Lessons learned from an ER visit

Even though I don’t often blog about matters related to my personal life, I suppose one tends to get a bit contemplative while spending an evening in an emergency room. So here’s a little anecdote I thought I’d share.

It was just one of those crazy things: I’d received revision notes from my editor, and after spending several hours musing over one particular note that wasn’t quite coming together, I thought relaxing might help. I decided to take a bath, but had only allotted myself ten minutes for this “relaxing”–which made it slightly aggravating when I got into the tub and realized I’d forgotten the soap in the shower. Wanting to get down to this “relaxing” business as quickly as possible, I hopped out of the tub, bolted across the hardwood floor, stepped onto the shower tile with wet feet and–


No warning, no way to break my fall. I landed hard on the tile and hit my head, neck, and back. I lay there for a moment, dazed, but aware enough to know that it was a bad fall, and that I felt off, and that the bathroom door was locked. So I got up, grabbed my phone off the vanity and called my husband, who was downstairs in the kitchen.

Mr. James: “Are you okay?”

Me: “I fell. Can you come up?”

Then I unlocked the bathroom door so he could get in, laid down on the floor, and completely blacked out.

According to Mr. James, who found me lying on the floor, I was unconscious for about ten seconds. What I remember is someone saying, “Julie, can you hear me?” and then I opened my eyes to find some guy staring down at me with a concerned expression. I didn’t recognize my husband at first–although I remember thinking, “He’s nice-looking, whoever he is.” I had no clue who or where I was, so I didn’t answer for several moments. Then it clicked, finally, and the first thing I said was, “I’m okay.”

Fast-forward several hours–after much hemming and hawing about whether I needed to see a doctor–I went to the emergency room because my neck and back were sore. After a neurological exam, and a head/neck CT scan, the attending physician concluded that I was going to be okay. (Yay!)

Now, why am I sharing all this? I guess because this is one of those experiences that makes a person think about how really bad a fall like that could’ve gone. So as long as I’m in this contemplative mood, here’s what I learned:

1. When the triage nurse asks you why you didn’t come to the ER immediately after falling, don’t say, “Well, I kept checking my pupils in the mirror and they looked okay to me.” This will get you a strong look of disapproval.

2. When the studious fourth-year medical student comes in to examine you before reporting to the attending physician, be prepared to have a loooong chat about your entire medical history. (“So, your seasonal allergies. . . have they been bad this year?”)

3. When waiting in the ER for hours with a head injury, charts like this will inexplicably strike you as funny:


4. When waiting in the ER for hours with a head injury, don’t ask the attending physician if you can have a snack. Because his answer–“No, just in case.”–will lead you to spend several hours panicked and wondering, “Just in case of what?”

5. And finally, in case you’re someone like me, always running around trying to fit thirty hours of stuff into a twenty-four hour day, I leave you to consider these two words: Slow down. As a working mom with two young kids, I totally understand being busy. But as a wise man once said: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Just saying.

31 thoughts on “Lessons learned from an ER visit

  1. Kim says:

    Glad to hear you’re doing fine. With all the recent headlines about concussions, it’s a good thing that you had it checked out. How is the neck and back feeling today?

  2. Julie says:

    Thanks, guys! I’m really sore–but it could’ve been so much worse. The doctor said I should start massage therapy in a few days. That part doesn’t sound too bad. : )

  3. Debra Fisk says:

    So glad your okay. Being married to a doctor I understand the disapproving eye, and just in case, when having injured myself.

  4. Liv says:

    Re point #4 (in case you were still wondering): The “just in case” refers to the possibility that you might have needed to go to surgery for complications related to your head trauma (eg, bleeding, to relieve pressure in your head). If you eat and/or drink something, there’s the potential you might throw up and aspirate your stomach contents into your lungs (pneumonia risk), particularly under anesthesia. Although this risk exists for anyone whether they undergo surgery or not, many surgeons and anesthesiologists will refuse to send someone for an operation if the patient doesn’t have an empty stomach (of course, if it’s an emergency, the patient goes to the operating room, regardless of whether they’ve recently eaten/drunk or not). Vomiting also increases pressure in the head (as well as in the chest and abdomen).

  5. Paige says:

    So glad you are ok. Head injuries can be pretty scary. Especially, if you black out. When I first started reading this, I thought of Liam Neeson and his wife.
    And look on the bright side, you woke up in a potential romance novel….a hot guy hovering over you and asking if you were ok. 😉
    All jokes aside, so glad you are alright!

  6. library addict says:

    Glad that you are okay.

    My uncle fell earlier this week (at a rented cottage walking down to the beach). He didn’t go to the doctor right away either. Once he got back to town he finally did. Turns out he broke one of the vertebra in his neck and may need surgery.

  7. Julie says:

    Between Library Addict’s comment, and hearing about the story re: Liam Neeson’s wife, I’m even more glad I went to the hospital. Scary!

    Liv: I figured that was it…

  8. Pamela Clare says:

    I am so glad you’re okay, Julie! What a scary thing to happen. Those pain charts are pretty odd, if not funny.

    And how typical that you address this situation with humor. 🙂

  9. Anne Stone says:

    Oh, Julie – wow! I am so glad you are okay. This could have been really bad.

    I am the type of person who never wants to bother anyone. So I worry if I am ever truly in need of calling 911, would I do it. Or would I be too worried it was a false alarm, and find out too late I should have called.

    Take care!

  10. Christiana says:

    I’m glad you’re okay! I just finished JTSMA and I wondered if you had any déjà vu feelings similar to the chapter when Taylor ended up in hospital. Maybe the good looking chap was Jason Andrews….

  11. Diana says:

    Sorry to hear about your fall, and I’m happy to hear that you’re okay. Sending good thoughts your way for a speedy recovery!

  12. Maria R. says:

    Wow! That was scary, glad you are alright. I imagine your husband and the kids were shaken…good thing you had things checked out.

  13. Traci says:

    Wow, so glad you are okay and no brain bleeding. See a chiropractor if you are still stiff and can’t move in the next couple of days. You probably gave yourself a good whiplash.

  14. Jill says:

    As a nurse, the pain scale(aka amusing smiley faces), can be very frustrating. When a patient is sitting up in bed laughing and chatting on the phone, but tells me their pain level is 10, I feel the need to explain to them that if your pain is a ten, then you either need to be on fire or have a hot poker jammed in your eye!Glad you’re doing well!!!

  15. Sue says:

    So very glad this story had a happy ending! Hope you’re relaxing and enjoying your first slow-paced day! A little Kelly Ripa and Michael always provide good laughter for the soul. Take care and rest up.

  16. Allie says:

    Very glad you are okay after all that. Very scary! I think everyone in the world can learn from “Slow down.”

    I have never had the “just in case” thing about not eating, despite numerous trips to the ER for hitting my head as a child (when falling off pony – it was never the pony’s fault). My mom is an R.N. and, fully aware of the aspiration issue, had to politely inform doctors and so on that it was better to let me eat – if I am hungry or thirsty, I am an uncooperative terror (and this has not changed over time).

  17. Fatima says:

    so glad you are fine. Please take your own advice and slow down, be careful. we wouldn’t want our favorite author to have amnesia… who would give us that awesome sarcastic humor than? 🙂

  18. Patricia says:

    I love the fact that you were immediately attracted to your husband even though you didn’t recognize him. True love will never end! I once slipped in the bathroom before. I hit my head on a shower seat. It hurt like hell. I hope you get better soon! Take some ibuprofen. It helps.

  19. Rochelle says:

    Scary stuff, and luckily there was someone home with you! So glad you are okay. Not to make light, but the part where you don’t recognize your husband, but think he’s nice looking, cracked me up!

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