Tuesday, January 16, 2007

An unexpected turn of events

Oh man, what a day. I spent almost an entire day in the ER, thankfully not as a patient this time, but it was exhausting nonetheless. It's such a weird place. There's no windows so your sense of time changes and the wait seems longer. And of course, you're freaking out because you're there for bad stuff.

I ending up spending a couple of hours in the waiting room before I was allowed into the inner sanctum. It's been a long time since I was on that side of the process. They of course call by priority of illness, not arrival time so some wait and wait while the later comers go before them. It's hard not to notice that the Hispanics are the last to be called. One couple who was there before we arrived, was still sitting there when my relief came.

It's a spooky ER unlike any other I've been in. It's cramped with bad seating. There's barely room for the parade of wheelchairs that wend their way through. And instead of little cubicles where you give your initial information, there's three doors, prominently designated as 1-2-3 with giant numbers. Most people go in and don't come out.

One really fat young white mother and her two children get expelled though and sit in my section. The son apparently is waiting for a scan. And they're all waiting for Daddy to arrive. The little girl is in soiled clothes eating out of something that looks like a jelly packet from a restaurant. I learn a little later that it's caramel. She's wrapped in the dirtiest blanket I have ever seen.

When the Daddy arrives, the mom doesn't address him directly. She tells the kids what to tell him. Tell Daddy what happened when you woke up, she instructs the son while the little girl burrows into his arms. He's wearing khahis and a blue cambray shirt that strains to contain his massive beer belly. One assumes the parents are separated. I didn't really want to speculate further. I try not to look at them.

Eventually I'm liberated from waiting room hell and later I trekked out to search for food. It turned out to be easier to find than it was to get back into the inner sanctum. I've never seen such security or such an inane system. You have to get a pass at one end and then get to the door while it's still open at the other end of the room. Can't really be done. I end up waving my food in the window and some passerby opens the hydraulic lock from the inside. So much for the pass.

The inner sanctum is infinitely more interesting but no less noisy. Monitors bleep and pagers beep and the halls pulse with carts and gurneys and staff doing very important work with a detached nonchalance born of years of dealing with traumas.

I was facinated. I was appalled. I was really glad when it was my turn to leave.


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