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My Night in the Hospital

Written by Gary North on November 28, 2014

Men go to the hospital for treatment for one of three reasons: pain, fear, or a nagging wife. I went because of pain. Then fear showed up.

I have checked into a hospital for an illness for an overnight stay only three times in my adult life. Once was in 1961, when the city of Riverside got salmonella poisoning because of the local water system. I was in a university hospital for a couple of days. The second was in 2002, when I had a gallbladder attack, also on Thanksgiving. It was the worst pain I have ever experienced. I told my wife I wanted her to take me to the hospital. They removed my gallbladder. The third time was this Thanksgiving. I did stay overnight in 1999 because of an infected cat scratch, but I don’t regard that as an illness. In short, the American Hospital Association has not made much money off of me.

Because I’m on Medicare, it probably made a pretty bundle off of me this time.

I began having symptoms on the night before I checked in. My left shoulder was very sore, and the soreness began to spread into my left chest. I took two Advil, and I slept in one of our spare bedrooms. I didn’t think I would have a very good night, but I did get through the night somewhat fitfully. I got up at my usual time, around 3 AM, in fact exactly at 3 AM, when I woke up automatically. I felt OK. I went downstairs, produced four screencast lessons for the Ron Paul Curriculum, and one screencast for this website.

At about 9:45 AM, my left side began to hurt, and I found that I could not breathe well. The pain of breathing grew intense. As it turned out, my mistake was this: I did not take two Advil when I woke up.

My wife drove me. I went to the emergency room. There were not many people there. I gave them my insurance card and my driver’s license. They recognized that I was in extreme pain, and very shortly the woman who gives EKG’s took me into the small room just next to the ER’s waiting room. This is a good policy: fast testing. I was very glad to get on that machine, although I could not stay motionless because of the pain. She took the EKG reading. She looked at it, and she said it looked normal. She escorted me a few feet back into the waiting room. Sitting in a clinic’s waiting room under these circumstances is one of life’s greater pleasures. The alternative would have been this: “Get a gurney!”

I got into the main ER room pretty fast. They ran a lot of tests on me. I was in terrible pain. I could barely breathe. I was in there for about six hours. I got a portable X-ray. I got several blood tests. By 4:30, nobody knew what was wrong with me. One physician had guessed pneumonia, but he was not sure, and the second physician thought it probably wasn’t. So I spent the night in the hospital facility upstairs.

The pain kept getting worse in the afternoon. About 4 o’clock, I finally asked for two ibuprofen tablets. Over the next couple of hours, the pain began to subside. There were more blood tests upstairs. No physician came, but nurses came.

One of them, in her mid-to-late 20’s, told me that she had had something that seemed identical a few years before. She said she had excruciating chest pain, but after about two days, the pain went away. She never knew what it was. That was exceedingly good news.

About 8 o’clock, I had two more ibuprofen tablets. I decided I would go to sleep at 8:30, because I was going to be visited by the usual midnight rounds, and I figured I’d get whatever sleep I could. I slept pretty well until they came in to take my vital signs. By the way, “vital signs” is a wonderful phrase. It means there are signs to monitor.

I woke up about 3 AM, and I decided I would sleep in for a change. I didn’t turn on the light until about 5 AM. It’s the holiday season. I figured, what the heck? It was the first time I had missed a posting on my website in 9 years, and I figured nobody would be too upset. Besides, I was in no position to post anything on a website.


I had motivation: pain. I also had this motivation. Sometime in the 1990’s, I read Jim Lehrer’s autobiography, A Bus of My Own. It is a great autobiography. I liked it so well that I got permission from him to post it for students taking my freshman English course on autobiographies for the Ron Paul Curriculum. He has several chapters on his ordeal as a heart attack victim. This section stuck in my mind. I strongly suggest that you take it very seriously.

He had awoken in the middle of the night with what appeared to be heartburn. His wife grew concerned, and she insisted that they go to a local hospital. Like most husbands, he protested. But the pain didn’t go away, and finally he consented. They went to the hospital. The staff sent him to the emergency room. They gave an EKG. It didn’t show anything.

(For the rest of the article, click the link.)

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