I had a panic attack at work the day before yesterday. Not the type of panic attack where you suddenly realize it's your wedding annaversary or you forgot your cell phone at home, but a full blown, dizzying, nauseating, you think your heart is going to explode out of your chest panic attack.
It's not fun. You are literally convinced that the world is going to end in the next 20 seconds. It really, really sucks. So, unsure of what exactly was happening to myself, thinking I might be having a stroke, my coworker called an ambulance. Ironically, I was having a discussion with a client 10 minutes prior to my panic attack about the possible BC Ambulance Workers strike.
The parimedics were awesome. They totally calmed me down and were very sympathetic and attentive; really top rate job performance. On the ride over to the hospital, they made mention that I was enroute to St. Pauls. Now when you have a panic attack you hear that people are talking to you but you don't quite understand what they're saying. It's like someone speaking Greek. I sort of heard that we were going to St. Pauls but it didn't sink in. If I was coherent enough to understand that we were going to St. Pauls, I would have asked to redirect to VGH.
The emergency room at St. Pauls has been reduced to about 600 square feet. The waiting room has seating for only about 20 people. Being a Friday afternoon, that meant it was standing room only. While waiting to get processed, I sat on the floor. Not only did I sit on the floor, but since there isn't any wall space anywhere to lean on, I had to sit on the floor in front of the emergency room door, leaning up against the door jam.
The crowd in the waiting room was like a scene from a horror movie. It was filled with junkies who had hit rock bottom hard. There were people laying unconscious, bleeding all over themselves, one guy had a bucket that he was constantly vomiting in to. There was vomit on the floor, vomit in every waste bin and food and spilled drink containers all underneath the seats. The room smelled so bad it was unbearable. The ER was disgustingly dirty. It was like a bad day in Bosnia.
Remember the hospital basement scene from the movie Jacob's Ladder? Like that but with no place to sit down. I just couldn't imagine working in that room every day. I would be dead inside within three days.
I overheard a conversation with a woman sitting beside me who said that she was still waiting to see a doctor from the day before. She had slept in that room overnight, waiting to be attended to. It was 3 in the afternoon.
I was slowly starting to feel better but I knew that my mental state could not be improved by sitting on the floor of that room, spending what would probably be at least several hours or apparently overnight waiting to see a doctor.
I took off my wrist band and checked myself out. I went to a walk-in clinic on Davie street where it took me 20 minutes to have a doctor tell me that I had a panic attack and I got appropriate treatment.
Heaven forbid that you find yourself riding in the back of an ambulance but if you do, tell the driver to divert to VGH. Don't ever, ever allow yourself to get checked in to St. Pauls.