by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
COLUMN: Turning a Long Triage Wait into a Concert Ticket Camp In ... Well Sorta

While nearly everyone sings "it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas," it's stress out time for other with memory baggage: Good and Bad.

For me, Dec. 22 marks the anniversary of a truck hitting my Dodge Dart from behind near Grayson, Ky. My vehicle caught fire and would eventually explode. I had enough of a head to see flames licking out of the gas tank, and, think, movie: All of those action scenes where one or more characters jump from a moving car.

So, I pushed my dazed then fiance out the passenger side and then jumped with the car still in motion. Getting up from the roadway, Everything appeared like a scraped knee until I saw her faint. The car exploded. I screamed, "My car...." thinking of the exhaustive search to find a used one that had gas efficiency.

Minutes later, an ambulance would rush us to King's Daughter's Hospital ER.

I have not driven since that day.

***

On Saturday afternoon Dec. 10, photographer Crystal St. Clair and friends drove me in a van to the Barboursville Skate Park where "Elsa of WV" (inspired by Disney's Frozen character)  had an appearance. Crystal would do photos of the kids at the rink; I would do Elsa meeting of her young mostly female fans.

COLUMN: Turning a Long Triage Wait into a Concert Ticket Camp In ... Well Sorta

Unfortunately, I tried to step up on a bench. I fell backwards hitting the back of my head soundly on concrete. Since I did not pass out, I remember, Elsa cautioning me to get up slowly. Except for a sore spot on the back of my head , I seemed normal.

Crystal checked the soon-to-be bruise for bleeding. She cautioned me about the next stay awake 24 hours, which led to indecision about heading for the ER. No symptoms other than a sore spot.

No symptoms while flashing the Huntington Christmas Parade either.

Wait seemed the best answer about when or whether to consume emergency resources.

***

During the temperature skids, my symptoms began ... the first signs of a sinus or ear infection, maybe?

Time to get an 'expert' friend opinion: Super Nurse Danielle, a friend who hugged me via email when dad passed away through endless 'options' facing a dark prognosis.

Was it past time for consideration of concussion consequences?

With scenes from "Concussion" playing in my mind, she responded:

"Rule of thumb is if the swelling is on the outside, it’s good.  If no lumps/bumps then could have internal swelling.  If an acute bleed then likely more abrupt onset of symptoms.  Sometimes there are slow bleeds somewhere within the skull.  These can be serious or sometimes the excess blood is reabsorbed by the body. Occasional a little post-concussion symptoms not uncommon but always better to err on the side of caution," she wrote before driving home to see her mom and relatives in Rainelle, WV. Her late brother, Curtis, had become an out-of-town business mentor. I had occasionally called him when hitting a journalistic quandary.

Since the ear buzzing and sinus swelling continued, along with balance/dizziness (not spinning ) symptoms. Now, find someone to drive me for a non-emergency head check up.

The visit would be about ten days after the injury. I felt strongly I needed to have a 'witness' with me. Crystal said sure, but "I will have to bring my client (and your friend) along with her service dog, Bambi."

No problem.

However, the urgent care did find one --- an expired by a month State Photo ID. I had a SSN card on me and lots of press ID's and a VIP card. No, you can't be treated here unless you can furnish us a birth certificate or (horrid thought) wait until you go to DMV and get the ID renewed. From Elsa's Facebook wall, I knew the bureaucracy had not altered there. Her quick stop turned into 'hours of her life I won't get back.'

Crystal got on the phone. I did NOT want to go to St. Mary's where dad died. Their urgent care also wanted the fresh ID. However, Cabell Huntington's ER, where I had gone for treatment following a nasty virus that had caused some internal deficiencies, said they could waive the ID. "Come on in."

***

A quick sign in and triage assessment for vitals. A preamble for the inevitable : Wait. I came prepared with my mobile newsroom --- a computer and cellphone.

Crystal went out and brought in take out dinner from G.D. Ritzy's.

We observed a young black man sans shirt roaming about with a few police officers nearby. Did not immediately connect with an earlier 911 dispatch 'stabbing' report.

Having the witness present meant the hospital personnel were willing to get down to the issue -- CAT SCAN or X Ray? No questioning about are you sure this happened.

Our indoor picnic helped pass the lobby wait. When called to the room, I saw a complication --- bed not aligned with power outlet and where was the TV remote.

A pleasant nursing assistant had told me to sit on the bed. I waved Crystal off from asking, "does he need a gown?"

Too, they were comfortable while waiting for a trip to radiology that I SIT in a chair next to the power outlet and continue news writing and editing activities. Cool.

Crystal cautioned me about claustrophobic reactions to a C-SCAN. Fortunately, that isn't part of my Anxiety/post accident & assault PTSD.

The male worker allowed me to walk to the scan. While my head seemed swollen and off balance, I could was not toppling over.

Scan went without incident. A breeze. Following blood pressure, blood work and an EKG , the great wait began.

Computer nearby I was prepared to surf. Crystal grew tired. Long day and now night into A.M. She curled up on the hospital bed with Bambi and fell asleep.  The door was open. She got up closed it and lowered the lights. Her client dozed too.I kept computing. Kept my mind off worries.

The service dog became the show star : So small. So quiet. So cute. So glued to her 'mommy.'

The laid back professionals kept smiling during the time frame for receiving back the tests.  Rather, than a tense ER, this immediate care had a feel of familiarity. They had prior records on computer. Treatment physician ruled out the sinus/ear infection, leaving the aftermath from a slight concussion.

That lead to a referral to a neurologist. And, a list of symptoms verbally and on paper, including those that merited an immediate return.

Crystal knew the print out would come soon, so, she took her client and service dog on to the van. CHH brought the print out shortly thereafter, telling me, I could 'catch up with my family' at the door.

After having read the data, I browsed Web MD, which discussed more behavioral / psychological changes (such as more aggressiveness rotated with sleepiness.

Thank You CHH ER staff. I needed that more upbeat treatment. So, often, I recalled somber visits to an ER, thus, a little Christmas Cheer to counter the past.

I notified my long time specialist whose office generally keeps someone available for holiday crisis. I messaged Elsa too letting her know the outcome. Mom seemed relieved, but , a little cranky about the amount of time I resisted rushing to the hospital for the C-SCAN. Like concerns for NFL'ers in "Concussion," I have had more than one --- high school physical education a bully hit me with a ball on the back of the head, two physical  assaults, and now this tumble.

A text from Matt to "get some rest," appeared instantly improbable, I was still wired. About three hours later I turned the computer on SLEEP.