Vicki Wentz: This is so NOT George Clooney’s ‘E.R.’

Feb. 16, 2013 @ 09:21 PM

I have begun a (sort of) strict diet and exercise regimen in the past six months, and have spent a lot of time in the mountains, where I take a water aerobics class.  I also lift weights a few times a week, although I’ve tried a Pilates class recently and may substitute that instead because ... well, you don’t have to lift weights in Pilates.  You just have to lift yourself, which, please, if God had intended ... never mind.  Anyway, it’s supposed to be pretty good for your core, and my core has become somewhat ... uh ... what’s the opposite of core? ... ”peripheral” of late, so I’m giving it a shot.
However, about ten days ago, I began noticing that I’m getting short of breath pretty easily, and even when I’m not exercising, like dressing, washing my face, ordering a slice of cheesecake...not that I eat cheesecake. 
One morning, I wake up and am lying there and it happens again.  The only thing on my body that has moved so far are my eyes, and I’m short of breath!  So, I put on my bathing suit for Aquacize class, but first I decide to call my health insurance company’s nurse hotline, where I get a very nice nurse named Susan, who – after verifying that I am not some fraudulent slime ball trying to prevent death without ever paying one premium! – proceeds to ask me a thousand questions about “the issue,” and then says, “I want you to see a doctor, Ms. Wentz.”
“Whatever,” I reply somewhat impatiently, “I’m going home in four days, I’ll see my doctor then.  Meanwhile, do you think I should do water aerobics today, or should I just take it easy, lie on the couch, watch a movie, eat some cheesecake ... um ... I mean broccoli?”
“No,” she says, “I mean I want you to see a doctor today.”
“Ha ha,” I laugh politely, “but seriously, about that water aerobics thing—”
“Ms. Wentz!” she unnecessarily raises her voice a tad, “TODAY!”
“Oh, come on, Susan,” I answer, gal-to-gal ... I thought we’d totally become BFFs by then.  “You’re saying I can’t wait four freakin’ days?”
“Yes, that’s what I’m saying,” she responds.  “You need to find an urgent care up there, and then, hopefully, you can follow up with your own doctor when you get home.”
Hopefully?  As in, IF I’m still alive?
So, still scoffing – though not quite as loudly now – my friend, Lindsey, drives me down to the urgent care, where I am one of only three people there, and even after telling the receptionist that I’m short of breath, I’m still waiting almost an hour before the doctor finally waltzes in.  (I debate telling her that evidently shortness of breath means NOTHING to these people, but decide against it – she might actually find something wrong, and be the only one around who can save me.)
(Also, FYI:  Before the doctor appears, I have an oxygen thingy attached to my finger, and the nurse keeps resetting the machine and finally says, “Well, darlin’, why on earth is your blood oxygen level so low?”  I say that I’d been hoping they could tell ME that, since that’s why I’m here!  She looks at me, bewildered, says, “Oh, honey, I thought you were the stomach flu,” and bustles out looking for the stomach flu lady ... makes you think twice about moving to the mountains, I can tell you.)
So, they do an EKG, a chest X-ray, a blood test, and a breathing treatment where you hold this thing in your mouth that’s attached to a long tube and a little machine and you breathe in some medicine.  At this point, it’s been two hours since I’d arrived, and Aquacize class is over anyway, but I am flat worn out.
Then, in comes the doctor, who sits down and gives me this concerned face, which you NEVER want to see on your doctor, and she says,  “I don’t like your oxygen levels, and I don’t like what I’m seeing on your EKG.”
And, I’m thinking, well, I don’t like a doctor your age wearing green braces and pink Crocs, but I’m not making you wait two hours to tell you that!
“I want to send you over to the Emergency Room,” she finishes.
“Ha ha,” I laugh politely – these medical types can be a hoot! – “but, really—”
“Now, your friend can drive you, or we can have a squad come over.”
“A squad?!” I am flummoxed.  “The hospital’s across the street!  I could freakin’ walk!”
“Oh, no, no,” she looks alarmed, which is alarming me, “we don’t want you to walk.”  (Like I really would.  Please.  I’d have a limousine take me to the mailbox if I could.)
So, off I go to the ER...and not the one on TV.
Part 2 next week.
Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker.  Readers may contact her at, or visit her website,