The young woman at the registration desk quickly handed me a piece of paper and said, “Sign this. We’ve already filled it out for you so you can bring your husband right in. There’s a wheel chair right behind you. Do you need help?” Thank God for Benefis Health System, I thought. I had called them not more than 10 minutes before arriving in their emergency department, and here they were, jam packed with patients and also ready for us.
Eventually, a student doctor came over to talk to Doug. He – very slowly – asked Doug the same questions he had answered three times already, plus tried to engage in small talk (!). To say this doctor lacked a sense of urgency is a major understatement. At one point he absentmindedly placed his clipboard right on Doug’s surgery site so he could take Doug’s pulse! That was my breaking point.
Side Note: As you might have read in my mini-bio below, I am dedicated to helping myself and others know that we are valuable and powerful. One way I empower myself is to respectfully and firmly speak up and keep speaking up until I get what I need, even if that means leaving a designated patient area and walking throughout the entire emergency department. It took me years to free myself from the anxiety that came with breaking rules (or what I perceived as rules), and when my husband lay bleeding, boy was I glad that I’d cleared that hurdle already!
I found our nurse and asked him to get the senior doctor right away. I told him I didn’t think they realized how much blood Doug had lost, so he followed me to Doug’s gurney and looked under the sheet. His face became as white as that sheet, then he said “I’ll be right back!” and quickly walked away while I tried to reassure Doug (and myself) that this would all be over soon.
When the senior doctor arrived, he asked the nurse, “How much blood has he lost?” “650” was the reply. I didn’t know what that meant, but knew it must be bad when I saw the doctor jump into action. He immediately had Doug moved into an ER room, examined Doug’s penis and told the nurse to get a suture kit.
Holy s#!t he’s going to put in stitches, and Doug’s awake! I silently screamed to myself. I was shocked by the pool of blood that Doug now lay in. He was trying so hard to be a “good” patient, thanking everyone and nearly apologizing for inconveniencing them. “You deserve the best care, Honey. You do not need to apologize for being needy. This is your time to be taken care of,” I told him.
Sitting in a terribly uncomfortable plastic chair, wedged between the gurney and the wall, I rubbed Doug’s arm with my left hand and placed my right hand on his forehead, willing myself not to cry so I could support my beloved through what was bound to be the most physically painful experience of his life.
The doctor told Doug, “I’m sorry. This is going to hurt.” and then he injected numbing medicine into the head of Doug’s penis. Doug groaned and I could tell that he wanted to cry out but he wasn’t letting himself. He asked for something to bite on, and I firmly told him, “Make noise if you want to, Honey. It is okay for you to make noise. You do not need to be quiet for anyone else’s sake. You do not need to be strong. Scream if it will help you!” The look of relief in his eyes meant that he’d heard me.
I was amazed that the doctor could see where to place the stitches under all of the blood, which was still flowing freely. He asked Doug, “Ready?” Doug nodded and then bit down hard on the towel in his mouth and groaned loudly as the first stitch went in. His whole body began to tremble and I urged him to make more noise. With the next stitch, Doug opened his mouth and cried out. “Good, Honey!” I encouraged him, then allowed myself to sob alongside of him, knowing that he wouldn’t hear me through the sounds of his own agony.
The doctor paused to see if the bleeding had stopped. Seeing that it had slowed, but not stopped, he indicated to the nurse that he was going to put in another suture. “One more,” I told Doug, “You’re doing great. Keep making as much noise as you want to.” After one more agonizing stitch, finally, the bleeding stopped.