The Young Lady's Guide to Going to the Emergency Room


1. Come home at 3 am. Decide to put on socks and carry two glasses down a flight of well-waxed wooden stairs. Slip, drop both glasses, and cut up your entire left arm.

2. Go to the bathroom. Start hysterically crying when you realize you have a inch-long open wound on your inner elbow. Attempt to inspect the rest of your body for other injuries. It doesn’t look good, but that’s the only real bad one. You realize that you will probably have to go to the ER for stitches. Begin to sob harder.

3. Sit down. You’re incredibly dizzy. Wonder if this is how it will all end for you, alone in a ratty t-shirt and underwear. Hope you don’t have to call an ambulance because then other people would have to see you like this.

4. Call your mother. She is for some reason still awake and very calm, even though you are dry-heaving incessantly. She asks you to send a picture of the wound. She decides it looks like it will need stitches but you’ll be fine. Scream, “I don’t WANT to go to the hospital!”. She tells you to wash everything out, put on some Neosporin and go sleep on the couch. Do not go back up the stairs. Do not clean up the glass. Do not pass Go.

5. Attempt to sleep. You can’t lie on your left thigh because it hurts and you have to keep your arm at a weird angle because that hurts. Feel pathetic.

6. Wake up at 9 am, so incredibly tired. Decide that if you go back to sleep maybe it’ll all be a dream and you can still attend that birthday brunch you were planning on. Try to roll over onto your left side. Regret it.

7. Wake up at 11. Call your mother. You’re much more calm. She instructs you to eat some food, take Tylenol and walk over to the ER.

8. You pack a small rucksack full of magazines, the most recent Dave Eggers book and the paper. You also make a sandwich. After putting on sweat pants, you fear that you’ll have to, for some reason, take your pants off and realize you should be wearing more appropriate underwear. You change out of your “Friday Night” pair.

9. Walk to the hospital in the rain.

10. Sign in at registration. It’s surprisingly quiet. The receptionist has great eyeliner. You compliment her on it. Want to break down again when she asks if your emergency contact is still your father, who died two and a half years ago, and if your address is his house that you grew up in, where you don’t live anymore. Remember that this is the hospital he died in.

11. Wait 30 seconds, and a nurse takes your vitals. When she asks how much you weigh, lie by five pounds; feel insane for lying. Try to be as charming as possible. Marvel at the thermometer; they just run it over your face and somehow know what temperature you are?! Modern technology.

12. Wait 30 more seconds and are brought in to see a doctor. The speed at which this is happening feels like a trick.

13. The young female doctor marvels at your stupidity. She tells you that next time, you should come in right away, because even though it’s a pretty superficial wound, the more time you wait, the more easily it could get infected. Feel appropriately chastened. Tell her your mom said you could wait. “Oh, is she a doctor?” No…

14. “When was the last time you got a tetanus shot?” Um, the last time I was supposed to get one?

15. The doctor checks out whether you have any neck or back pain. Nope, just that rug burn from when you tried to do an ab-tastic workout video yesterday and rubbed your dinosaur-like spine raw.

16. She cleans you up and gives you five stitches. They look cool but your vanity knows no bounds, so all you can think about is how much it will scar. You also keep thinking about how the first time you got drunk in high school at a friend’s house there was that girl from a different school who cut her arm in the same-ish spot on a table and didn’t even notice until the guy she was making out with was like, “Oh my god there’s blood all over my shirt.” The random girl ended up going to the hospital the next morning, you heard, and a few years later you saw her at Old Navy and looked for the scar. It was there.

17. You’re basically tempting fate because you mention to the doctor how quiet the ER is, though you know from Grey’s Anatomy that this is a no-go. She says since it’s Memorial Day weekend and raining, she won’t really get anybody until Monday, when everyone will have eaten too much and have stomach pain. Feel sad for the state of America’s health.

18. You head to the drugstore with your prescription for a round of antibiotics, after forgetting to check out of the hospital. Whatever, they know where you live.

19. Get home. Clean up the glass. Call your mother. Read your wound care instructions. Sit on the couch. Eat your sandwich. Begin to plan your dinner party for 10 people later that night.

Images via Michigan State University Library

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