Etiquette School is in session! > "What an interesting assumption."

It's not what it looks like. No, really. But thanks for asking...I think.

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I have been having an acute case of sinusitis for the past two weeks. Not to be dramatic, but I don't recall ever having been in so much pain in all my life.

The sinus pressure in my face has been agonizing (especially at night; I have no idea why. Perhaps the air pressure changes when the sun goes down and temperatures drop?? Changes in the moisture content in the air?). It feels like someone took a croquet mallet and smashed the left side of my face in. I never had a broken jaw, but the sinus pain is such that that's how I imagine it would feel. Sometimes, the pain is so agonizing that the only thing that helps is for me to stand up, bend over and touch my toes and allow the blood to rush to the top of my head. I think the gravity must relieve the pressure on my upper and lower jaw somewhat. In any case, when even that ceases to work, the only thing left is to scream and wail like a two-year-old toddler. Sometimes, I take a small pillow from the living room couch and scream into it while bending over. I feel ridiculous when I do this, but somehow the sound waves seem to relieve the pressure somewhat, or maybe the vibration does something. I don't know. I just know it kind of helps. (It also helps muffle the annoying sound.) Maybe it seems to help just by verbally releasing the pain and frustration because the pain has become intolerable. And I have to say that I think I have a pretty decent tolerance for discomfort and pain, because, well....I just need you trust me on that, though I concede that I more than likely sound like a big baby.

So I have been self-treating at home with over-the-counter medicine and various home remedies including apple cider vinegar, facial steam baths, Vick's Vapo-Rub, you name it, I've probably tried it. All to pretty much no avail, because the relief, such as it is, is short lived. Yesterday, I tried a different over-the-counter medicine which seemed to work, so I thought I was on the mend.

But then today the pain came back with a vengeance. What was before a 12 on a pain scale (1-10, 10 being excruciating) could be clocked at probably a 25, if I had to quantify it. In any case, I couldn't take it anymore and began to wonder if anyone ever died from a sinus infection. In fact, at one point, I was in such agonizing pain that I would almost have welcomed the sweet relief of death, though it does seem to be a rather extreme solution to a very minor medical problem, painful as it might be. Plus, I have a lot to live for.  ::)

I finally convinced my husband to take me in for medical help. Today being Christmas, he was none too thrilled about sitting in the ER waiting room, but then again, he is also interested in sleeping again some time this lifetime. He let it be known that my agonizing wails at 3 a.m. are not conducive to a restful night's sleep. Yeah. Tell me about it. It's also hard to sleep standing up but bent over and muffling one's screams in a pillow, but whatever.

So, angel of mercy that he is, he reluctantly drove me to the nearby emergency room. I walk in, hunched over, because honestly? That's the most comfortable position. I'm standing at the reception window, bent over, quietly sobbing and holding my scarf up to my face to keep the cold off. (Cold air really did not help improve the pain situation, so I kept my face covered.)

Per my request, DH answers the questions for me at the registration desk, since my talking would involve the intake of too much air, which is painful on my teeth. We are told to sit in chairs to wait to be called.

DH helps me hobble over to the nearest open seat. We sit down. I stand up and bend over because sitting upright is just too agonizing. At one point, the pain becomes so bad that I start moaning. This is really getting embarrassing, but at this moment that is my last concern. I take off my wool coat and roll it up, using it the same way I used the couch pillow at home - to kind of scream into (I try to keep the sound lower at the hospital) to relieve the pain.

The pain, such as it is, seems to ebb and flow. Sometimes it ebbs to a more tolerable level, and I can sit more or less upright for a short period...and then sometimes it comes flowing back like a prostaglandin tsunami, and then it's back to standing/bending/wailing into coat until it subsides. Lather, rinse, repeat.

After a while, DH whispers to me that he needs to visit the restroom, and will I be ok for a minute? I nod yes, yes, go ahead. I hardly notice him anyway, since I'm preoccupied with my own pathetic, embarrassing, special-snowflaky two-year-old toddler pain management activities.

As soon as he was out of ear shot, a woman in the waiting room sat down next to me and told me I should leave him.

I tried to turn my head to look at her, but it was a little awkward (physically) to manage that, but I did ask her "excuse me?"

Woman: "No woman should ever tolerate being beat up."

Honestly, it took me a few seconds for it to register. Oh. My. God. It suddenly occurred to me how this all looked.

"Thank you for your concern," I said. "But this isn't how it looks. I just have a really bad sinus infection." I removed my coat from my face and showed her that I have no bruises or cuts (even though that side of my face is a bit swollen from the infection). "I'll be okay. I just need some antibiotics and I'll be fine."

I smiled towards her as best I could and then turned away to resume my standing/moaning (albeit, trying to be a heck of a lot quieter/as unobtrusive as I can be).

I figured she was satisfied and would just move on.

But then she said "you are really in denial. How many times has he done this, honey?"

I was about to respond that it was a really interesting assumption, but right then DH returned from the restroom.

He put his hand on my shoulder and asked how I was doing. The woman then said "if you really cared how she was doing, you wouldn't have had to bring her here in the first place!" and then she stormed off.

DH sat down and was really confused.

I didn't have a chance to explain anything to DH because I was called in right then, and I was seen and treated by the doctor. Thankfully I am now on antibiotics and feeling a bit better and rather...goofy from the pain medicine.

On the way home, DH said "you know, this is really embarrassing. They didn't let me come in with you and people were really giving me weird looks. Now that I think about it, I wonder if they thought I did something to you?"

I told him about the lady in the waiting room and we had a laugh...for about a minute because of the misunderstanding. But then we thought it was nice that someone cared enough to say something.

I just wonder if I could have handled it better? Should I have been more insistent about explaining the situation? Should I have gone the other way? I mean, I don't want to encourage nosy behavior, but then again, I don't want to discourage anyone from trying to help someone who might really be in trouble.

Now that I think about it, I am really at a loss for what I could have said/done to avoid humiliating my husband. I feel really bad for causing him any upset; it's ironic, too, because I fell in love with DH because of his gentleness, kindness and nurturing...the complete opposite of what the waiting room - and probably the medical staff (!) assume(d). 

What can I do differently next time, which, God forbid there is, but if I have to return....oh, dear.  :o

I think you were far too polite.  That woman was incredibly rude to you.

If someone is already in the ER they should let the medical personnel handle whether or not the condition of the patient is indicative of domestic abuse.
I would have been polite the first time but when she insisted, I would have told her to go away and leave me alone.

When you are in great pain and are waiting to be seen, no stranger should be coming up to you making assumptions about why you are there and you don't need to try and be polite.  As soon as you realize they are butting in, you can tell them to go away.

I get that she was "only trying to help", but personally I doubt her methods and timing would have been effective even if it was an abuse situation. And I would find her assumptions and judgment of my husband, myself, and our relationship incredibly offensive and would not hesitate to tell her so.  She was waaay out of line.

I'm pretty sure any woman that goes into an ER with a man, is separated and asked if she is safe especially on a high stress day like Christmas. It has happened to both my Mom and Sister. Which we got because they had bruises and broken bones from falls. (Sis even had someone do an intervention at work. Thing is BIL has been in a different part of the state or a different state for each of the serious accidents - except the time sis broke both knees skiing)

But I've gotten the are you safe at home questions for allergic reactions. That is simply part of their job and no judgement on you or your husband.

The woman in the ER was so out of line she was orbiting Pluto. She wasn't a nurse, doctor, or social worker. It isn't her job to intervene - if she thought you were in trouble she should have said something to the Triag nurse. The biggest reason she was wrong - is that if you had been abused her actions could have gotten you killed - especially the part where she confronted your husband. Could you imagine what an abuser would have done to his victim after being confronted by that woman?

The only thing I can think of that you could have done differently is get help sooner. I have frequent sinus infections. My doctor told me not to allow them to get that bad, because the infection can damage the bones if allowed to go on to long. If they are keeping you awake at night it is time to get help.

I am really torn here.

On the one hand, my gut reaction would be to get really offended and angry, along the lines of: "How dare you make such a rude and disrespectful assumption. Leave me alone, I have a sinus infection, I'm in a lot of pain and you are /not/ helping."
That is the "mama-bear" (or should I call it "wife-bear") in me who would go into a vicious protective mode if someone made such a leap of judgement about my husband.

On the other hand, what if I reacted that way and caused her to not dare to speak up if the next time she met a person who was really being abused?

Maybe the woman has been abused in the past, herself. Or maybe she has just been watching a bit too much of "What would you do".

Ideally I would love to sit down with her for an hour to discuss that I understand she means well but why her approach is rude and dangerous. I don't think I could do that if my face was hurting so much, though.

Aside from the etiquette issue at hand, I am really sorry you are in so much pain, Mrkitty. And I am also sorry you had to deal with such a reaction from a stranger on top of that. I hope you get well soon!


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