Notes from an ER Waiting Room
This week's guest blogger is Sarah Crowell, the Nason Group's curator of collaborative experiences.
I’m writing from the ER waiting room. After painfully wrenching my back, I’ve been sitting here for over an hour, but that’s no surprise. There’s a man who’s been here longer than me who keeps gripping his chest in what seems to be excruciating pain.
His plight brings up a memory of last summer when I was sitting in another ER for what I would eventually discover was a very serious bile leak. My gall bladder had been removed a few hours prior and, just like the man gripping his chest, I was in horrible pain. Though I would later learn that I was going into shock, I was still cheerful, felt like I was in the right place, and assumed nothing could happen to me in the safety of a hospital waiting room. That all changed when I watched a woman, who was experiencing chest pains and vomiting, fall out of the safety of her waiting room chair onto the floor.
She was dead. Her heart had stopped.
In all of the confusion, I jumped up and yelled for hospital staff and then sat there helpless. After a full two minutes, the medical staff arrived to shock her chest with the paddles that I’d only ever seen on TV shows. Right there. In the waiting room. In front of all of us seeking safety and help. It was violent and terrifying and not something that I’ll ever be able to forget.
Why wasn’t this woman taken immediately to a treatment room and hooked up to a heart monitor when she arrived? Why did she have to sit in a crowded room with uncomfortable chairs as she puked and winced in pain? Why did her heart have to stop before anyone cared for her?
They finally threw the woman on a stretcher and raced her through the heavy hospital doors. Her companion was berating the hospital in loud, cuss-filled screams. I later found out that she was able to be revived, but to what end, I do not know.
The same hospital staff later wheeled me to the back and then a few minutes later I was having emergency surgery. It turned out that I almost died that day, too. Thankfully, they were able to stop the bile leak before it killed me.
The woman and I were both survivors that day. In addition to surviving our medical emergencies, we managed to survive the dangers of health care in America.
I’ve spent the better part of the last decade as a college professor, specifically in fine art. That means I’ve encountered thousands of students and hundreds of thousands of student ideas. I’ve given every one of these ideas my full attention. I’ve helped them sculpt their thoughts, find their truths, and given them tools to amplify their creations.
As a new member of the Nason Group, I’m chomping at the bit to apply that same problem-solving expertise to disrupt the health care industry. It’s unfortunate that I had to almost die in a waiting room to realize the work that must be done, but I’m here now and I’m ready to dig in and disrupt what we’ve all tacitly allowed for too long.
My back is going to be ok, but I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen to the man gripping his chest next to me. Though I also don’t know where this journey will lead me, I do know that I’m ready to fight for everyone sitting in this room with me. I’m ready to disrupt in their honor.