeling a twinge of sadness at losing a favorite shirt and jog bra. She also helped me shimmy out of my breeches, and then immediately covered me in a cotton hospital gown.
Even with all the activity and drama surrounding me, my mind felt oddly calm as I knew this was all a formality. Soon I’ll get a clean bill of health and the all clear to head home, I thought. Doctors just needed to double check my head wasn’t injured.
“Were you wearing a helmet?” a balding physician in small circular gold wire glasses asked me.
“Yes, I was,” I said flatly.
“This very likely saved your life,” the doctor said knowingly as he looked down at me through his glasses.
On cue, the EMT produced my helmet and the doctor inspected it. There was a perfect, dusty circle where I had landed directly on top of my head.
“This very likely saved your life,” the doctor said knowingly as he looked down at me through his glasses. “Can I give you something for the pain?” he asked, a look of concern flashing on his face. I waved my hand at him and declined, closing my eyes for a moment to gain my composure.
“Hey there,” I heard a voice above me and felt a gentle hand on my arm. I opened my eyes to see a burly bearded nurse in blue scrubs asking if I was pregnant. (I wasn’t.) He draped a heavy pink lead smock over my torso and took x-rays. He removed the smock then wheeled me down the hall for CT scans where the radiologist again asked again about being pregnant. (Nope.) As technicians in the room lifted me from the gurney onto a stainless steel table, I felt white-hot searing pain at the back of my neck.
After the CT scan whirred around me, I was lifted back onto the gurney, tensing in anticipation of the pain. They wheeled me back to the trauma center, but into a semi-curtained section and hooked me back up to machines to keep tabs on my pulse, heart rate, and other vitals while they reviewed scans and other diagnostics.
From my little corner of the room I could hear snippets of conversations between doctors and other patients; some patients moaning, others were sent on their way home with prescriptions and precautions. Laying there in a cervical collar, I felt helpless and at the same time totally disconnected from body. As I waited, time felt blurred and oddly slow.
I had no idea how much time had passed before I saw my husband’s face appear, concerned and ashen, approaching me. He took my hand in his and asked how I was feeling.
- If you missed the first post in this series, go back and read it. The approaching sirens wailed into my consciousness. I thought about hiding, but it was too late. From where I was sitting, I could see my friends pointing out my location to the paramedics. Within moments, a…