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Nathan Hansen's column: Slipping all the way to the ER

It is not generally my first thought to go to a doctor when I am feeling unwell. Nor my second. Nor, if I’m being totally honest, any single- or low double digit number.

I just don’t go. Ever.

Maybe I’m convinced of my body’s own miraculous healing abilities. I grew up reading a lot of Wolverine comic books. Healing powers could totally be a real thing.

Then again, maybe I just don’t want to go.

The last time I sought out medical attention, I believe, was when I was in college. I went to the campus clinic during an extended bout with a particularly nasty flu or plague or some similar thing. Through some unpleasant reality of human biology that I don’t understand and don’t particularly want to understand, the illness had caused my uvula to elongate to the point I could feel it dangling against the walls of my throat.

It was exactly as gross as it sounds.

So, it had been a while. It had been so long that when I actually visited an emergency room Monday afternoon and they asked if I lived at the address they had on record, I told them I in fact had. I was just in elementary school at the time.

Hold on a second, though. I might have skipped over an important detail in my enthusiasm to share some throat-related gross-outtery.

I went to the emergency room Monday. Not because I was sick, although as of last weekend I’d been dealing with a persistent cold for what has started to seem like the last six years of my life. (So much for that healing factor theory).

I went because this lingering winter is evil and must be stopped. Well, more or less.

I went to the emergency room, in other words, because I slipped on a patch of snow-covered ice and landed hard, shoulder first.

It was a spectacular fall, at least in my imagination. One minute I was upright. The next I was shoulder checking the blacktop. I might have done a flip. I might have done two. Whatever I did, I’m sure it looked pretty spectacular right up until the point, I came down hard enough on my shoulder that I felt woozy. I didn’t hit my head, but I still saw double for a few seconds. I was out of breath. I doubled over right there in Jaycee Park to gather myself.

It hurt, is what I’m saying. I could still move my arm OK, but bending or twisting the wrong way sent sharp pains through my back.

I still probably wouldn’t have gone to the ER if the fall hadn’t happened while I was at work. I am, after all, the son of a guy who broke his elbow in a bike crash, then got back on, rode home and took a shower before driving to the hospital and finding out he needed plates and screws in his arm.

Having not sought medical attention since sometime before this year’s high school sophomores were born, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I pulled up to the ER. Things went smoothly, though. Within minutes of walking through the door I was gingerly stripping of my sweater and shirt in an exam room decorated with pictures of Scooby Doo. It was a little weird, but I went with it.

A doctor came in a few minutes after that and prodded my back a little. She determined nothing was broken and was on her way. It was all a little anticlimactic. It’s possible years of ER had built up some unrealistic expectations.

The nurse did a few tests after that. My blood pressure was a little high, she said, though she chalked that up to my recent trauma. My temperature was a nearly a full degree below normal, a fact she found less alarming than I did. A few record-keeping questions later, I was on my way.

I took it as a good sign that nobody had checked the do-not-resuscitate box on my wrist band.

I don’t expect this to be representative of any future visits I might make to the doctor. I realize as I near 40 that there are examinations that involve things less pleasant than some pokes at my shoulder. Maybe even less pleasant than that uvula thing.

Those are yet to come, though. For now I’ll deal with some back pain.

The worst part of it all? For all the pain, I don’t even have a cool bruise to show off.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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