The Emergency Room

On Crutches

Nobody likes going to the Emergency room. You always end up waiting for several hours. As long as the injury isn’t life threatening, it really means “Waiting Room”.

As I was driving home from the gym, I called my girlfriend who was home and asked her to look up what to do and find out which hospital to go to. I wished that I had done a little bit of research beforehand about the best hospitals in the area.. well now I know.

Reminder: Always know which hospital has the best care near where you live.

I got home and limped into the house. I changed into comfortable clothing and grabbed a book as I knew that it’ll take hours in the emergency room to see a doctor. It didn’t help that it was a Friday night. I also called a friend who is now a doctor and got his advice on the matter. He basically said: expect to be there for several hours, that I’ll see an orthopedic surgeon at some point for a diagnosis and schedule a surgery (most likely), make sure to call the insurance company.

Reminder: Call the insurance company before being admitted into the Emergency Room. Otherwise, the insurance company might screw you real good.

So my girlfriend and I drove to the closest hospital that my GPS receiver found, and I hopped out of the car, into the emergency room. The waiting room was not empty, but definitely not busy. I stood around for 20 minutes and finally someone appeared at the check-in counter. I filled out a couple of forms with spelling errors and redundant questions. That really didn’t give me the best first impression of the place.

I also called my insurance company, and since it wasn’t during the normal business hours, the automated message advised me to leave a message with my information if I were going into the emergency room. I kept thinking to myself.. “hmm, what if no one gets this message or they accidentally delete it? Are they going to send me a bill for thousands of dollars? How am I going to prove that I actually called?

A nurse brought me back in to check my blood pressure and asked a few questions. Afterwards, back in the waiting room for several hours.. I managed to scavenge a wheel chair in the waiting room.

After a couple of residents poked and prodded my leg, I had several x-rays (to see if there were any bone chips from the injury). The hospital didn’t run MRI machine in the middle of the night, and the doctors said that it was pretty obvious that it was a complete rupture.

And they performed the Thompson’s Test on me so that they could show the intern what it was. And it hurt like a b**ch when they squeezed my calf, just for the sake of an intern:

The Orthopedic surgical resident said I had two options:

1. Cast for 6-8 weeks and my tendon will eventually heal on its own.

2. Cast for a few days until they can schedule me for surgery. Shorter recovery time by about a week, and will have stronger tendon than letting it heal on its own.

Surgery was the best option for me since I am young/healthy enough to fully recover from the surgery, and people who have their achilles tendon surgically repaired are much less likely to have another rupture.

The surgery will be followed by 4-6 weeks of hard cast, followed by 2-4 weeks in a walking boot.. and then there will be physical therapy for the next several months.

I had to sign a waiver form that pretty much said that it’s not the hospital’s fault if something goes wrong during the surgery. If some complications arise, then they “do not resuscitate”. There could be infection in the incision area, there could be blood clot formed in my calf muscle, and there could be problems with the anesthesia. Those complications are rare, but can be fatal. My mind kept racing back and forth between the MRSA infection reports that I occasionally read about in the local news and Grant Hill’s near-death experience from the infection that he contracted during his ankle surgery. I guess I can’t fret too much about things that are beyond my control.

Looking back, I should have read over the waiver form more carefully, and I should have gotten a copy, but it’s probably pretty standard document… or so I hope.

Well, they did the pre-operative blood work, EKG, and took a chest x-ray. The doctor said that someone will call me in a few days to schedule a time for the surgery. It was nice of them for doing this for me in advance. Usually you have to go back to the hospital for this before the surgery, so they saved me a trip.

The residents put me in a cast, and made sure that it wasn’t too tight. I could wiggle my toes, they were not cold or turned blue/black, and they were not numb. They also got me a pair of crutches and showed me how to walk with them. It was my first time using the crutches, and it started to irritate around the armpit area. I later found out that you don’t actually put pressure in the armpit, but about a couple of inches below that. I wasn’t allowed to put any weight on my left foot, and it felt awkward walking with the crutches. I then realized that getting around was going to be really difficult, and I was going to be limited in what I can do quite a bit more than I had anticipated.

standing on crutches

We talked to one of the residents, and she said that this hospital is one of the better ones in the area. It was a relief to hear that. Also, we overheard others in the waiting room that this was a good hospital so I felt somewhat relieved to be there.

I got dressed, and we left the hospital around 5am.

Overall, the emergency room experience was positive. Doctors were helpful and most nurses were friendly enough. There were a few things that led me to believe that some of the nurses didn’t care much for the patients in the waiting room. I guess you get calloused after seeing sick (and sometimes nasty) people all the time. I still feel that it’s wrong to treat people like chopped-liver when they are at their most vulnerable state.

If you want to read a more detailed version, please go to my post at: http://achillesblog.com/dennis


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6 Responses to “The Emergency Room”

  1. When i went to the emergency room, the doctors looked at my leg and said it was a full rupture. They did not take any x-rays, which I find very strange. I had surgery on July 1 and put into a hard cast. At the 2 week mark (July 15) the doctor put me into an aircast and told me to walk and put my full wieght on my leg. I refuse to do that and continue to use my crutches.
    What’s your take on me not having an x-ray done.? And being told to put full wieght after 2 weeks of surgery?

  2. Yes ! This blogpost hit the nail on the head. Surprising view !

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  5. My only tip to add is if it isn’t an emergency, choose your timing to go to ER. I tore my achilles in late afternoon. I knew from experience the wait would be 5 or more hours. So went home, iced and elevated. Went to ER a 5:00 a.m. I get up early anyway. After usual admitting, taking temperature, blood pressure etc, nurse said doctor wil be 12 minutes. And he was. Did Thompson test, scans, gave me referral for Orthopaedic surgeon, put me in a cast and out in about 90 minutes from when I arrived. If I’d gone in the evening I would have been out about the same time the next morning. :-)

    Nurse told me long time ago to go to emergency in wee hours of the morning to avoid waits.

  6. My injury happened playing Tennis with the head doctor of the local hospital. He confirmed the ATR on the court (Thompson and indention), called his hospital and drove me to the emergency room. Arriving “in custody” of the head of the hospital might be a nice benefit as I was treated very well. They tool x-rays, re-confirmed the clean rupture, explained everything and operated my Achilles within less than 2 hours. I was in my hospital bed with my boot on less than 3 hours after the snap on the Tennis court. No pains whatsoever.

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