I’m Bored – Let’s Go to the Emergency Room

When I complained about fifteen percent yearly increases in healthcare premiums, my benefits person told me that part of the cause was people who use the emergency room as primary care.  I suspect it has more to do with hiring crack smokers but I am not in a position to argue.

This reasoning was also supposed to explain the fifty dollar charge for even saying hello to someone working in an emergency room.  But wait, it gets worse….  if you’re admitted, it goes up to one hundred dollars.

Boy, they sure are serious about keeping you out of the hospital, aren’t they?

Meanwhile, if it’s eight at night, dinner is probably just starting.  Something came on the telly and my dear wife made a face reminiscent of having sucked on a lemon.  I asked her what she was reacting to, when it became apparent she wasn’t reacting to the television; she was reacting to misfiring in her brain.

My sister-in-law and nephew stood in mute horror.  When the shaking subsided and my wife returned, I suggested we make a brief stop at the hospital… you know… just to have a look around.

Stupid me.

What I failed to appreciate was that apparently people who have seizures don’t always know they had one.  It became my job, over the next ten minutes, to convince my wife that she had a seizure and that we should perhaps have some medically qualified people clear her.

You would have thought I was trying to convince my wife to go to prison for a few months.

Have you ever argued with a person who has an axe protruding from their skull that they do, in fact, have an axe protruding from their skull and it might be a good idea to have it looked at?  The person with the axe continues to argue that there is, in fact, nothing even close to an axe attached to their cranium and that you must be out of your mind for suggesting it.

Now it was apparent to the other three adults (and two pets) that someone just went all Bill the Cat on the sofa.  An episode like this, with relatives looking on in horror, is traditionally followed by a hospital visit (even in Pennsylvania).  Ten minutes and the threat of the entire local police department showing up later, we were on our way to the emergency room.

Yes, it was very silly of me to think that we could get to the hospital in the car faster than waiting for an ambulance, but that’s part of what passes for my charm.

I figured it was ok to drive based upon the vigor with which my wife was arguing that she did not, in fact, just have a seizure and did not, in fact, have to go to the hospital.

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I like to make an entrance.  Or rather, I like to write about liking to make an entrance.  I got to do the cool thing that men all over the world wish for (and some actively practice): to largely ignore traffic laws and indicators.

I pulled into the emergency room parking lot at breakneck speed, at which point the parking attendant inquired as to whether we were going to the emergency room.  I guess they hire only the best and brightest, like where I work.

We proudly, if somewhat errantly, walked up to the window and I proclaimed, “Fifteen minutes post-seizure”, in my best television medical voice.  This must’ve had an effect on the guy behind the window, who only managed a `huh?’ in response.  I said it again, this time more slowly, yet retaining as much faux medical authority as I could project.  To my credit, Dr. Window got the message and brought out a wheelchair, at which point my wife asked me why we weren’t at the mechanic’s, where I told her we were going (I most certainly did not).

True to their name, this emergency room staff grokked that the situation qualified as an emergency and wheeled my wife back to a nurse, who promptly started asking questions that my wife could not answer.  Finally she clicked to attention and started answering as if nothing had happened at all.

After the intensive quizzing, we walked four city blocks to the curtained-off enclosure they refer to as a room.  Every time we visit, the emergency room gets another wing, yet last year they threatened to shut down due to lack of funding.  It’s obvious that I can’t understand this math because I didn’t go to medical school.

They should have called the cubicle a waiting room, as it was about an hour until a doctor dropped by.  This fellow spent a grand total of four minutes asking questions when his phone rang.  I didn’t see him set off the ringing himself but I wouldn’t rule it out.  He said he’d be right back as I was mid-sentence.

An hour later a nurse arrived to hang up a bag of clear fluid and take blood.  I firmly believe that blood and urine aren’t used at all: they’re just extracted for the sheer absurdity of it, then thrown out.

I couldn’t help but notice, through my grief, that the nurses keep getting younger and hotter every time I visit.  And then it happened: this gorgeous blonde Florence Nightengale did what most men only dream about…. she put her hand down my wife’s shirt.  I should have been excited, yet I stared straight  ahead (my wife maintains I was feigning boredom).  Yes, the wait was starting to get to me.

No trip to the emergency room would be complete without a female psycho-patient (they’re always female, for some reason), demanding pain medicine, repeatedly and at the top of her lungs, freaking the entire floor out.  This went on until I found myself a name tag that said Dr. Kevorkian on it and paid her a visit.  All was peaceful for the rest of our stay.

Meanwhile we waited, knowing the outcome like a bad script in reruns: wait five hours, get fluids, then go home.  Then we waited.  And waited some more.

While fluids were being administered, the pump developed issues and proceeded to let us (and the two floors on either side of us) know by beeping LOUDLY and FREQUENTLY.

Twenty minutes later, a nurse we had never seen popped in, wondering what the beeping was about.

Don’t ask me – I never got into medical school.

An hour later the pump went back to beeping.  I think this pump had larger issues than the fluid being pumped into my wife.  Meanwhile we commenced a psychology experiment, watching countless hospital personnel walk by, totally oblivious to the cacophony (which was as difficult to ignore as a fleet of F-16′s flying ten feet over your house).

This time it only took ten minutes until another nurse we had never seen came by and made confused little noises at the pump, convinci ng it to cease its protracted and deliberate beeping behavior.   We were told it would only be an hour for the rest of the medicine to flow.

Two hours later the doctor magically reappeared, making some bizarre joke about how busy they were that night.   If by busy he meant `unable to find’, he was right on the mark.  He said he had to do some paperwork and my wife would be discharged.

An hour later a nurse said they were just waiting for some paperwork and we’d be on our way.  I think the doctors and nurses play the blame game and see how long they can make a patient wait for nothing in particular (or crack up and DEMAND pain medication repeatedly).  There obviously is no paperwork and the patient is free to be discharged upon request.  The staff just enjoys the hell out of this little diversion.  It keeps them sharp during their thirty-six hour shifts.

But don’t ask me – I never finished medical school.  I couldn’t pass the drinking exams.