Pain, ladies and gentleman, is annoying. It can be overwhelming. It can be sharp, or dull, or burning, or aching, or cramping, constant or intermittent, radiating, positional, reproducible…the list continues. It can be indicative of a true emergency-internal organ damage, MIs (heart attacks), aneurysms, CVAs (Strokes)…but most often, it heralds much less emergent malfunctions.
I am no stranger to pain. I have ended up in the ER on more then one occasion-usually arranged to be the most inconvienient time possible. I fractured and disloacted my L elbow. I’ve sprained both ankles (and once my other elbow) numerous times, given myself whiplash falling on my head, straddled a balance beam, and had appendicitis to name a few painful incidents. I won’t deny that I cried, when I fractured my elbow I screamed. HOWEVER, even at 14, I did not continue to scream all night. In fact, I ran out of tears pretty quickly. I had bursts of pain that reduced me to crying, especially while trying to sleep that night awaiting surgery in the morning, but as far as I can recall, I did not moan and groan and scream and cry for hours straight.
I am making this point not to try and boast about my pain tolerance. I was a moody, emotional, and highly dramatic child who would throw tantrums over far smaller things than broken elbows. I am making the point to illustrate that even at 14 I had enough control not to make a total brat of myself just because I hurt.
I try, really hard, to be patient with people in my line of work. I tell myself not everyone has the same pain threshold, sometimes it’s the scariness that makes it seem worse….and sometimes people are just pathetic. I’m sorry! I tried. I can’t help it, the slobbering drooling moaning crying tantrum throwing drama royalty make me want to give them something legitimate to cry about. Especially when that something is heartburn. Especially when they are forcing themselves to hyperventilate and then complain that their hands are now going numb. (My response, “Yup, keep on breathing like that and they’ll contract in a muscle spasm thats really painful. Your feet will too.” I find this a far more effective response than pretending like I care and telling them to “calm your breathing down, just relaaaax.” BS) Especially when their blood pressure isn’t the tiniest bit elevated, in fact, it’s a very healthy 110/70 ish the entire trip to the hospital. Yeah, I wish I could reach through their chest wall and grab their heart and squeeeeeeeeze. THAT would be what a heart attack feels like. And I bet the pain would leave them breathless, not groaning and moaning like a ghoul straight out of a kids book.
My theory: If you have enough energy to groan/moan/scream/cry for over an hour, than you don’t really hurt all that bad. Pain is annoying, but it is NOT an emergency in and of itself. I will try and be sympathetic, I will prop you up to make you comfortable, give you a sheet to cover up, listen to your complaints and ask you questions to assess you, but do not expect me-or anyone else-to whisk you straight to the head of the waiting list just because you hurt. And quit whining.