Sunday, December 20, 2009

Emergency Room

I've not been to the "emergency" room many times, so I don't know if a five hour wait is typical or if the hospital here is a little understaffed or maybe there are just a lot of hypochondriac alarmists around, or maybe there are a lot of people like me who just don't want to go to work that day and know if they think up some type of emergency they'll be tied up all day in the ER waiting room.
Justin and I have had to go to the emergency room a disproportionate number of times, in my opinion, to the years we've known each other for everything from things as exciting as venomous snake bites and car wrecks to boring old ear infections (Google, don't post a bunch of ear fungus ads all over my page).  They get you in much more quickly if you've been bitten by a water moccasin or put a car in a ditch.  Ear infections, as far as the emergency room is concerned, are not real emergencies. 
One night Justin's ear infection got so bad we had to go to the hospital.  When these ear infections come on I pester Justin constantly about going to the emergency room, early in the mornings, on weekdays, times I calculate not many other people will be having emergencies. Friday and Saturday nights, nights of the waxing moon, when Mercury is in retrograde, if there's a storm coming, or if the cows are laying down I try to avoid the emergency room.  It was a Wednesday night so I figured that it wouldn't be too busy.  I didn't check my lunar charts or pass any pastures on the way and that was my mistake because the waiting room was packed.  
As soon as you walk in you sign in with the receptionist who immediately takes you into a little room full of official-looking medical equipment which gives you hope that they're going to treat your emergency with the urgency you believe it deserves.  She takes your vitals and sends you out into the large waiting room full of people who look like they've just crawled in off a battlefield somewhere, dashing every hope of quick relief that you might have had.
The first thing to do is scan the room and take inventory of both the number of people and the severity of their ailments.  "She doesn't look that bad, she should be quick.  Oh, LORD, do you see that oozing out of his leg, why is he out here with the rest of us?"  Then you sit.  They have a TV on set to either the home shopping network or the weather channel so as not to offend or entertain anyone.  The best thing to do is be very quiet and listen to the conversations around you.  You can hear some tragic stories and also gauge how long of a night you're in for because eventually everyone will comment on how long they've been waiting.  Sometimes you flip through magazines and pray that nobody gets in a car wreck or comes in with something like a gunshot wound, although depending on where they were shot they may get seated next to you in the waiting room with a plastic sheet or something to protect the upholstery
About hour three your true colors start to shine when a three-year-old comes in who has just run a knife through her hand.  Normally I really like kids and I can't bear to see them hurt.  In the emergency room, she's just another road-block to relief (for Justin) and to getting out of there (for me).  "Arrrggggh, GREAT!" you moan, dramatically throwing your head back and exhaling noisily.  "That looks bad, watch them try to take her back there before us!"  And they do and despite your humanity you begrudge her for it.  It is an awful place.
Eventually they'll get you in and you'll wonder what took so long when you see a perfectly sterile, calm staff walking (not running) here and there, when for hours you've been imagining panicked nurses and terrified doctors rushing through hallways lined with bleeding, moaning, screaming patients on stretchers.  The doctor will come in and listen to you very well, taking notes and running tests and you realize that they're just being thorough back there and you don't think about all the other people in the waiting room, you only think, "I deserve it!"
We've not been to the emergency room in a long time, for us.  We almost had to the other morning when Justin accidentally kicked the dresser in the dark and slammed the rods sticking out of his toes up into his shin, but he soldiered through.  Our next trip though I'm going to find a venomous snake to bite Justin before so we can get right in there, he'll already be in pain, what's a little bit more in the name of efficiency?


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