My Crazy Appalachian ER Experience


Re-posted from the archives.

Remember that SNL skit a few years ago about Appalachian Emergency Room?  Last night I witnessed that first hand.  Oh My God.

We are camping at a camp grounds near Excelsior Springs, MO and last night my six year fell and hit his head pretty hard.  We decided to take him to the emergency room for a CT scan.  I was told by the people in the know to skip Excelsior Springs and go straight to Liberty, MO, because that's the "better" ER.

If Liberty is the better ER then I can't even imagine what Excelsior Springs must be like!  I should have known this was going to be an experience when I walked in and saw two police officers standing there.  I asked my cousin, "What do you think they're doing here?"  She said, "Probably a DUI or something."  Nope, I quickly figured out they were there for security.  And I was soon glad they were there.

I was 30 miles from my home and I felt like I was in Deliverance.  White trash doesn't begin to describe it.

Let's start with the 87 pound crack whore slash meth head.  This chick was running around in an oversized t-shirt that was so big I wasn't sure she had pants on.  After a bit I figured out she did.  She kept bopping around the ER alternating between grabbing her crotch and holding her stomach like she was going to be sick.  She carried an ENORMOUS purse with her that must have weighed as much as her and she kept magically pulling Butterfingers and Snickers out of it.  It was like Mary Poppins with a sugar problem.  She would devour these candy bars like...well, like an 87 pound crack whore slash meth head coming down off a high.  Think rabid beaver.  She was with her boyfriend (?) who was sporting a hot wife beater and skull tattoos.  Pretty soon she hopped up and said, "Oh!  It's time to give my sample!"  She returned with her urine sample in hand and sat down to enjoy a Milky Way.  WTF?

Next was a man who had sawed through his finger.  He had it wrapped in a paper towel and was told to take a number.  I would think a sawed through finger might take precedent over anyone who needs to give a urine sample, but he had to wait behind the crack whore slash meth head.  He sat there and watched "Malcolm in the Middle" and held his paper towel wrapped finger and tried to look like it didn't hurt too much.

We were called in to see the triage nurse and she asked us some "standard" questions.

"Is he exposed to secondhand smoke?'
"No," I replied.
"Of ANY kind?"  She clarified.
"Not cigarette or ANY other kind of smoke," I replied.

"How many carbonated beverages does he consume in a day?  One to two?  Three to four?  Five or more?"
"None," I replied.
"None?"  She asked.  "That means Coke and Sprite."
"Yes, I understand the question," I said.  "He doesn't drink carbonated beverages."

"Well, if he doesn't drink Coke, then I'm pretty sure the next question doesn't apply."
"What is it?" I asked.
"Does he ever consume alcoholic beverages?"
I choked and then thought I'd be a smart ass and replied, "Oooh, yeah, we don't let him drink Sprite, but he loves a cold Bud with his dinner every night."
It took her a full ten seconds to laugh.  I think she's met A LOT of crazy parents.

After this we were sent back out to waiting room to wait to see a doctor.  That's when we saw the parents of the year carrying their baby out from seeing the doctor.

Mom looked about 17 and she also looked like she might be a meth addict.  Dad was probably closer to 19 and I don't think he'd bathed in a week.  Baby looked feverish and ill and was dressed in a grimy diaper and nothing else.  Mom was snapping at Dad to hurry up and Dad was already fumbling for a ciggie.  (I guess I'll give them props that they're both in their baby's life and they sought medical care for their sick baby, but that's the best I can do.)

We had a new patient in the waiting room.  An obese, smelly tattoo covered woman in a wheel chair with a bag of her own vomit.  She was attended by a filthy looking man who kept touching her.  She was clearly annoyed by this and really only wanted to continually check her phone and/or moan.

I can't say with certitude (my new favorite word) but I THINK she was the one in the room next to us back in the ER who was vomiting their guts up and crying.

Soon my son's name was called and we were whisked back to the ER and we saw three really nice, normal medical professionals who took excellent care of my son.  When I came out to tell my cousin and uncle to go ahead and leave us there, even my stoic, non-gossipy uncle whispered to me, "It's been REAL interesting out here.  You've missed a lot."  And my cousin (who is a gossipy gal and a realty TV junkie just like me) said, "Oh my God, they should make a reality show in this waiting room.  It's NUTS."  I can't wait to hear what I missed!

So my question to the good people of Liberty is:  Are soap and water expensive in the Liberty area?  Is there any reason why everyone who came in looked like they hadn't touched water in weeks?  Do you melt if water touches you?  Is it illegal to wash clothes in Liberty?  Is it illegal to dress your children?

From what I gather, the thriving businesses in the area are the meth/crack dealers; convenience stores that sell cigarettes, diapers and candy bars; tattoo parlors; and cell phone providers (all of these crackers had expensive phones!).

46 comments:

Tammy J. said...

I used to work in the ER in a small Texas town. It really doesn't matter where you go, that is pretty much the population of the ER waiting room anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Egad! Wow, you'll have to take more trips to this part of the world. They sure do provide you with plenty of material!

You're hilarious, you make my day :-)

Beth

High Class Redneck said...

Im glad to say that is NOT the population in the ER near where I live.....so, nope - not every ER!

Kristen said...

Same stories in So Cal, but most people in the ER solamente habla espanol. It's crazy that you have to be bilingual to see the drs!

Anonymous said...

While I always enjoy your musings, please know that Missouri, while not crossroads of the western hemisphere by any means, is not located anywhere near Appalachia.

As someone who lived in Appalachia as a kid (and a self-appointed member of the Appalachia Anti-Defamation League), we have a hard enough time proving to the world that most of us are fairly normal productive members of society and usually have a full set of teeth.

Rednecks are everywhere. Not just in Appalachia.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I don't live in Liberty and I've never been to that ER but I do know exactly where you were. What's really odd is that the Liberty Hospital is a very, very nice place (if you are unfortunate enough to be sick/injured and need to be in a hospital).

Robin said...

LOL, what! -- No pictures?? My husband was raised in a very large (12 kids) family and they did without a lot. But the motto he grew up with was 'We may be poor, but clean doesn't cost anything'

granolagirl said...

As someone who lives very near Liberty, and has experienced many ER's through out the country, Liberty is tame. Even here in the Metro you can find much more interesting ER's. What you saw in your visit can be seen in Johnson County at any time. Any late night ER visit is a barrel of laughs, I have seen my fair share at SMMC, OPR, and St. Luke's South.
Middle of the night ER visits are very interesting, no matter where you are...

Anonymous said...

I had a recent ER visit, too. And while it was no where near as "interesting" as yours, I also thought that a reality show could be made from the waiting room!

Anonymous said...

About the guy who had the sawed off finger: My fiance cut the tip of his finger off a couple years ago and had to wait almost an hour to be seen. They were at least kind enough to give him a bunch of gauze when he arrived.

Submommy said...

Larger city ER's in different parts of the country have equally as frightening ER populations.

Although, I doubt I'd get asked if my child had consumed any alcoholic beverages. Oy.

Julie said...

Best motto EVER!

RachRiot said...

Yes, the ER anywhere at night is quite a show. I remember having to drive a friend with kidney stones in the middle of the night to a charity hospital. (He had no insurance)
The highlight of the night was the attending pulling out a manual to read the instructions on how to insert a catheter into my friend's penis. Good times.

Hey Mon! said...

I don't think Jen was saying she was in Appalachia, she was referencing the SNL skit Appalachian Emergency Room and comparing her experience to it. She said that in the first sentence. Maybe you missed it.

Ziabeth said...

Oh, Jen.... As harrowing as you think this experience was, you have not even scratched the surface of the circus I see in the ER on a daily basis! It does not even require being in a rural mountain area.... It is EVERY ER in EVERY type of urban/suburban/ rural community!!!

Brett Minor said...

I drove to a small town in Kentucky once because of an ad for a car. It was the most backwards place I had ever been. Half the people I talked to couldn't even answer simple questions like, "how do I get to Main St?"

Everyone was dirty and I questioned if English was the native language of the town. Awful.

Tabitha Wallen said...

As a woman from a SMALL town in Kentucky, I was insulted by the insinuation that Appalachia was backward in our ER practices. If anyone has been to the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center (in the 2nd largest city in Kentucky) this would have been your experience on a normal weekday. However, in my small town, Pikeville, this is NOT normal. Granted, we do have our occasional drug case, but police are not regular security and not all of our teen moms (yes, we have those) only dress their children in diapers-some are VERY good parents.

FYI- Missouri is NOT part of the Appalachian Mountain Range.

jenderella said...

I think it's hilarious how most every reply from a person who lives in Missouri or Appalachia sounds like they are slightly offended by your tone/comments. I've lived in Missouri most of my life and have made MANY trips to MANY ER's and honestly, that's standard fare for most, any night of the week. The fact is, we have an assload of trash in this country and most of them can't afford regular medical care & end up at the ER. I was also raised poor and my grandmother said the same thing one of the others posted - we may be poor, but clean don't cost. We never went out looking like that no matter what. Just because you're broke, doesn't mean you have to look it. Wal-mart clothes wash just as easily as fancy ones - hell, usually easier. Let's face it, a hot mess is a hot mess, you gotta just own it if your town is full of hot messes. :)

Anonymous said...

Every ER in the city where I live is manned with police at night. that's pretty common in any urban ER. Crack heads running around half naked isn't half of it. The last time we were in the ER a gang fight broke in the parking lot. I was pretty freaking happy that there were cops there.

CincyNat said...

Once again, Jen states that she was 30 miles from her own home. I'm positive she knows she doesn't live near Appalachia. Reading really is fundamental.

Jamie said...

Yep and this would be why we have a "rule" in our house that the ER is NOT allowed on the weekends. Of course, that seems to be the only time that my kids injure themselves or get sick. I'm pretty sure, though, that you just described most ER's around the country - it sure sounds like the ones in lower Michigan.

As for the crack whore - I'm pretty sure I saw her last week in our clinic when she said she couldn't pay her $2 copay because she had to "stop and get pop and smokes" before her appointment.

Katie said...

And AGAIN, the title of this post is a reference to the SNL skit.

Anonymous said...

CRAP!!!!!! That was some kind of story. I think anyone who has visited an ER has had atleast one of these experiences. Mine involved 2 crackheads freaking out and thinking they had spiders all over themselves. These people get in there easily since most ED's cannot turn you away for non-payment. They also get their prescriptions for percocets, Xanax, and Ativan. Oh and OXYCODONE. Which then they SELL or SNORT.

JenF said...

The ER where I live is not like this at all. This was hilarious. I had laughed so hard tears were rolling down my cheeks. Unfortunately, I believe there are crack whores everywhere, even in the nicer suburbs! Hope your son was ok. I am assuming he was because you didn't mention any terrible concussion or anything similar. Keep on writing, you make my day. I am another Jen who loves your sarcasm!!

Rhonda P said...

Don't make Pikeville out to be so great, the local papers are full of the pill heads. My sister works for Mountain Comprehensive Care and she could tell you all kinds of stories from our local (including Pikeville) hospitals late at night when she is called in for an involuntary commit. AS for teen moms here, don't even go there. Most of them are just like what she described only both of them are trying to get a cig. The small town she is from is the largest in this area.

JenF said...

And what exactly would the population be of the second largest city in Kentucky? I mean come on, many people in many towns are similar to the people of Appalachia and that is what both Jen and SNL were trying (successfully) to insinuate!

Sonogal72 said...

This is my life every day. As an ultrasound tech, I once had a girl tell me she ate a bag of potato chips so she could see them go through the umbilical cord while I scanned her baby. We also had to X-ray a guy who stuffed 90 balloons of heroin in his rectum. Yeah....that's not a typo....90!!!!

Tazi-Kat said...

I used to work in advertising, where I learned that the average yearly income in MO is less than $20K/year - that's AVERAGE, which means areas like St. Louis and Kansas City are jacking up that number. this probably explains a lot.

LisaB said...

I live in Arkansas and we tend to make fun of Mississippi as being more terrible than our fair state, but we have some good friends who live in Missouri, and the trip to their walmart while visiting them was pretty much a trip to Meth-ville. I can see how this unfortunate ER trip would be quite traumatic! Love your blog BTW!!!

hodgepodge8 said...

I live in a small town in Central Florida, and EVERY time I have had the unfortunate mishap of needing to go to the ER, no matter what time of day, it has been more or less the same experience. People watching is the best, always fin stories to go away with!

[email protected] said...

Live just outside Birmingham, Al, home to a superb, first rate hospital. However, the local hospotal is so much closer and easier to get into and out of. every single time i've been there my experience was pretty much tthe same as yours. You wonder where these folks come from!

Anonymous said...

This story is so funny! Being an X-ray tech at a major medical center hospital/very well known facility you would think the ER would be different but sad to say with healthcare and lack of people with insurance they have all turned into backwoods clinics at times! But you just can't help but sit back and enjoy the show. And the chips going thru the umbilical cord... Priceless. I can not stop laughing!
Oh had to post as anonymous cause would not let me any other way

Chas from Texas

Anonymous said...

I had to take a friend to the ER in the middle of the night, I sat in the waiting room for hours with prisoners in orange jump suits and shackles. It was quite entertaining, especially when their guards went out to smoke. This was in a great hospital in a big city.

Jana said...

When my brother fell off of his scooter when he was 11, he scraped up the right side of his body, busted his lip bad enough that it needed stitches, and broke his two front teeth (they looked like vampire teeth). On the trip to the ER, he kept repeating the same questions, so we were worried about his head. The receptionist asked the basic questions, among them, does it hurt? He said no. Despite the fact that he is still bleeding from the mouth (after the 20 minute drive), we had to wait 3 hours to see a doctor because he wasn't "in pain." He was still bleeding at the end of the 3 hours. However, the kids running around the emergency room who got there after us and obviously were not sick got in first. We were not happy at the end of that visit.

meleah rebeccah said...

I CAN say with certitude - this post was hilarious. As I often end up in Emergency Rooms, I can totally relate. Thanks for the laughs.

Anonymous said...

I live in Liberty, Mo. I consider myself a middle class person, and, in answer to your questions, soap is not more expensive in Liberty, we do not melt when water touches us, and, of course, it is not illegal to dress our children. Like many other communities, Liberty is made up of many socioecomomic levels. To judge a whole community based on such a small sample is ridiculous. I understand that a lot of humor is based in hyperbole. I was still offended by the address to "the good people of Liberty." Unless you live in some utopian community, there will be people who do not wash, people who use drugs, and people with no common sense. They do not necessarily represent the whole.

Anonymous said...

Really people? Lighten up, this is entertainment... Funny, ha ha... No one means to offend anyone, get off your high horses and read something else if you are that offended... Good golly... It's a big internet

Tabitha said...

If you ever need material... check out the Excelsior Spring's Walmart :)

Bee's hive said...

Hahaha now I have an idea for a GNO! (Sorry you had to go through that, I know how awful it can be to wait for the emergency staff to actually deal with an actual emergency- even here in Camarillo we get some winners)

Elizabeth said...

Ahhhh, my work life in a nutshell. 36 hours a week I report to an ER with the optomistic attitude of a new grad (Ive been doing this for 30 yrs). I nodded yes the whole way through your post. I know these people. They are all over the country. Then I saw "normal" medical professionals giving "excellent care". That alone will send me back to the ER tomorrow. Thanks, I still need a paycheck.
ER Charge Nurse in the Midwest

Anonymous said...

Yea, you are seeing those who can't afford health care (much less soap and running water!) and use the ER as their own personal doctor's office (in fact, did you read that ER visits for preventable dental issues - like cavities - is on the rise). This is why we need some form of socialized medicine - give these people a free or low-cost clinic. With showers.

Donna said...

Jen I love EVERYTHING you write, but what made this one even better was the comments! They're great!! Wow, people really get offended easily and like one poster said, "reading really is fundamental." Obviously the offended didn't read, or get, the first paragraph to this post. Imagine that. And by the way I'm from a small town in Kentucky - FAR WESTERN KY, far away from the Apps ;)

rodrunnr said...

I spent a good amount of time in Liberty Mo. Will say there were some rather nice houses, but I was amazed by how much low income housing there was.

It's a very historic town from what I could tell. I loved looking at some of the buildings.

Now Paradise Mo. That was a pretty place :)

Anonymous said...

Liberty is my hometown, and while I haven't lived there since 1994, I visit often to visit family. Liberty has changed a lot, and while it has always had it's fair share of various socio-economic levels, this doesn't surprise me. Last year while I was visiting, my nephew cut the top of his finger off with a pair of safety scissors (which were not THAT safe apparently) and we went to the Liberty ER for care. Saw some of what you describe and this was during the daytime hours! They referred us to Children's Mercy Urgent care - about 20 minutes away, so at least they knew their limits. Nephew is now 4 and finger is perfectly fine after stitches. Ah Liberty, home sweet home!

Anonymous said...

I went to an ER with a friend one late night back in college. It was just the two of us plus one guy in the waiting room. Oh yeah, and a cop. The other guy bent over to tie his shoe or something and a 9mm handgun fell out of his jacket pocket and hit the floor with a loud clang. The guy leisurely picked it up and slipped it back into his pocket. The cop was oblivious.

drug rehab new york said...

Meth addicts should be helped so that they would be back in their normal state. Thanks.

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