This morning I looked in the mirror and thought, I really don’t need these stitches in my face anymore. So, I headed to Gundersen for some ER stitch removal fun. (In case you forgot how I ended up with six stitches in my face, I was babysitting and blocked a frisbee with my mouth.)
The patient liaison took my paperwork and after a few seconds of typing, she looked up at me and said, “Oh! Wow!!! You do have a facial laceration!!!! I didn’t even notice.” The same could not be said for Ms. Sweatpants outside the door. I figured that a Saturday morning in the ER would be quiet and I’d be in and out in no time. Outside the ER was a woman sitting on a bench. She took one look at my lip, dropped her mouth, and followed me with her eyes as I walked passed her and through the doors. She was dressed in gray sweatpants, crocs, and a t-shirt that didn’t quite cover her belly. I am not sure what the politically correct term is these days, but she was quite obese.
After receiving my pager, I took a seat between a middle-aged guy in a Harley jacket and an elderly couple. That’s when it caught my attention: Ms. Sweatpants had her back side pressed right up against the glass by the receptionist’s counter. Her pants were riding low and her shirt was flying high. The liaisons were talking about ordering lunch, so I assumed they hadn’t noticed. Either that, or these things just don’t bother them anymore.
Another lady walked in. Her birthday was 2-28-41. Calm down – I’m not psychic. They ask everyone their birthday when they come in.
Liaison: What brings you here today?
2-28-41: I think I have an infection in my stomach. It’s all bloated.
I have seven years of college completed, so this practically makes me a doctor. I mentally diagnose her with bad gas from the senior menu at Perkins and discharge her. She takes a seat next to me and the next ones arrive: An elderly woman in a wheelchair and an elderly man pushing her. Instead of paying attention to this one, I’m trying to teach myself Hmong by reading the translated “It’s the Law” sign. The liaison asks for the woman’s address. . . no answer. LONG pause. . . and no answer. I wonder if she moves as much as me, or if it’s just old age.
Meanwhile, behind the waiting area were curtained cubicles. A nurse was talking with a patient in the one right behind our chairs and we could hear just about everything.
Patient: I don’t know… I’ve been all, like bloated, and I’m cramping! And I’m changing my pad every hour!
Nurse: <whispers something>
Patient: WELL, I just feel like I’m gonna die.
(I mentally diagnose her with what is called a menstrual period and send her out the door with some big girl panties.)
A pager buzzes and Ms. Sweatpants walks through the waiting room, staring right at my lip the entire time. I wanted to bark at her like a bull dog, but I remained calm. After all, it’s not everyday you see someone with six stitches holding their lip together. I’d stare too. Actually, no I wouldn’t.
The patient directly behind us continued whining about Aunt Flo. And then, Sweatpants captured our attention from the next curtain down:
Nurse: Not feeling so well today?
Sweatpants: I got the diarrhea real bad!!!
Nurse: Are you running a fever?
Sweatpants: Yeah! A-hundred-and-two point four.
My pager went off at that point, so I took a walk toward the back with an RN. Last time I had stitches out, I was in 1st grade and they were under my chin. I remember walking out of the doctor’s office with stickers and a sucker. Dad was saying, “Now, it wasn’t that bad was it?” And, I agreed. It wasn’t bad at all. So, I had no apprehension about this time around at all.
Until I sat down and the nurse picked up a sterile pack of tools and opened them up right there at the desk. What was this about? No room? She sat right in front of me, gloved up, and started going to town. It didn’t necessarily hurt, but the first one wasn’t what I remembered, nor expected. (Not that my memory of 1st grade is entirely clear!) I could feel her pull the stitch out slowly and my skin sliding along with it. It was gross. The second and third came out without a problem. As the stitches were closer to the lip, the more intense it became. Four was a little longer and I could feel all of the heat in my body rush to my face. I’ve passed out donating blood on a few occasions. And, I passed out cold in the middle of a waiting room after having blood drawn. I was starting to feel a little like that when she started tugging on number five.
“This one may not be ready to come out. Let me go get Lisa and have her take a look.” The nurse went to find the other RN and it gave me enough time to recompose myself. One stitch was left, besides the dissolvable one that needed to stay put. I was ready!!!
Lisa came back, took a quick look, and gave the RN the go ahead. And, out it came! The longest bugger of them all. After a simple request, she was putting all of the stitches into a specimen cup for me to take home!!!!
RN: They talked to you about scarring, right?
RN: Well, you will definitely have some scarring! You can call a plastic surgeon’s office and …
The rest of what she said didn’t register… no way in hell am I going to get plastic surgery. Do you need to know why? I’ll show you: