Random Evening In An Emergency Room
Friday afternoon I get a phone call.
"We need to take your Dad to the ER."
We tried to convince him to go in an ambulance so that he would not have to sit in the waiting room. Ambulance patients arriving get preferred treatment in the ER. They are rushed right into the sacred halls of the actual exam rooms rather than being consigned to the black hole that is the average ER waiting room.
But he refused that preferential treatment, not believing that they would make him wait.
Four hours after arriving ... his name is finally called and he is taken back to actually be treated.
In those 4 hours in the time warp, we witnessed quite a few startling and disturbing incidents.
First of all, the waiting room was filled with people and we were told that some of them had already been there four or five hours! But who knew, maybe we would make it out of there quickly! We could only hope.
We found a little corner of the room and began serving our time. It was a cozy little corner next to the vending machines that kept humming loudly in my ear preventing any sort of communication with my fellow waiting room inmates.
I watched as we all settled in. There was a little girl with braided hair making her rounds in the room. First she grabbed a tissue off the dispenser on the wall and pretended to blow her nose. Then she ran back and wallowed all over her big sister who was maybe twelve years old and amusing herself by chewing on her thumb. She didn't appear to be too perturbed by little sister who squirmed and wiggled for a minute and then decided that she needed to use the hand cleanser dispenser and wash her hands, followed by a visit to the bathroom. I don't know if she washed her hands in the bathroom or not. These two were kind of cute. I have no idea where the mother or father or other parental unit type person was.
For all I know these two little ones live in the ER.
Weary of the roar of the vending machines, I got up to walk around and find a quieter, cooler place. So I stood in the entry way and in view of the triage area hoping against hope that the triage nurse would spot me and realize that my Dad had not yet been seen by a doctor.
He wouldn't make eye contact.
In the meantime, my daughter in law Lindsay, who had come with us to help out, had struck up a conversation with two women who were there because one of them had an insect bite. The lady was just sure it was a spider bite. Lindsay, being familiar with these things, started telling her what they needed to do about it, naming the medicine that they needed and how to go about treating it.
There's no telling how long those two had been sitting there, but they immediately left the hospital and rushed to a local store to buy the recommended medicinal items over the counter. They found a means of escape and seized it as quickly as they could!
While that was going on, the doors whooshed open and a gentleman in one of the hospital's wheel chairs arrived being pushed by another fellow.
The man in the wheel chair was groaning in pain and carrying his boot. His bare foot was hanging off the edge of the little foot rest thing on the wheel chair. Fortunately, it was still attached. I was scared to look at first.
His buddy parked him and said "You okay?"
"Yeah" Boot Man groaned.
"I gotta go then!" and the so called buddy left him sitting there without even so much as a
hug or a pat on the back or even "I hope you'll be alright."
That's not my kind of buddy. But hey! At least he got him to the black hole. He did his duty.
I stood there listening to Boot Man moan in agony as he completed the entrance exam papers to give to the ladies waiting behind their dual computer screens to check in the unsuspecting victims ... umm I mean patients.
When he was finished filling out papers, I looked at him helplessly sitting there. He had no means to get to the check in ladies. The wheel chair was not meant for self propulsion. It had to be pushed by somebody.
"Do you need some help getting to the desk?" I asked as he was looking desperate and attempting to find a way to cross the 12 foot expanse between him and them. He was considering crawling.
"Yes ... groan.... please!" So I pushed him across in the wheel chair trying to avoid hitting his foot against the desk and causing him even more pain.
He was eventually finished with them. I guess he passed the exam papers! One of the check in ladies actually pushed him down the hallway so he could sit in front of the triage room and watch while others were called back to be treated before him. I'm telling you this was sheer torture. Boot Man was almost in tears from excruciating pain and they were first taking care of others who had no visible signs of injury or sickness. Inhumane it was.
In the meantime, my Dad is still sitting listening to the vending machine singing its song.
Spider bite lady returned.
She just wanted to stop back by and thank my sweet daughter-in-law for all her help.
Who would have thought anyone would willingly come back to the void just to say "thanks ma'am!"
I was impressed.
A little girl came in with her parents. Little braid girl apparently knew her, because she immediately ran up to her and started hanging off the wheel chair and talking like they were old friends. Or ... she could have seen a fellow child and decided that they were in this together so might as well make the most of it. They struck up a conversation like only little kids can do.
"Why are you here?"
"I have a hole in my heart!"
Wait a minute. Go sit and wait your turn.
About 3 hours after we arrived, a lady across the room stood up and said to no one in particular, "I'm out of here! This is ridiculous! I've been here 5 hours and I haven't been treated yet!"
"Don't go! Don't do it!" my sister's fiance said loudly from our post by the vending machines. "Don't!" (Yes, we had quite the entourage there to share in my Dad's sentence. We wouldn't let him serve it alone!)
She didn't heed his advice and left to go suffer, forgoing the hope of any future medical aid.
A few other people sat there for a while, contemplating the odds of ever seeing a doctor. A light dawned on their pained faces as they got up to leave and escape the torment. "I'll show them! I'll leave! I can do it! Freedom!!!!!"
No Eye Contact Nurse called out a name loudly and Little Girl With The Hole In Her Heart was the lucky one!
I guess a hole in your heart is more important than a lame foot or a swollen arm.
My Dad's odds of seeing a doctor were going up!
Still standing in the entrance area, I watched a couple come in. She was bent over in pain. I didn't know what was hurting but she was not in good shape. As soon as she sat down, the check in lady gave her a bucket. That did not bode well for the rest of us!
She leaned over the bucket, trying to hide her face. Even worse, she was trying to quietly vomit.
Well, that didn't work. Not the quiet part anyway.
Boot Man's wife arrived. I guess it was his wife. She stood by his powerless wheel chair and held him as he began to cry.
Bucket lady and her husband came and sat down near my family, the place closest to the public bathroom.
I meandered back to check on my folks and struck up a conversation with Bucket Lady and her husband. She had kidney stones. Wow! Ouch! Well, at least it wasn't something contagious!
Every five minutes or so she got up to run into the bathroom and upchuck! When she wasn't in the bathroom, she was writhing in pain.
Nurse Lindsay set off to find a wash cloth so Bucket Lady could at least have a cold wet cloth to help her in her distress.
At some point in time, Boot Man was taken somewhere. He disappeared when we weren't looking.
Out of the blue ... a disembodied voice called my Dad's name! He was finally being called back to an exam room and we were going to be able to exit the torture chamber!
As we began to walk towards the escape hatch, I heard Bucket Lady cry out.
I stopped in my tracks, had an internal debate, turned and walked over to her. She was leaning over onto her husband, head down and gasping.
My hands touched her gently and I prayed "ease her pain...Lord".
I don't even know if she felt or heard me. Her husband looked at me and gave me a sincere "thank you."
Later, Lindsay is still out in the waiting room while we were back with my Dad. Bucket Lady comes stumbling out of the bathroom for the umpteenth time and begins to collapse. Five months pregnant Lindsay yells for help and rushes to catch her before she hits the tile floor.
Eventually, Bucket Lady's name is called and she also goes through the hallowed doors of the exam rooms.
I saw her later, no longer in pain as she was being wheeled out the doors. She reached up and took my hand.
My Dad, who spent the next two nights in the hospital being treated, is well and home now.
He says next time we'll call an ambulance.