How I Spent My Birthday…

….Or, four and a half hours in the ER with my mother, who has a case of shingles.

Because the ER was so busy, we had to wait in this little waiting area until a space was available. Mostly golfing, Forbes and AARP magazines on the table. I now know more about Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith than I ever thought possible.  The oxygen tube on the wall might come in handy for either reviving or hanging yourself during the wait.

The view directly across from me in the waiting area. Creative use of PVC pipes gives them extra credit. (To be fair, our hospital was named one of the Top 100 hospitals in the country. We may be small, but we try harder.)

After a three hour wait, we were given a “bay” in the examining area. My mother thought those lamps were heat lamps. Either that or she might have thought we were there to get a tan. She did approve of the curtains, though.

The nurse told us they had to call another ER doctor to come in early since they were so backlogged with patients. When we did see him, he took one look at my mother and said “Yep, shingles.”  He said she had to take the first dose of medication there at the ER and then she could be discharged. Another hour and a half later, we were out the door.


Throughout the whole stay, my mother maintained a stoic composure.

The only time she showed any displeasure was when she signaled to me with her hand to come closer and said in a stage whisper, “Did you notice?”

“Notice what?”

She motioned to the nurses passing back and forth in the corridor and said,

“Big butts.”

Even with part of her torso covered in blisters, she still managed to wield her keen powers of observation.

The day wasn’t a complete washout, though.  I did get to enjoy a birthday cake with my daughter and her family.

But I made a mental note to get the shingles vaccine, pronto.

25 thoughts on “How I Spent My Birthday…

  1. Happy Birthday!

    Not sure if I ever told you that my motto was “Expect the Unexpected”

    I’m surprised that the home doesn’t have a doctor who visits who could have taken care of the shingles problem.


    • Since she isn’t officially in a “nursing” home, all the residents where she lives have their own doctors. If it had been a weekday, she would have been sent to her physician at her office. I think the nurse and aides at The Hotel knew shingles when they saw it, but you have to get the doctor’s stamp of approval—and Rx.


  2. ouch! happy belated birthday, sister! i was also surprised at how long it took between the time they say “you are going to be discharged” and the actual time i left the hospital. suspect there’s a lot of administrative kabuki dancing that has to happen… but when they’re slammed, you’d think it would be a good idea to move ’em out as fast as possible…


    • I went to the nurses’ station about 45 minutes after the doctor came and they said they were waiting on the hospital pharmacy to deliver the med. she had to take before we could go. As soon as she got that, we were out pretty fast.

      We left my car in the hospital parking lot while we went to my daughter’s for cake and when we got back after a couple of hours, I saw the little boy who had been in the bay next to us with a respiratory problem and his family just leaving. That was about 9:00—I first noticed him around 5:00, so he probably had been waiting a while even before that. Oy.


  3. Happy birthday. Perhaps we are separated at birth?
    Your observations are funny. Happy your mom’s problem has been figured out.


  4. I have been (un)fortunate enough to have visited 4 different ER rooms with Mother in our little city (outside the mega metropolis) within a four year period. But never on my birthday…..have another piece of cake 😉


    • Don’t mind if I do, Susan. Spending my birthday in the hospital with my mother is not new. On my 57th birthday I spent that day (a Thursday) with her when she had a blood transfusion and the rest of the weekend taking care of her at home because she was having hallucinations from the IV antibiotic they gave her. Good times…

      An older lady next to us yesterday was getting the same antibiotic for pneumonia and I wanted to yell, “Don’t do it!” I overheard her tell the nurse she lived alone. Scary…


    • Our local Walgreens drugstore usually has a sign out in front saying the shingles vaccine is available there, but I’ll have to double check on that. I know of one gal in my Zumba class who just got the vaccine, so I think in our neck of the woods it might not be as hard to come by.


    • I had the foresight to bring along a bottle of water and some granola bars. Even though my mother said she wasn’t thirsty, I made her drink some a couple of times. She ate part of one bar and handed the rest back to me.

      This wait wasn’t as bad as the one at the retinal doctor’s office last year—SIX hours with sporadic bits of testing to break it up. It was almost criminal to do that to older people—of which the office was crammed. Ain’t doing that again.


  5. That sure must have been a memorable way to celebrate your milestone. Some present form Mom My doctor urged me to get that vaccine when I had a physical last year. I blew off the recommendation, but now I’m reconsidering.


    • I’d had a premonition that this would happen…again. (See above reply to Susan.) The shingles vaccine is usually recommended for people over 60, so I think you can buy some time here. You’re just a young whippersnapper!


  6. I got a shingles vaccine a few years ago. Both of my parents had shingles, and I’ve had many friends with shingles; one had it in her right eye (probably because she is an arch conservative), and another friend had a really severe case in her genitalia (ouch!).

    As for noticing people’s posterior, as my mother got older she lost many inhibitions. She would notice someone walking by and proclaim, in a not too subtle voice, “What a big butt. I wonder how they sit on the toilet.”


    • Good to hear from you again, Richard. You have a birthday coming up soon, so Happy Birthday to you!

      I like your comment about the arch conservative. But, yes, shingles can be pretty bad if it invades your eye. And it can be excruciatingly painful any place else on the body too. I’m planning on getting the vaccine this week, if possible.

      My mother always did make remarks about people, only now I don’t think she’s aware that she’s saying them loud enough for the “target” to overhear her.


  7. I had my shingles shot in a pharmacy. No problems at all, except they’re expensive. I’ve told you before that my mother told me that “big butts and arthritis” were my legacy from my father.

    Get your shot, Girlie. And celebrate your birthday all month. You deserve it!


  8. Yikes. I guess the only thing that might have been worse would have been if you were the one needing the ER treatment. But glad to hear that it ended up ok. My mom also makes very loud negative comments about people around us and if I try to deflect it, or shush her, she just says it even more loudly. Like I didn’t hear it the first time. Happy Birthday-take every one you can get and enjoy all of them that you can.


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