That Time I… had my first ER visit


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Columnist Angelina Padilla-Tompkins talks about her first visit to the ER.

By Angelina Padilla-Tompkins, Opinion Editor

You know when your parents say, “don’t wait to go to the doctor,” turns out, they’re right.  

This past summer I had what felt like the beginning of a stress cold. There was a lot going on and I wasn’t getting enough sleep, so I assumed that my sore throat was due to stress. 

I went to the doctor to get a regularly scheduled check-up. The nurse said one of my glands felt a bit swollen, but I didn’t think much of it because by then my cold was over with. She decided to draw some blood in order to test my thyroid, since thyroid issues run in my family. The results came back normal and I moved on. 

Looking back on it, this was only the beginning. 

Roughly three weeks later my throat started to hurt again, but this time it was worse, much worse. My tonsils were swollen and didn’t appear to be their normal color.  It had gotten to the point where I could only eat soft food, or hot and cold liquids. 

I decided to take myself to our local urgent care, and my youngest sister went with me. They tested for strep throat which came back negative, but still prescribed antibiotics to kill whatever was going on back there. 

Over the next few days, one side of my throat got better and was back to normal, meanwhile the other only seemed to get worse. 

Less than a week from my first visit to urgent care, I was back again. I knew it wasn’t normal for one tonsil to appear healthy while the other was worse. 

This time the nurses prescribed different antibiotics for me to take on top of the ones I was already taking. However, they did tell me if it got worse I needed to go to the ER, which was concerning. 

Three hours later, it was so painful I couldn’t even eat yogurt. The only thing I could get down was cold water. I began to cry because it hurt so bad. 

As soon as I started to cry my boyfriend made the executive decision that we were going to the ER. 

We got in my car, and I texted my mom where I was going so she could meet my boyfriend and I there. She did without hesitation and showed up shortly after us. 

Upon our arrival, I was given a wristband and told to wait. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long before a nurse called me in to check my vitals and see what was going on. 

After checking in with the nurse, all we had to do was wait for a room. We were told that the wait shouldn’t be too long because I was near the top of her list. Again, this was concerning. 

Once we got a room, I changed into a gown. My vitals were checked again, blood was drawn and an IV was put in. 

The doctor came in and informed us that he believed there was a mass behind my right tonsil pushing it forward and causing the pain, but they would need an MRI to see its location before they could remove it. 

The MRI wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. I guess I know for sure that I am not claustrophobic. 

Soon after I was told that they wanted to keep me overnight to make sure the mass didn’t cause any more problems. After being transferred to my overnight room, my vitals were tested again and an EKG test was performed because my heart was racing. I don’t do well in a standard doctor’s office, let alone a hospital. 

My boyfriend stayed the night in the very small uncomfortable chair next to the hospital bed. My mom went home, but came back the next morning before the ENT (ears, nose and throat) specialist arrived. 

Once the specialist arrived, we were able to see the results of the MRI which showed us that the mass behind my tonsil wasn’t a mass at all. Instead, it was a pocket of fluid that was trapped inside the tonsil. It was believed to be a result of the infection I originally had in the beginning of the summer. 

In order to remove the fluid, the specialist inserted a two-inch needle into the tonsil and extracted the fluid, twice. 

Once it was over, I got a new round of antibiotics and steroids and went home. 

The entire experience with the ER took less than 24 hours, but is not one I ever wish to repeat. 

Moral of the story, don’t wait to go to the doctor when your body tells you there is something wrong. Just be an adult and get the help you need.