Losing your shirt in the Emergency Room can be OK

Emergency Department

It’s easy to lose your shirt (or two of them) when you pass out in an Emergency Room. The scissors come out, so that doctors and nurses can check your vital signs that much faster. I made out much better than my shirts did.

I figure there’s no better place to keel over than in a hospital emergency room. To test that hypothesis (sort of), I went to the ER last weekend with my sister, who was feeling the effects of food poisoning.

As the docs and nurses took care of her, I stood or sat around taking up space for a few hours. And then my trips down the hall to the lavatory began.

My spidey sense told me this wasn’t going to end well, since my sister and I had eaten at several of the same places during her weekend visit from out of state.

After trip No. 5 down the hall, I began to feel queasy as I sat in a chair in the draped-off area near my sister’s bed. I tried to walk to the nurses’ station to let them know I was feeling sick, but I knew I wasn’t going to make it. So I got on my knees and started to crawl.

As that awful woozy feeling enveloped my entire head, I reached out and grabbed the leg of a nurse, who probably didn’t need that kind of adrenaline rush. I think I said something, but then everything went dark.

The next thing I remember was waking up flat on my back and seeing about eight or 10 faces staring down at me.

For a few moments, I had no clue where I was or what had just happened. Was this an audition for “The Walking Dead”? But as people started talking to me, I began to get a grip. I had passed out from severe dehydration due to . . . well, let’s just say it was too many trips down the hall.

At some point I realized I had an IV in one arm and electrodes stuck to various spots on my chest. Then I noticed that my T-shirts were having an off-of-body experience next to me on the bed. The shirts were now air-conditioned, with jagged cuts up the front and down one sleeve.

The shirts have sentimental value (the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and one of my pediatric cancer honorees), but losing them was a small price to pay for excellent emergency medical care.

My sister and I were very impressed by the dedication and professionalism of everyone who took care of us, not just in the ER but after we were admitted and had our fluids topped off. A day or two later, we were back on our feet.

As unpleasant as the experience was, it made me appreciate how fortunate we are to have access to that kind of care. I’m also not surprised by the high cost of health care, given the number of people who took care of us and the sophisticated equipment we benefited from.

Our system is not perfect by any means, and far too beholden to insurance companies, but in this instance it worked pretty well.

Full disclosure: we were treated in the Emergency Department of Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, NY. The hospital is part of Upstate Medical University, where I have worked for the past six years.


About Jim McKeever

Writer, father, runner, advocate based in Central New York.
This entry was posted in children's hospital, Irish Investigations and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Losing your shirt in the Emergency Room can be OK

  1. I’m glad you are okay. We’ve not had as good a luck with our ER. I won’t disclose the location. But my friend’s husband was having a heart attack IN THE ER waiting room and they would not do anything. Horrible. I’m glad your experience was MUCH MUCH BETTER! I hope all of the sickness is gone and your visit continued on a better note.


    • Jim McKeever says:

      Sorry to hear about that, Colleen. Fortunately, our hospital is a Level-1 trauma center, and is accustomed to dealing with the worst injuries and illnesses. In the big picture, we were relatively easy cases. All’s well that ends well!


  2. Ed Griffin- Nolan says:

    Nice post Jim. Life reminds us that it’s all relative.
    I remember having my shirt cut off in an ambulance after an auto accident decades ago. Ten minutes earlier I would have been annoyed if I had a button come loose, and here three people were going at my clothes with scissors and all I could think was ” knock yourself out”.


  3. Sorry you had to go through this, Jim, but so glad you are both recovering. Nurses are among the best people anywhere (am sure the docs helped, too!), so at least you took a dive in the right place.


  4. markbialczak says:

    You sure picked the place to keel over, McKeever. I thought something was up when you did not post anything about Baldrick’s that night, not even on your FB page. I’m glad all’s well now for you and sis. Big scare, best possible result for you.

    Sorry about the shirts.

    You were tremendous in your performance at St. Baldrick’s before all the fluid drama.

    Way to go.


  5. gjroma says:

    Glad you are okay Jim! Although it makes for a great post, food poisoning is no fun! Hope that you are having a great, recovering weekend…

    Always for Africa, Gabrielle Romano http://www.kamalatu.org


  6. lorriefitz@aol.com says:

    holy cow! glad you and Mary are better but so sad about your t-shirts. We were also treated incredibly well at upstate when I was their with my son sean a few years ago when he broke his elbow.


  7. chmjr2 says:

    Glad it worked out well for you and your sister. My wife worked at Upstate for many years as a nurse. She was always proud of the work that was and is being done there.


  8. Jim McKeever says:

    Thanks, Charles … Nurses certainly do so much that too often goes unnoticed or unappreciated.


  9. Joseph McKeever says:

    Classic piece.


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