“Hurry up and wait.” Or better yet, “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here”. Pick one. Either will be more than sufficient for the hospital emergency room entrance.
Monday night, our friend and neighbor, Desdemona was having chest pains and difficulty breathing, so asked that Bashert take her to the hospital emergency room. She has a couple of life-threatening conditions and didn’t want to take any chances.
Bashert, who doesn’t do hospitals if she can help it, but who is a devoted friend, of course put Yoda in the car, picked up Desdemona, her son Jehan and carted them all down to the ER, which is less than five minutes away by personal vehicle and more than thirty by ambulance.
This is where I come in.
Bashert called me at work in that voice that prompts the question, “What’s wrong?”. She explained the situation and asked that I come pick up the boys so they wouldn’t have to spend the night in the ER.
Now, having known Bashert for some time, I immediately translated the question into, “Please come here and stay with Desdemona because I am going to freak out if I don’t get out of this hospital very soon.” So, I spoke with my partners and made arrangements to leave work early.
The patient parking lot was overflowing when I arrived, but there was only one car in the physician’s reserved spots. Not a good sign.
The waiting area bore the truth of the parking lot. Without exaggeration, there had to be about 50 people in various states of jammies and distress. And even though Bashert and Desdemona had been there for over an hour already, Des still had not registered.
After the change of guard with Bashert, I realized that in my haste to get in the hospital, I had left my study materials and phone charger in the car – parked in the secondary lot away from the building. I couldn’t leave Desdemona alone, so there I was left to entertain myself with the comings and goings of the inhabitants of the night emergency room. Well, that and the wholly inappropriate choice of the Travel Channel showing repetitive episodes of Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods.
I heard conversations about some people’s innards that I really didn’t want to hear. I saw a gentleman come in with a four inch gash across the side of his brow. I saw one very experienced ER patient come in with a book, crossword puzzle book, phone, and bag of various snacks. I couldn’t believe she was eating, I was trying not to breathe the air. We all sat and waited.
I drank a large cup of coffee at work and it was pressing to come out, but I was determined not to use the bathroom facilities. People were throwing up in there for goodness sake.
Many people simply gave up after several hours of emergency waiting. As each person left, there was a small and collective sigh from those who remained; one step closer. The same was done, but with exasperation when an ambulance was seen to pull up. Ambulance patients trumped the walk-ins; one step back.
Desdemona started to get more anxious when an elderly couple said they had been waiting for five hours. I don’t think she realized at that point we had already been there almost as long.
Did you know that they eat raw camel meat in Ethiopia? And that when you are eating an oyster, you are eating its digestive and reproductive systems at the same time? And that in Korea you can eat live octopus?
It was into hour five that we were finally called to the back. In the exam room, I learned that I could lose weight by eating all I want and get a new body in just six weeks. Bizarre Foods had been replaced by infommercials, curiously all about weight loss and physical fitness without effort. I missed the magic bullet.
In hour six, Desdemona was finally examined by not one, but three different nurses and a respiratory therapist. Each asked the same things, no one wrote anything down. The little vampire came by and took blood, but left the vials on a tray next to the bed. I could see that the wheels of efficiency were slick with grease in this operation.
Perky, the student resident ordered a CT scan for Desdemona. She still hadn’t seen a full doctor.
While we waited for the results we had full view of the ER staff. Apparently, they have time to make decorating decisions – they were pushing a couch back and forth between rooms – and update their phone apps. They had time to do pretty much anything but reassure their patients.
Dr. No Chin showed up to cover the results of the CT. After he sufficiently scared the both of us with talk about blood clots and such, he prescribed an inhaler for Desdemona and left.
After over seven hours of waiting then being busily ignored, Dr. No Chin discharged Desdemona into the cold of the morning, with a diagnosis of unexplained shortness of breath and chest pain. Basically, what she came in with.
Seven hours held hostage to the medical system and sent home with a pat on the head. I sure hope the guy who came in with the severed finger faired better.