A Tale of Two Companies: the Worst and the Best

In National Stroke Awareness Month: My Stroke – the Aftermath, I briefly described the neurological problems I’ve had for several years, presumably as a result of the stroke I had a few years before.

This week, I have had several episodes with different and more severe symptoms that concerned me. During one such episode on Saturday, I decided to have my husband Jack take me to the emergency room. I usually avoid going to the emergency room because numerous trips in the past have been wastes of time. Doctors prod, poke, scan, examine, medicate … but still can’t explain what is happening. I relented this time because the symptoms were different and frightening.

The triage nurse was very nice and concerned about me. She told me my blood pressure was 191/97 (I hadn’t taken my daily medication), and she asked a lot of questions about the jumping and was very sympathetic. She took us back to a room, where a man was making the bed. I thought at first he was an aide, but then the triage nurse started telling him my symptoms, vital signs, etc., so I realized he was the nurse who was supposed to take care of me.

When the triage nurse told him my blood pressure, he looked at me and said, “That could kill you!” Right after that I started jumping repeatedly. Both arms and legs flailed out, and I made loud, incomprehensible sounds. He told me, “Stop that!” The triage nurse asked if I could control it, and I said I couldn’t. The other nurse said, “Stop it! That’s not real!”

We almost left then, but I didn’t want to make a wasted trip. We stayed, and I got into a gown as instructed. When I was ready, Jack opened the door so the nurse would know I was ready. The male nurse came back and said, “Shut this door! We have sick people in here and you’re disturbing them!”

I jumped up off the bed and said, “We’re leaving.”

Jack closed the door, and I got dressed. The nurse came back and asked if he could talk to Jack. I’m sure he realized he had made a serious mistake and thought he’d better correct it to protect himself.

But I said, “I won’t stay here and be insulted. You already said this isn’t real, and I’m disturbing sick people.”

We stopped at the front desk and told the man there why we were leaving. He asked us to sign a form (presumably saying that we were leaving against medical advice). I don’t think Jack (who can’t hear as well as he used to) heard about the form, and I wasn’t thinking clearly enough to respond. After we were several blocks away, I realized Jack should have filled out the form so there would be a written, signed record of what happened.

Jack wanted to take me to another ER, but I was in tears and just wanted to go home and go to bed (even though I can’t get to sleep when I’m jumping). We called my primary care physician, Dr. B, and he prescribed something to calm me down and told me to go home, get some rest, and stay hydrated with lots of water and juice. I’ll go see him soon and get a referral to another neurologist.

When we got to Walmart (only a few blocks away) to pick up the prescription, Jack couldn’t find a parking place close, so he parked illegally. He left the keys in the car so if someone complained about where we were parked, they could move the car.

Just as he parked, our priest Fr. Chip called on the cell phone. Jack had called him before we left the house, and he called back from Kansas City where he was attending a clergy meeting. He prayed with me on the phone, and I felt much better immediately.

When Jack got inside, Dr. B hadn’t even called in the prescription yet. He was out somewhere on his cell phone and didn’t have the Wal-Mart number, so Jack had to get the number from the pharmacy and call Dr. B.

After he had been in the store a few minutes, a man in a white shirt that looked like it could be a uniform walked by the car and heard me jumping. He turned around and asked if I was OK. I told him I was having seizures but would be OK.

I don’t know if he was a Walmart employee or if he told someone in Wal-Mart, but suddenly four Walmart staff showed up at the car-the manager, two assistant managers, and another person who never was identified. They were so nice, concerned, caring, and helpful! Such a contrast to the hospital! They stayed with me all the time Jack was in the pharmacy, talking to me, soothing me, encouraging me to talk because they quickly discovered I didn’t jump nearly as much if I was talking. So I told them about being a writer and editor, about books I’ve been editing, about anything and everything I could think of to keep talking.

The manager asked if I wanted him to start the car and turn on the air conditioner, but I assured him I was fine. So one of them went inside and brought out a small personal fan and put it on the dashboard. Another went to check on the prescription and try to hurry up the pharmacist. One lady kept holding my arm, patting me, assuring me I would be OK. When I said I felt bad for keeping them all from their work, they joked they were there just as an excuse to get out of work. I told them how much different they acted than the hospital and how grateful I was for their caring concern.

When Jack came out, he explained to the manager why he was parked where he was. The manager said their only concern was me. Jack told me as we left that he was impressed, and he’s not easily impressed. He had tears in his eyes, and I did too-different from the tears I had shed earlier over the treatment at the hospital.

As we drove off, Frank, the manager laughingly said, “Bring me a book.” I told Jack I’m going to do exactly that—send books to all of the people who helped me, even though I don’t know the names of the others. Frank will know.

Thank God for prayer and Fr. Chip and kind people like the Walmart management!

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