Suddenly, I wake at midnight struggling for breath. After an hour of tossing and turning, I turn on all the lights and pace, certain that will kickstart my breathing. When that fails, I march outside in 29- degree weather, confident the cold will startle my windpipe open. By the time I call 911, two hours later, I’m so breathless I can’t form words and sound like a barking seal.
Within minutes, both an ambulance and fire truck arrive. Several, young men strap an oxygen mask on me and whisk me to the hospital. Despite my protestations, they try and fail to start an IV en route. It will eventually take six, misdirected stabs from four different people to complete the task. The cost of this 5-mile ride to hell? $1628.49. They even charge for the IV which they fail to insert and which I don’t actually need.
Once in the emergency room, I am COMPLETELY IGNORED. Apparently, if you’re breathing and not bleeding, you’re fine. For almost 8 hours, doctors and nurses pass my open door without seeing me madly waving my arms. I have to beg for water and yell out to passersby—including the cleaning crew—to please unhook me from the machines so I can pee, only to find no toilet paper!
Finally, I’m wheeled into my room where only a threadbare curtain separates me from my 80-year-old, incontinent roommate. She defecates in a plastic tub just as my dinner arrives and they clean her with washcloths from our bathroom. The smell makes me gag so I pace the halls to regain my composure. However, several, different staff tell me to return to bed, “in case you fall.” Seriously? Later, I’m woken every 2 hours to have blood drawn and vitals taken. These fatuous interventions only add to my sleep deprivation. At 5:30 AM, a cleaning crew actually turns on ALL our lights to empty the trash cans!
My diagnosis? “Laryngeal paroxysm: a rare but frightening disorder of the vocal cords.” The bill for this 32-hour nightmare? $18,000! Any wonder we have a health care crisis.? A night in jail is infinitely nicer! Trust me, having experienced both, I know. Some advice? Keep oxygen handy and don’t call 911 if you can help it. A friend joked, “You should have stabbed yourself with a pen for a homemade tracheotomy and saved yourself the nightmare.” He has a ‘point;’ ballpoint no doubt.