Being strapped on a gurney while riding in the back of an ambulance was never an item on my bucket list, but fate or maybe just the laws of physics and biology tend to have their way. The Monday after New Year’s, I was stricken with a back spasm that left me in agony. My neighbor attempted to get me on my feet, but every try to lift me caused screaming pain. I finally realized that calling 911 was my only viable option. The crew from LifeStar Ambulance Service are the first people I want to thank. I’m sure they had seen a few cases like mine before, and they proved to be very professional in getting me on my feet and into their rig. The story here is not about my back problem, but rather about the fact that when all else fails, I merely had to dial 911 and an ambulance came to my door.
This story is not just about an ambulance either, but about the crew that showed me how to work through the pain … onto my feet, onto the gurney and finally into the ambulance for the ride to the hospital. At the time I had no idea how this was to be done, and additional frightening questions ran through my mind. What caused this? Would I need surgery?
On the way to Jacksonville Memorial Hospital Emergency Department, I recalled the news stories about hospital emergency departments across the country being at or near capacity, and as we made our way toward the hospital, it occurred to me that I would be adding to the burden. The waiting area wasn’t at full capacity, not every chair was taken, but it appeared to me that Outpatient/Emergency was very busy. I waited for two and a half hours in a wheelchair to be seen. This is not a complaint, this is an observation, which adds credence to the news stories I’d been reading. When any institution has a limited number of examination rooms, a limited number of trained personnel available and there is a burgeoning surplus of patient arrivals, this is what happens. No one wants to be waiting in an emergency department. For many, if not most people, they, like me, had run out of options. As I sat there, experiencing occasional muscles spasms, I pondered another scenario. What if I lived in a community that did not have a local ambulance service? What if I lived in a community that did not have a local hospital with an emergency department? In such conditions, my situation would have been far worse.
That was one day in my life, a non-bucket list sequence of events. I’m on the mend now, and I hope to avoid any repeats of that awful day. As I write this, I suspect the crews of the ambulance service are still ready, and on call. The men and women of Jacksonville Memorial Hospital Emergency Department are probably on to other cases. My back problem is subsiding — but for doctors, nurses and other staff, the flow of people needing attention continues. For me this experience was one day; for them it’s every day they come to work. So even though the experience was painful, I tried my best to thank and compliment those who were caring for me that day — and now I want to thank them publicly.