Late last year, after much consideration Aviva decided to leave the Emergency Department and switch to a Dialysis Unit. Aviva loved the ER and she was an amazing ER nurse. She could handle twelve sick patients at once, was the resident blood drawer for any hard stick, and loved the constant excitement that the ER brought (even if it was a bed bugs scare or a flu epidemic). Her reasons, then, for leaving were not based on the job at all but on her family life. In the ER, Aviva had to work every Sunday and as much fun as were, we never had a full weekend as a family. I was the one to shuffle them to birthday parties, family engagements, and the park on Sundays and we always missed our Mommy. And so Aviva decided she wanted to switch to a position that was more in line with her family life.
At home, I know first-hand what an amazing nurse Aviva can be. But since Aviva was in the Emergency Department, I also got to see her in action several times. I’ve been to the ER maybe ten to twelve times in my life and the wait time is usually between 8 to 10 hours. By the time they take the tests, diagnose you, and find you a bed it can take 24 hours so I’m lucky to have been sick enough where I don’t usually wait very long for a bed. But with Aviva as my nurse, I never waited longer than four hours. I skipped through triage, through insurance lines, and had a bed in the ER waiting for me the moment I got in. Sure they assessed me and made me fill out the proper paper work eventually but it was while the doctor was diagnosing me and giving me medications. It sounds so easy that it should be standard care, but this is actually VIP treatment.
My last trip to the ER was in late August of 2012. At this point, the doctors knew my bile duct was sick but the thought of surgery was still a long while away. Before they jumped into any invasive procedure, they wanted to look at the bile duct close up and see if anything was salvageable. This procedure is known as an ERCP and I’ve had dozens of them with no complications whatsoever. In August, I had the procedure with little to no complaints and went home groggy and in some pain. The doctor had mentioned that the bile duct was incredibly constricted and the pain might get worse and to call him if there were any issues. And rightfully so, as soon as the numbing medication wore off, I was in a ton of pain. You can’t eat after an ERCP so I just took some pain meds and went to sleep. The next morning was the Sabbath and we were going out for lunch but I just stayed in bed while Aviva took the family. She was gone for maybe 3 hours and in that time, I threw up 4 or 5 times and took Percoset, Dialudid, and any other pain meds I could find. Nothing worked.
Aviva and the kids got home around 4 pm from lunch and they found me hunched over on the couch. I knew I needed to get to the Emergency Room as soon as possible as this was the most pain I’ve ever been in. We called Tova to come watch the kids and Aviva drove me to the hospital (an ambulance wouldn’t take us to Columbia from NJ). The thirty-minute drive to the hospital was excruciatingly painful and with every passing minute I felt sicker and sicker.
Finally, we got to the ER and waltzed right in with Aviva by my side. I was put on a bed and as they are wheeling me into a private section, Aviva tells the doctor to order me 2 mg of a heavy painkiller. In no time, the doctors came and assessed my pain, my complaints, took lots of blood and got an X-Ray of my stomach. The whole process maybe took ten minutes and in no time I was free of pain. As oxymoronic as it sounds being a VIP in the hospital, it was a great gift and Aviva made sure everything went smoothly.
Now, the ER is not a huge place at Columbia and they are currently working on expanding it in a $150 million dollar renovation. It’s rare to find a bed, let alone a private section for you to be monitored but Aviva and the nurses on call rolled me to the Surgical Room, which they said is rarely used. Columbia is a level 2 Trauma Site so they seldom get intense gun shot wounds or stabbings unless they are very local. Ten minutes after getting the medicine, I already felt much better when all of a sudden the door bursts open and two cops jump into the room. Right behind them, four nurses and a handful of doctors roll a bed into the Surgical Room. They closed the curtain between this new patient and me but his screams were loud enough to overpower the separation. I was frightened. What the hell was happening here two inches away from me that there were now ten people in the room and two of them were armed? Aviva, though, was intrigued. She went straight over to the other side of the curtain and started taking assessment of the situation. She started getting supplies for the other nurses and finding out exactly was going on. It should be noted here that she was not on call that night and had no reason to leave her sick husband to tend to a sicker patient.
Sadly, the patient next to me was stabbed in the back when a robber went to steal his necklace. I felt terrible for this person who was screaming in pain as the doctor’s assessed how bad the stabbing wound was. And I felt guilty that I was in this surgical room for no need just so I could get a nice stay while I waited for a bed. In the end, the stab wound was not deep enough to cause any damage and the patient was wheeled for a quick surgery. And for me, I had Pancreatitis which is an inflammation of the pancreas and can happen after an ERCP. It is one of the most painful conditions you can have (minus getting stabbed in the back), the doctors told me and the only course of action is to not eat for five days. So for five days I stayed in the hospital on IV fluids as my pancreas relaxed and I felt better and pain-free. The Pancreatitis ultimately proved to be another obstacle in my failing health but that’s not what I remember most about that hospital stay.
I remember Aviva in the ER and our last stand together as a couple there. Aviva’s decision to leave the ER was very hard and when I think back to how amazingly she handled this and every other situation we’ve been in, I know places like the ER miss her dearly. Ultimately, Aviva picked a less stressful job for her family but she’s such a good mother, wife and nurse that at times they become one and the same. That’s what was so special about that ER visit, watching Aviva handle everything in stride and mastery. I hopefully will never get to see that in the Dialysis Unit but for that moment in the ER it was amazing to see what a great nurse, wife and mother Aviva is and how lucky all her patients are, especially this one.