Thank God for health care workers.

If I had the power, I’d require anyone who won’t get vaccinated to agree that if they contract COVID-19, they won’t go to a hospital for help.

I got a first-hand view of the inside of an emergency room Sunday night that I don’t wish to revisit any time soon.

I had strained my lower left back a week earlier from washing windows outside on a stepladder and stretching higher than I should have. That evening I began to feel discomfort that increased with each day, but I assumed it would eventually dissipate.

By the following Sunday evening, I was in trouble. A simple sneeze put me over the edge, driving crippling stab-like pains down my back.

I needed medical help, but the mantra from a health care adviser the previous week kept running through my head: “Don’t go to the emergency room unless you fear loss of life or limb.” She recommended going to express care or a primary care physician first (advice a nurse at the emergency room told me later was plain nonsense when you’re in my situation).

Fearing I had a cracked disc — or worse, a kidney problem — my husband and I headed for the ER.

I don’t know how I got into our vehicle at 1:30 that morning or how I managed to get out of it after a short drive to the hospital.

But I do remember spending the next 3 1/2 hours squirming in a chair in the waiting room, trying to walk off the pain and nearly giving up and going home while my husband urged me to stay. The woman at the desk appeared sympathetic and apologized for my long wait.

The waiting room was fairly empty except for a security guard and a sick young woman who arrived shortly before I did and waited just as long. Fewer than a handful of people came in while we were there, including a man with a hurt finger who kept shuffling around the room, groaning and mumbling.

But I wasn’t about to complain, knowing what health care workers have endured these last two years with COVID-19. Nope. I felt lucky to be on the other side of the double doors from someone who could help.

At 5 a.m. a nurse appeared who said she was sorry for the delay and explained that ambulances out back just kept rolling in all night long.

Though I sensed she and other medical staff were worn out by dawn, they were courteous and sympathetic, and treated me as if I were the only person in the ER. My doctor, who was smart and efficient, determined with several questions and an exam of my spine and back that I was suffering from a lumbosacral strain.

“Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix,” she said.

After treating me with pain meds and making sure I could walk around the ER loop (where I saw every room occupied with sick and injured patients), I was able to go home at 9 a.m. Pain meds, daily exercise and stretches specific to the problem, icy-heat back patches and walking 15 minutes three times a day were the key to getting better, the doctor said. She also recommended a deep-tissue or sports medicine massage. Recovery could take a few weeks, she said.

I was grateful for that physician, who was empathetic because she had suffered the same injury. I left feeling confident I was getting the best treatment and would survive this traumatic event.

Which brings me back to what I said about health care workers being a Godsend.

I don’t know how many patients in the ER that night were being treated for COVID-19, if any. But I do know that the number of unvaccinated people requiring hospitalization remains at unacceptable levels. And their unwillingness to get vaccinated is putting a tremendous strain on medical staff.

These health workers are angels on earth. We should be treating them with the respect they deserve rather than refusing to get vaccinated and filling their hospitals with sick COVID patients demanding help but unwilling to give it themselves.

As time goes on and they continue to spread this deadly disease, I find myself angry at them on behalf of our medical workers who, ironically, are always the last to complain.

They just keep forging on, doing what can only be described as God’s work.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 33 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.