April 22nd, 2024

EMS and emergency room staff are angels without wings

By Lethbridge Herald on April 23, 2022.

Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald

Completely unexpectedly I’ve become well-acquainted with our Alberta healthcare system in recent weeks thanks to a pair of ambulance trips to hospital.

Yes, two trips. Two days after my last column, once again I had to be taken by paramedics to Emergency because of my back. 

It had begun feeling better after a day of rest following my first ambulance ride from the office but despite little walking and no lifting plus plenty of rest, suddenly in early evening on a Sunday night, it tightened up and put me through worse pain than I’ve ever experienced – and I’ve endured plenty from kidney stones to broken toes.

The pain literally took my breath away, I couldn’t stand, I couldn’t sit or lay down without spasms ripping through my back. As I discovered after my cervical fusion, morphine has no effect on me but out of desperation I swallowed a pill in hopes I’d get some relief after getting nauseous on the Naproxen anti-inflammatories I was given. It didn’t work, nor did heat or ice. It was the worst night of my life and when I got sick to my stomach as dawn broke, I knew I needed to go back to hospital.

Just like the first time, the Lethbridge Fire/EMS crews who attended me were the consummate professionals. They were kind, considerate, helpful and just as importantly, calming. 

I was in good hands with them and when we got to Emergency, one of them checked on me a couple of times as my paper work was being taken care of.

The first time I was in Emergency with the back my stay was relatively short; I was out in three hours. My last visit was double that with the staff in that department swamped with patients on a Monday morning, which I learned is one of the busiest times there.

But they made me comfortable with a hot blanket under my back to help ease the pain and when I was seen, the doctor was amazing. 

More X-rays were taken and a dose of hydromorphone injected into me to relieve the pain. That drug worked in seconds but like the Naproxen caused extreme nausea.  I wasn’t complaining, though,  after getting some much-needed respite from pain. 

The care and attention I got in Emergency was outstanding and when I finally walked out on my own through a waiting room so crowded there was no place to sit, I felt blessed to have gotten the care I needed. 

I can truly say city hospital staff and EMS crews are angels without wings. 

The kindness and care they showed me will never be forgotten and always appreciated.

But that hospital trip was just the start of a long process of healing. When the pain increased Monday night, I did a hydromorphone tablet and promptly got sicker than anything I remember from the worst hangovers of my 20s. So right then and there I decided I was off pain meds.

Instead for the entire week I was off, every two hours day and night, I stretched, iced, stretched and put heat on the back to try rehabbing it myself. It was exhausting and painful but my work has paid off.

 Pain meds are fantastic for short-term relief but when I considered the effect the powerful narcotic I was given had on my body, I couldn’t use it again. No way.

So I fought through this thing and by the time you read this, I will have been several days into the effects of a cortisone shot in my arthritic back. Assuming the cortisone has taken effect.

How I feel today and tomorrow or the next day I can’t say because this problem can flare up in the blink of an eye. But I’m ready for it. 

I may be a senior but I have plenty of life left to live, lots of stories to write and many miles to walk with the dogs and I’m fighting back. As I told one doctor as I struggled to walk to the washroom, I know I’m old but this is a little ridiculous. I’m used to being active, pounding the pavement getting in at least 10,000 steps a day and to find myself with a deb ilitating physical problem is frustrating and really inconvenient.

The routine I started when I was off is one I’m staying on  – except maybe purposely getting up every two hours in the dead of night to stretch unless the pain is that extreme. But for the rest of the day, this body is getting put through its paces so I can stay productive and healthy.

And I owe our incredible EMS and Emergency staff for me being in this position – they helped me when I needed desperately needed help and I’m indebted to them.

Thank you.

Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter.

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