The next day, I woke up after having hit the snooze button on both alarms. I had to rouse The Battlefield and deliver it to school by 7:28 am. I had to rouse the Middle Child and deliver it to the train station by 8:24 am. I had to rouse the dogs and walk them up and down the driveway. I did the dishes, fed the cat, and looked at my arm.
Was it even puffier than the night before? Was it turning red?
It certainly was very tender. None of the wounds themselves looked like anything, but my left arm was painful and swollen.
I cancelled my plans and called the doctor.
Of course, having only moved here in September, I do not yet have a cat-bite-doctor. I have a women’s-parts-doctor, and a dentist, and a dermatologist. I called the Middle Child’s internist’s office. I explained that I had an animal bite on my arm, and that it was swollen and painful, and I wanted to get it looked at that day so I could avoid going to the emergency room.
The nurse on the phone replied, “You need to go to the emergency room.”
To me, the emergency room is for people who were run over by a car, the kid who fell off the monkey bars and broke his arm, the rider who came off her horse, the sous chef scalded by hot oil. You know, emergencies. “My cat bit me yesterday” is not an emergency, it’s a thing to take care of, today if possible. But not an emergency. An emergency is falling off a ladder, it’s a venomous snake-bite, it’s a tornado, it’s a heart attack, it’s a stabbing. Yesterday’s cat bite is a stupid emergency.
Northern Westchester Hospital (which I passed three times the day before without realizing) is doing some construction in its parking lots, so when you go to the emergency room there these days you get valet parking. Hospital administrators everywhere need to know this important thing: valet parking at the emergency room is the best thing since sliced bread, since the germ theory of disease, since the agricultural revolution, since Skype, since the birth control pill or even since the invention of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. You drive up. You’re having an emergency! Hurry! You are greeted by a fellow who opens your door, and in exchange for your car he hands you a valet ticket. You can even leave it running.
Inside, the Northern Westchester Hospital emergency room has a huge waiting area, with chairs for at least 75 people by my estimating glance. Behind a counter sat two pleasant, cheerful staffers, one of whom took my name and summoned a nurse. I sat in a chair and started to wonder how long the wait would be in a suburban emergency room at 9:30 am on a Tuesday. I never got to finish wondering, because Tammy, the nurse, had arrived to take me to a room.
Mine was room 15, though the door never closed. Tammy took my story, my name, my vitals. She told me they were very busy and to be patient. Within the next half an hour I had seen the nurse who gave me the IV and the doctor, talked about what happened, and heard about other people’s cats. It was agreed all around that cat bites are nasty, and decided that IV antibiotics were warranted. I tried to read the paper, but never really had time. I was out the door again by 11:30 am.
I still say it was not an emergency, and that IV antibiotics could be administered in a doctor’s office.
A day later, my arm was still sore but no longer as swollen. The cat seems to have resumed a normal activity level, though his toes bother him noticeably.