Act I: In which I think the local hospital emergency room might suck.
Setting: a small Illinois town in 2008.
So I had just started a new job in a new state, and lived in a new house.
And I was sick.
Sicker than I had ever been. Repeated purging from all possible exits did not lessen the ache in my belly, and I believe I was actually writhing in pain. I finally gave up on stoicism at about 8pm and let my husband take me to the emergency room. We lived in a very small town, and I’d never been to the local hospital, but I had seen the emergency room sign, so I knew it was there, less than two miles away.
Being so new in town, I hadn’t heard all the horror stories. Which was probably just as well, because I could soon write my own.
We drove up to the emergency entrance, the only car there. And my husband escorted me inside. There was a full staff and not a single patient. Everyone was gathered around computers in what looked like a check-in booth. So, doubled over in my bathrobe and jeans, I hobbled to the booth. Two of the fine health care professionals looked up.
“I need help; I’m really sick,” I mumbled intelligently.
“Are you checked in?” the fine health care professionals asked in unison. A third one said, “Where are you parked? Because you can’t park in the emergency lot.” Their concern for my well-being nearly brought more tears to my eye.
No, I was not checked in. “We can’t help you if you’re not checked in,” the fine health care professionals chimed, not quite in unison. “You can’t park in the emergency lot,” repeated number three.
Where was one to check in, if not in this check-in booth? The hospital admissions office, whose location, indicated with a finger flick, was down a long, long hallway. Could I have a wheelchair? No, not until I was checked in. Could I have an escort to show me the way? No (repeated with some frustration and escalating volume), not until I was checked in. Number three, however, was eager to escort my husband outside to enforce the no-parking-in-the-emergency-lot rule, even though he was not checked in.
I stumbled down the long hall, past all the empty treatment rooms, past two more fine health care professionals coming back in from smoke break, took a left, went down another hall, took a right and then another right and sank into the chair in front of the hospital admissions person.
She was as happy to see me as the fine health care professionals.
With that puffing sigh that gets twelve-year-olds slapped, she glared at me for a moment, then said “I’ll get to you as soon as I’m done with this,” and completed her project with no further eye contact. By the time she was ready to deal with me, my husband was back, and asked me how I was doing. His concern merited another disgusted puff-sigh. But she finished the paperwork, and now that I was checked in, I was eligible for a wheelchair to take me back to the emergency room. Except there weren’t any nearby, so I walked.
Act II: In which I become certain that the local emergency room does suck.
Setting: Hospital emergency room, surrounded by fine health care professionals.
The doctor on call that evening was a small man with a big name. He said little, but got me on an IV drip of Toradol, which quickly made me much, much happier than I had been for many hours. He looked at my history, poked here and prodded there. “Appendicitis,” he pronounced. “We’ll do some tests to make sure. I’ll see if we can find someone do to the surgery.” And he was gone.
One of the smoke-break fine health care professionals came in right afterward. “Appendicitis,” she scoffed. “It’s not appendicitis. He doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.” I believe I blinked. Probably owlishly.
This lovely team-player and a cohort prepped something I needed to drink before my CAT scan. It was orange flavored and in two styrofoam cups. I needed to chug the first cup right away and drink the second cup as marked. In ballpoint scrawl it said “1015.” It was about 930, so 1015 sounded fine to me.
In the meantime, I was visited by the phlebotomist. She didn’t look like a nightmare. It was a good disguise. “Hello, Bahbarahhhh,” she said in a wispy voice. “I need to get some blood, Bahbarahhhh….” Now, I have champion veins. Until my recent health issues, I was a regular blood donor, my left arm sporting what is known in the trade as a “gusher.” I pointed it out to her. “Oh, that’s nice, Bahbarahhh…” she said, and stuck the needle in my arm. I saw the blood spurt into the tube – and then stop as she pushed the needle straight through the vein. And damn near through my arm. Over and over. Until she gave up and sampled from my IV line. In 48 hours it looked like I’d been mauled by a bear.
Team-player and her friend came in to see if I’d drunk both cups of CAT juice, though it wasn’t yet ten o’clock. And my behavior merited another puff-sigh (apparently a hospital communication method of choice), as “1015” clearly meant “ten to fifteen minutes after the first one.” I started drinking.
Sick people are such a colossal pain in the ass.
The fine health care professionals took my blood pressure a lot, and it was in the “near-death” range. Seriously, like 50 over 30. But even though my corpuscles were creeping along like an overloaded corn truck, they insisted that I get up and walk to the CAT scan. Apparently the wheelchairs stacked in the hallway were only for ambiance.
So get up I did. And the world started going black, from the outside in. I remember telling the fine health care professionals that I was getting dizzy. That everything was gray. My husband’s memory is clearer – he recalls me emphatically stating, “I’m going down!” and then doing just that.
Next thing I knew, I was being yanked from a warm, comforting, black and peaceful place. One of the fine health care professionals had actually had some foresight and, according to my husband, caught my falling body in a wheelchair and rolled me out the door.
I remember being on a gurney in the CAT scan room. Don’t know how that happened. The fine health care professionals told me that I would feel like I had to pee, or that I had just wet myself, but not to worry, it was just a fakeout. And I needed to be very, very still. As I lay there in ultimate stillness, I heard a definite click, then “oops,” then a mumbled apology, and then another click. I wondered if I had just received two scans. When I got my bill, I found out that I had – that first click was $2500, but the second was a bargain at just $1800. That “oops” was a revenue stream.
It was now well after midnight, and all the tests had confirmed appendicitis. Team-player was not happy. The doctor came back in to say he’d found a surgeon for me, up in Springfield. And an ambulance was on its way to take me there.