Friday, February 3, 2012

29 and a Night at the ER

Today will serve as my birthday post. It isn't until tomorrow, the 4th, but this is the last weekday before then. Anyway, I spent most of yesterday thinking about what to say and how to say it. I mean, I was going to compare where I was to other birthdays and reference back to last year's post. However, that was up until my experience at the ER.

My throat got to the point of hurting way too bad with the pain resonating to my ear. I tried to eat a late dinner but the pain was too much. After much thought I drove to a hospital near where I am and I counted over 50 people in there. I then traveled down the interstate and my dad called two other hospitals and they were busy, but then another one down the road said they were, "open".

I traveled to this open ER and when I got in there were maybe 30 in there. I stood at the counter awaiting direction because I had never done any of this by myself. In fact, this was the first time I walked into the ER under my own power in quite some time.

Because of being overwhelmed I was simply unable to ask where I go or what I do. Also, the man behind the counter was in a bitter mood, but thankfully I was in the right spot and the paperwork, or rather computer inputting began. He asked me what was wrong and I said, "I think I have some sort of sore or something growing in my throat/mouth." He looked at me as if I had 13 heads and he asked a follow up question to which I said something barely audible. I did mention right off the bat that I had Asperger Syndrome, but this didn't seem to phase him or give him any light on how to handle this situation differently.

From there I sat down and then about 30 minutes later I got called in to get my vitals. This was odd for me in that I was so overwhelmed with the pain and the noise of the ER waiting room that I was in every thing I've ever described; social paralysis, positional warfare, and whatever else I have named throughout my writing life.

The nursing student asked what was wrong in the triage room, and because I was still fearful of being looked at funny again it took me a lot of time to process the question. I eventually said, "I think, yes, I think, um, I have a sore throat." To say I have a sore throat would to be like having a bowling ball dropped on your foot and to say that your foot is sore. However, in that moment, I couldn't say just what was going on.

The vitals were checked and off to the waiting room I went to, well, wait. And wait... And wait. The pain was immense and after two hours I had had enough. The ER was just as busy as it was when I first entered and I only saw one person go in. I've noticed my emotions have been my volatile since this issue in my throat began, and perhaps what I did wasn't the smartest, but I had to leave so after 2.5 hours I left. I didn't say bye, I didn't say I was leaving, I simply left.

I had to leave. I was sinking into an abyss that I worried that if I descended all the way I didn't know if I could get back out. What I was feeling at that point in time was hatred and a feeling of pure isolation. Why was it taking so long and why couldn't I simply speak up for myself? The thing that was truly bothering me was that I had so much trouble in that environment. I thought back to last month and how many presentations I did and how that's easy for me and yet simply walking into a social situation like an ER paralyzed me.

On my drive home I started to think about my experience and how, I feel, so many people can fall into the trap I was in. It was a two tiered trap as I was waiting for help yet at the same time not able to put into words just how bad it hurt. As much as I hated myself in that ER I began to change my mind as, quite simply, what I experienced was the essence of what I try to educate the world on.

Until there is full awareness and understanding the right questions won't be asked and signals may be missed. We on the spectrum usually make bad advocates for ourselves and I proved it in that ER last night. As the age of 29 rolls around I won't see it as the last year before I hit 30 as that's sort of what I was going to write about, but rather it is another year that I have to get the message out. To tell the world about the autism spectrum and that there is hope, but at the same time there can be hardships. It's in the hardships that the understanding is vital as I experienced that last night. Yes, my birthday is tomorrow and of all my years my direction in life has never been clearer because, through awareness and understanding, perhaps others might not have to go through what I did.


  1. Kimberly Likens MassoudFebruary 3, 2012 at 4:24 AM

    When I went to the ER for my sore throat, it cost me $900 (I had to pay $400 with insurance) paying the rest) maybe you are lucky it was such a bad experience.

    ER's are overwhelming for most people. The lack of control and the ridiculous lack of efficiency is very overwhelming to me too. I now make sure that if I THINK I might be sick and it is later in the day or especially a Friday, I get to another form of health care as soon as I can. I will NEVER go to an ER again unless I'm so injured they take me first. lol.

    Hope you fell better soon.

  2. I hope you are feeling better!! Take care

  3. Are you at home now, Aaron? Did you make it to another healthcare provider? call me if you need someone to come along with you to a healthcare provider. I would be glad to assist you and be your advocate. I will send you my phone number in a private msg on Facebook.

    Maybe you could invent/design a card or short letter or something that you and/or persons With AS could carry in their wallet. A short thing that you could just hand to another person that explained that you were on the spectrum and feeling social paralyzation (is that a word? lol) and just a few sentences that you feel they needed to know.

    Happy Birthday! You're 29. This is the last year for you in the 20's and they were some tough years. It is a good sign that your 20's are going out badly. That means that there are great things ahead for Aaron in his 30's!

  4. Awww, I feel badly for you Aaron. I hope you found some other way to find medical help in the meanwhile. Maybe it's a good idea to offer that ER a presentation about Autism, so that this won't happen to another patient again?
    Also, happy birthday! :) As soon as you feel well enough, go and happily celebrate your birthday! Maybe bring some pie to work? ;)

    @laura omg that's such a good idea... I'd like to see something like that happen. It's actually so good, that if Aaron, or anyone else, doesn't want to do it, I'd gladly do it. Aaron is a way better speaker than me though, so I think he'd be better at it. So I'd rather have him do it. But if he won't, is it okay if I have a go at it? We have a weekly Autism meeting here, called Chill Aut, which is run by people with Autism. If Aaron doesn't want to make the cards, I'll look at it with them.
    *eagerly awaiting response* x3

  5. Aaron, can you explain what you would have wanted them to do differently?

    It seems to me that they did more or less what they were supposed to do?

    The receptionist asked what was wrong and you told him it was your throat, which means the right doctor was getting your "case", the student did take the tests and asked how you were. It seems she also waited for you to come up with an answer even though you needed some time to tell her.

    If you'd stayed, a doctor would have seen you, checked your throat, prescribed whatever meds you needed.

    I understand the environment is awful, I have spent a few agonizing hours in ERs myself. So, I do not at all question your experience, but I have troubles seing what you would have liked them to do to help you?

    I have AS too, as do many of my friends, and I can see the use of a lot of things, none of which can be offered in an ER like the one you visited. With 30 sick people in a waiting room, there can not be any silent calm places where one can wind down. They need to let everyone wait until tghere is a doctor available that can examine them. So, even if you gave a talk, I can not really see what they could / should change in order to make it better for you and others in your situation?

    I'm asking so that I can understand you better, and maybe even help.

    As for the card suggested in the comments: I have one, in my native language, that is nicely and clearly written, a small folder with two pages that folds together to fit a wallet. It briefly explain why autism can make contacts difficult, and states: "We do our best" or something to explain that there is no malintentions meant if we do not behave as expected. It has a page with lotes of empty space where one can write down what is specifically the problems you have, if you need them to face you when they talk, if you don't want them to stand to close, or anything else they might benefit from knowing.

    My suggestion while reading your post, was that you should have benefited from writing down your ploblem before leaving home, no essay, just your symptom, how much it hurt on a scale 1-10, how long it had been hurting, if you'd had it before, if you are on any medication.

    Basically, the things you know they will definately need to ask.

    Starting the letter:
    "I have difficulties expressing myself in certain situations, partly due to having Aspergers Syndrom. Please read this note to see what is wrong, and allow me a few minutes to answer any questions. Thank you!"
    ....or something...

    Could that have helped you?

    1. I think the letter idea would have been great; it would've allowed me to convey what was actually going on. I think they thought simply had a sore throat when there was an actual open sore the size of a dime.

      Panic and emotions at the time are always amplified and I had no idea what was wrong. The next day u went to an urgent care place and the doctor looked and said, "oh lord that looks painful" and then he gave me some pills that made the pain manageable.

      But yes, the letter idea looking back might have made things smoother for me.

    2. It should be "the next day I went to..." typing on the phone isn't easiest of feats to accomplish flawlessly.

  6. This is a time where you should have your smart devices and/or books handy. You are not expected to socialize except to the receptionist and the doctors and nurses. Unless I see someone I know, I usually will be just alert enough to hear my name get called.