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Salad tongs and emergency rooms

The second longest day of my life, and also the strongest day of my life.

By Samantha ParrishPublished 7 months ago 13 min read

Mortality is inevitable, it’s something that we don’t think about but it’s something that we know even if we don’t have to verbalize it.

When it comes to caring for older parents or grandparents. The idea of mortality is very fearful.

It’s to be expected, but there’s also an acceptance of that well of emotion that the day will come when something bad happens.

And it did for me.

I had to take my grandfather to the emergency room, something that I knew was going to happen but I had no idea how that would pan out.

I have been living with my grandfather since 2016, my grandfather is essentially the only father figure I’ve ever had in my life. Over the years of living with him there are some scary moments I’ve had with his health.

Some of those weren’t as bad as I made them out to be, but this time it was the reverse moment. This is an accident that was downplayed by him and I had to play it up that this is something critical that needs more attention.

My grandfather fell in the early morning and he injured his arm on a wooden rocking chair in the fall. I was coming back home from a mental health trip from Maryland and I had no idea that this happened while I was on the road.

I was waiting in the garage for him to unlock the door. I stood there with our lunch from Wendy’s and I couldn’t wait to tell him about my experience out in Bowie.

The smile fell from my face when I saw my grandfather with blood stains and a bandaged arm. He looked like Bruce Willis’s character from Pulp Fiction.

As much as he explained the story with making it appear that it wasn’t a big deal, the shirt and his arm did not match the way that they should be taken as a non-critical situation.

I’m glad that I grabbed him some lunch at Wendy’s as he was starved from all of the blood that he lost.

We made the attempt to change his bandage, The injury was way worse than the way he explained it that it wasn’t so bad. It was a severe wound that required more than just his go to of bandaids and water dousing.

This was the first time that I put my foot down and I became in charge of his medical routine and I forced him to go to MedExpress. We were there for two hours, and the doctor had the same concern that I had that this was more than what my grandfather made it out to be.

It took me, the doctor, and a nurse to be able to clean the wound and bandage him up.

My grandfather writhed and hissed from the pain. I kept trying to coach him through it that the doctor was almost done and that he was doing a good job.

To think that he had to do this by himself before I arrived and that he was trying to do it again by himself before I made the executive decision to come to MedExpress.

It took three people to do one thing that had to be done at the exact same time. As the person who was holding the bucket to help with cleaning the wound, This was more than I’ve ever seen in my life, this was the first time to say something so horrific but it impacted me more because it was happening to someone that I love.

The doctor was incredibly worried about his wound and contacted a wound specialist at the ER. We were informed that the doctor would be expecting us.

We made like NASCAR and did a quick pitstop at home to change clothes. It does not matter whatever situation we’re in my grandfather will dress up for the occasion.

We drove at the worst part of the day to get to Riverside, I gave him all of his important papers and all of his necessary items to drop him off at the entrance so I could go park the car. The sooner he was in the hospital, the better chances of him getting to the doctor quicker to get that wound dressed up. Despite having really great antibiotics onto that wound, it’s still exposed.

I parked the car and went to the same entrance that I dropped him off at, I went to the check in receptionist.

I asked, “I’m checking on my grandfather. He just walked in the door. He’s tall with black glasses, kind of looks like Clint Eastwood?”

The receptionist just said, “no I haven’t seen him.”

Oh Christ.

The man just walked in the door and yet no one has seen him as if he was Kaiser Soze.

I went to another receptionist and I hope that maybe he saw my grandfather. I gave the same prescription and the man gave me details that fit my grandfather’s description and pointed me in the direction of where he went. I was so enthusiastic that someone could tell me where to go and that someone saw him. I gave him my gratitude and I hurried off in the direction he told me to go.

Only to find a dead end that said staff only.

I had to knock fervently on the door to ask a nurse how I could be able to get to the emergency room. I was blunt to say that I have never had a situation like this in the hospital and I just want to find out where I have to go. He understood my brutal honesty that I just wanna find my grandfather.

He pointed me where I had to go out the door and around the corner. I got to the emergency room entrance, I saw the set up that the only way I was going to gain entry was by having my bag checked and being metal detected.

I worked with the security guard to comply to do everything that would mean I would get into the door sooner. I watched the security guard thoroughly check my purse, my wallet, my pockets…But then she found my purple skeleton tongs that I forgot to take out of my purse during the trip to Bowie.

The security guard had no idea what to do, I could literally see the hamster wheel stop spinning in her head as she was trying to figure out what this was doing in my bag, what was she using this for? How would I classify this as an item? This isn’t a weapon but this is too weird.

She let me go. She was weirded out, but she let me go.

I was immediately greeted by a check-in nurse that wanted to know if I was a patient or visiting a patient, I just pointed to the man right behind her and said, “I’m with that guy.”

She informed me that I could not stay with him the entire time in the waiting room because it’s specifically for patients only, visitors would crowd of the room. I understood, I stayed until I felt that my grandfather was comfortable and we made a game plan that I would wait in the car.

An hour and 15 minutes later, my grandfather calls me and said that he is still not been admitted. I came inside with a bottle of water because he was parched. My grandfather was exhausted, he had been up since five in the morning and half of the day has been spent bleeding. I offered to ask the nurse what we could do. My grandfather was already letting me take the affirmative action so he was OK with me taking the initiative to get some answers. He wasn’t gonna argue with what could help him.

I went to the nurse, I explained that my grandfather is exhausted and we’re not quite sure if we should come back tomorrow. She explained to us that the severity of the wound needs to be treated today because it will be past the process that can be treated for stitches. She basically said that time is vital and that the situation needs to be dealt with, but she also said that she cannot see the world because she doesn’t want to risk exposure. But I will never forget what she said to us about dealing with an event that requires waiting.

“You have already waited an hour and 30 minutes, if you were to come back tomorrow you would still have to wait for four hours.”

What she said made a lot of sense that we would have thrown in the towel to what we’ve done so far and that it would mean we’d be closer tomorrow we would be at the beginning part. Kind of like going back to the first level of a video game and all of that progress was wasted and not logged in.

And then she said to us, “since your day is already ruined, why ruin tomorrow with this waiting?”

That need to be on a bumper sticker somewhere, that is so deep.

I explained it to my grandfather, and as stubborn as he can be sometimes, he listened the logic of the nurse.

Our situation will not be solved with impatience and anger that the nurse wants to give us answers that she can’t quite give us yet and we had to be patient for some thing that could only happen if we were patient.

Like my favorite saying, when life gives you lemons, you make grape juice. We were given lemons and we had to find a way to make grape juice. And the way we did that was setting ourselves up to be comfortable for riding out the last three hours.

Luckily in this critical situation, I never unpacked my car from my trip. I had books, food, medical items, medicine, anything that he or I needed. I gave him a copy of my book to distract the time.

My way of making the most of situation was turning my car into a writing station, I placed out my books, turn my overhead light on, got a coffee from Wawa, and played the music on my old school iPod.

The timing of this accident was impeccable that it almost had to happen when I got back from the trip. Otherwise he and I would’ve gone stir crazy from not having essential items. Especially in emergencies where you kind of have to make a new home for a place where you don’t know how long you’re going to be at.

I called my family and informed them. Whenever I call, I am known as the “Uh Oh” call. It’s both good and bad to hear from me because it automatically means somethings wrong with my grandfather. It played to my benefit because I knew that my aunt and uncle would pick up the phone and take this seriously which really helped out my situation. I could be able to do my part and get all the information now that’s necessary for his children to know.

Everyone was very scared for me because of the association of the emergency room and my grandfather. On the cusp of everything it does seem intense and stressful because it’s someone’s worst nightmare that a elderly loved one is in a place where it is up to chance for the unknown outcome.

But I had to look at the blessings, my grandfather broke no bones, the nurses worked with me and my grandfather to make sure that we were comfortable and knew what to do. They took him seriously as a patient and took me seriously as a caretaker.

Around 9 o’clock I had to go get food, I knew my grandfather was going to be hungry after going almost all day without food. I had no idea what the game plan was, I just turned my car on and drove down the nightlife of Jefferson Avenue. I passed by all of the blinking neon lights and deserted areas. And on that drive, my gut kept telling me to go to the usual Burger King that I go to.

I played it safe and I ordered two chicken sandwiches with two small combos.

I got to the drive-through window and told the cashier-

“We might have to play gift card roulette because I have no idea which card has $25 on it.”

The cashier accommodated to my payment method and went to pay for the food except there was a snack, and it was in the machine. Somehow the machine was not working, great.

He had informed me that they were some kind of a small piece of plastic wedged in there. I went from being the customer to being the helper to assist with giving him my car keys to fix the machine with my tools.

During the time he was fixing the machine he was asking me how I was doing and I was open about the fact that my grandfather is currently in the emergency room and I’m getting some food for him when he gets out.

He said to me, “you’re a good granddaughter.”

That hit differently coming from someone that I have just met for the first time. I’m told by a lot of my best friends and family about how they see the way I take care of my grandfather and give me the credit. But it hits differently from a stranger. This is the second time that I’ve had to go to the hospital for an emergency, the first time was a tragic moment when I had to go to the hospital because of my grandmother’s passing from a heart attack.

And also, I was running on four hours sleep I was surprised I was still able to take information and orders, and still help out a employee in the Burger King drive-through.

After I was given my food, the young man said to me, “the machine is not working so the food is on me.”

“Are you serious?”


I was flabbergasted by this act of kindness, I can still remember saying, “I’ve had such a f**kin’ day.”

“I got you.”

“Thank you so much, God bless you.”

“God bless you too.”

I drove off with the food and I felt my throat close up and felt my eyes well with water. I wondered something on the way to the hospital.

Maybe the guy was having a rough day and appreciated a decent customer.

Maybe I did not know that how much I needed that moment until that kind cashier did that for me.

Maybe it’s because I told him the story about what my situation had been like today and wanted to do some thing to help me out. Either way, this young man will never know the important role his kindness had for this intense day.

As soon as I got back to the hospital I got the phone call, it was my grandfather.

“I’m out, I’m in the waiting room.”

“OK I’m on my way!”

I pulled up to the front of the emergency room entrance, and I watched my grandfather walk out of the emergency room with a plastic bag of his belongings. We got him settled in the car he looked at me and said

“Let’s get a milkshake.”

I said, “I’m gonna get you 10”

I never really looked at the day and all of its moments that this was the day I had been dreading that I had to take my grandfather for an emergency room visit and I didn’t play out as dramatically as I thought it was going to. I was surprised how strong I was and how I took control of every situation and didn’t become obtuse or subdued.

I am pretty sure that lady is still wondering why in the world there were salad tongs in my purse.


About the Creator

Samantha Parrish

What's something interesting you always wanted to know?

Instagram: parrishpassages

tiktok: themysticalspacewitch

My book Inglorious Ink is now available on Amazon!

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