Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

No room for ER

I mentioned that I had a run-in with the medical-industrial complex last month. I’m doing much better now, thanks. 

One of my experiences was an afternoon/evening at the friendly neighborhood ER, on a day when the mercury hit 111℉ as we arrived. I felt like I might pass out again, so the thought of opening the car door and letting in that heat was scary. 

My wife and I made it inside and were met with a crowd. The place was packed. Patients were allowed only one companion just to keep the body count down. People were all over the place, and the staff was doing its best to keep up with the morbid demand. All this on a Friday afternoon. 

Shortly I was taken into the EKG room, where a tech hooked me up to the leads and told me she didn’t see anything troubling. An elevated heart rate was about it. She saw the “Fall Risk” band on my wrist and said, “At least you need to be here. A lot of these people …” And she cut herself off. 

I made a crack like, “They’re here for the ambiance?” She laughed and said, “It’s mostly anxiety and panic attacks. And they’re mostly young people.” 

This was a stunner to me. But in fact, I had noticed the relative youth of most of the people waiting outside, and also that many of them had been given hyperventilation bags and stainless steel bowls to puke in if they had to. I asked the tech what accounted for it? Fear of covid? Fear of Trump 2024? 

She said she thought a lot of kids in these generations—Millennials, Gen Z—had been raised to have everything provided for them on demand. “Real life ain’t like that,” she said. “Am I right?” They get out into the world in their twenties and start feeling pushback and disappointments. They’re not used to paying their own way—included on the family’s phone plans, often still living at home, getting cars paid for by the folks, plus insurance. “The truth is, they’re really here to get drugs.” 

This astounded me. These twenty-and thirty-somethings out there were willing to feign panic attacks and brave the 111℉ day to sit in an ER for hours before anybody even takes their BP, just to score five or six Adderalls? My EKG tech said yes, yes they were. And Adderall was one of their favorites, along with Norco (an opioid) or Valium or Ambien or Xanax or Vicodin or whatever the hell else they could get. I couldn’t fathom being so desperate for a pill that I’d put myself through one of Dante’s lesser known circles of Hell—the modern American ER. 

We’d arrived around two in the afternoon and I was discharged around nine p.m. Some of the “kids” who were there when I was taken back to a room were still waiting, their bags and bowls on their laps and their phones hanging in front of dazed eyeballs. 

“I believe the children are our future,” the songster wrote (no, it wasn’t Whitney Houston). After my day at the ER, this thought gives me panic attacks. 

Before we left we went to the discharge pharmacy and picked up some prescriptions the ER doc had written for me. Some nausea meds, some dizziness meds, and five little doses of Norco to get me through the next few nights. 

I’m saving the last two for a rainy day. Or another apocalyptically hot one.

[Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash.]

3 comments on “No room for ER

  1. kingmidget
    July 10, 2021

    It actually starts before they reach adulthood. My boys had a number of friends who were so anxiety-riddled they couldn’t go to school for several years in the middle and high school years. Almost all of them were girls. One boy is about 23 or 24 now and still basically can’t leave his house.

    But yes, it morphs into something else when they become adults and suddenly learn they can’t have everything NOW! I think it’s actually more prevalent among the college-educated. It’s amazing how many think the day they get a degree is also the day they get a high-paying job, a house, two cars, an annual vacation to Europe, and, of course, the white picket fence. I didn’t but my first house until seven years after I was done with college and didn’t get to Europe until I was 54.

    There is a level of ignorant, grandiose, spoiled expectations in the younger generation that can be pretty surprising.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 11, 2021

      It’s astonishing to me that we’ve raised a couple of generations now that can’t cope with real life. I don’t know how it happened, but maybe the “everybody’s a winner” philosophy had something to do with it. You get out into the big wide world and realize you’re just like everybody else. Nuttin’ special. That has to sting. Looks like the Boomers were crummy parents, eh?

      • kingmidget
        July 11, 2021

        I was never a fan of everybody getting a trophy when our kids were playing sports. But … we, unfortunately, were overprotective of them when it came to them failing. Lessons learned too late – that we needed to let them fall and pick themselves up on their own.

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