Two days after his visit to Mercy Hospital ER in Muskegon, the Norco haze fading and sense of humor returning, Josh says, “Hey honey, we are definitely gonna hit our insurance deductible this year.”
It’s mid-June and we’ve both made trips to the ER. I tried out Northwest Arkansas’s version of Mercy in April, a result of a gnarly mountain bike crash on the OZ Trails near Bella Vista. X-Rays and three stitches later, I spent most of our vacation nursing wounds and elevating the hematoma on my shin. Instead of riding daily, I only mounted my bike once more in the week, wearing a BMX-style shin guard over my wound. As you might guess, I was exceptionally cautious searching for my mountain moxy again.
Fast forward to June, Josh continues to battle lower back and leg pain that he’s been enduring off/on for six months plus. A MRI in May clearly shows a messed up (herniated) L5s1 vertebrae. That’s the spot on the spine that sends bonus pain impulses down your butt and leg. A tech at Muskegon Orthopedic Associates mused to our scheduler, “Can he walk?” That might have provided a clue to the severe pain that began the morning of June 14.
Josh one-upped me with an ambulance ride to ER and I had my first experience chasing one. After his simple reach for the cell phone at home, the pain shot to unbearable levels. When he couldn’t walk or sit up, he realized he couldn’t drive either. Unfortunately, I missed several call attempts, stuck in a website status meeting. Thankfully, 911 is more responsive. When I did finally check my phone, I had four missed calls and one text that read, Ambulance is coming! I raced out of the office in time to make it home as two EMT’s were loading Josh on a stretcher.
We spent several hours in the ER getting the pain under control, drug assisted and endured a curt ER doctor who really needs work on her bedside manner. Josh got drugs through an IV and I popped Tums for the anxiety growing in my gut. Thankfully, the PA and nurses were more pleasant and nothing speeds along a surgical consult appointment like a visit to the ER. (We had been patiently waiting for Josh’s PCP to refer us to a specialist).
His acute pain gone thanks to more Dalaudid and a dose of muscle relaxer, the ER staff began pushing us go home.
“We can’t keep you for pain.”
“Well, I can’t sit up or walk.”
“Ok, I will come back in five minutes to check on you.”
Three tries later with a robust male nurse assisting, we got Josh up and somehow into my car for the transport home.
In a flurry of phone calls, I got several volunteers to help me get him home then inside to a bed. I can’t carry him. It was a challenging 48-hours watching someone you love barely able to move or get up to pee.
When you hit near bottom, there is nowhere to go but up, I thought while searching for inspiring words. My adventure continued that week with no less than five visits to local pharmacy and Dr.’s office for updated prescriptions and high-octane drugs like Norco and muscle relaxers. Then the mail began arriving from Priority Health and Mercy Arkansas with plenty of $$$$ noted and follow up questions. My three stitches cost us $1500 plus two more bills arrived (ER Doctor and radiology), adding another $150. I took my time paying the bills since Mercy discontinued their cash discount two days prior to my ER visit. I made them wait 90 days for the money and popped another Tums in anticipation of Josh’s bill arriving.
Thankfully, Josh got better and began moving around again. Progress. A spinal injection was scheduled as he contemplated surgery. The good news, he was well enough, 10 days after the ER incident to walk his mom down the aisle at his sister’s wedding! I likened us to the “little train that could” embarking on a journey to wellness. Health is a great perspective checker and test of faith… we all need reminders of the fragility of our lives, our relationships and the dawn of tomorrow. Plus, there are those around us in far worse predicaments….my heart and prayers go out to them.
Mary Oliver, the poet’s words flashed in my mind. What is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?