Friday, June 26, 2009

A Night In The ER: Adventures and Observations (Part One)

I guess it's appropriate it's called an "Emergency Room" because, obviously, one doesn't typically plan on spending time there, especially not on a Saturday night! "Hey, honey, what do you want to do this evening?" "Oh, I dunno, let's say we head on over to the ER and check out the weirdos, rate the service, and have some yummy hospital food?" NOT.
Anyway, last Saturday, Mr. B ended up in the ER (with me in tow). I'll start this off by saying he's okay. Well, he's not gonna die from what ailed him, at least. I can't say he's 100% better, though; and, we're still waiting on some test results and the issue that took us to the ER in the first place is yet hanging around, making its presence known, albeit, a bit more quietly. He has a follow up appointment with his MD this coming Monday so, hopefully, she (knowing his medical history) can get to the bottom of this mystery.
Here's the down and dirty story about the adventure!
After Saturday's Thon (see previous entry), we dropped the Greeks off at home and then left again to run a few errands and have a late lunch/early dinner. I noticed that Mr. B seemed a bit disoriented while driving to Sam's Quik Shop (yes I left the "c" out on purpose); he appeared to be turned around (and Mr. B usually ALWAYS knows where he is going; he's a NY driver, after all :-) )
So, we get to Sam's, pick out some beer (for the 2nd part of my dad's Father's Day present) and I offer to drive. We head over to Chapel Hill to Trader Joe's to get some Chuck (as in Two Buck Chuck, which, at least in NC, is actually Three Buck Chuck). After, as we left TJ's parking lot on our way to the 94th Street Pub, I glanced over at Mr. B. He looked absolutely miserable; yet, in answer to my "Are you ok?" he replied stoically enough that he was. But, he wasn't, that much was obvious. I was thinking to myself, "We need to get him to a clinic or the ER" because he'd been complaining (I use that word lightly, he doesn't much complain) about lower back pressure (not pain) that had been going on since Tuesday or Wednesday and was getting steadily worse. I had images of us having to drive to the ER at 3:00 am so figured 4:00 pm was a better option.
I pressed, and, he agreed to go to the ER at Duke Medical Center (we were about 15 minutes away).
We arrive at the ER (they have valet parking, which completely surprised me but it sure came in handy since I ended up coming and going few times) and he checked in. Amazingly enough, there were a lot of people in the waiting room for a Saturday afternoon. BTW, did I mention it was stinking hot? I wondered how many of the folks (some of them quite elderly) were there due to heat exhaustion.
Anyway, as we sat waiting for him to be called back into Triage, a young man, probably in high school, approached us with some trepidation and informed us he was Austin, a volunteer, and he was wondering if he could do anything for us? Yeah, Austin, wave your magic wand and make my husband feel better so we don't have to spend our Saturday afternoon/evening here (oh, if I only knew then how long we'd be there!) Instead, I asked for a blanket (it was FREEZING in that waiting room; obviously kept such to keep the nasties from breeding).
Not too long after Austin stopped by, Mr. B went to get a soda and then I went to get something out of the vending machine (we'd not eaten save for a piece of string cheese as we were leaving the house several hours earlier). I was STARVING. Well, the vending machine did not take dollar bills (so I was informed by the hill-billy family who had, apparently, been staring at it for about 20 minutes and finally figured that out). Thankfully, I had sufficient change to get some peanut butter cheese crackers (oh, yum), which I shared with Mr. B.
He got called back to Triage for the basics; temperature, blood pressure, inquiries as to "What, exactly, is the problem?" A stumper, which, as previously stated, we have yet to discover the answer to.
After being told he was being put on the "Fast Track" to the ER (a statement which brought visions of breezing through a line for a ride at Disneyland, which, unfortunately, were a far cry from what happened), we went back into the waiting room to, well, wait.
This is when I started to notice the vast array of odd-balls. Ok, there were also some normal looking people (at least two :-) ) but, man, I'd never have thought there were so many weirdos out on a Saturday afternoon in the ER waiting room!
One guy walked by with a huge keloid behind his ear. I thought at first that was why he was there (to have it removed, maybe?) But, upon closer inspection, I saw that said keloid was sporting a huge diamond stud. Who pierces a freaking keloid? Gross! His companion looked like a can of Orange Crush soda; decked out in orange EVERYTHING save a white belt that was not technically in proper use as his pants were drooping around his knees (as an aside, there is a Group on Facebook that I recently joined entitled "Pull Up Your Pants! You Look Stupid!")
Austin was making the rounds still but, sadly, was mostly getting ignored by the people there who were too busy texting on their cell phones. He came back around to us, hopeful that maybe he could help us again. Mr. B asked for water and his face fell. "Sorry, sir, I cannot bring you any food or drink until you've seen the doctor".
We then saw not one, but two people being processed who were in handcuffs and ankle shackles. All righty, then (oh yes, you must pass through security to get into the ER now, just like at the airport).
There were a goodly number of people who had their blankets completely over their heads; so, if you peered around the waiting room, interspersed within the crowd, were people resembling kids dressed up in ghost costumes (minus the char coaled black eyes and gaping mouths).
Ok, so, we arrived at the ER around 4:15 pm or so. Around 5:45, Mr. B was called to go back to a "room". Not too awful a wait, considering the amount of people there (although we sure received our share of dirty looks from folks who had obviously been waiting a lot longer than we had. Well, duh. In an ER, it's not first come, first served now, is it? Go back to your texting).
I was able to go with him (both to Triage and to the "room" (which was, really, a small cubicle with a curtain but, thankfully, it was in the back of the ER)). I don't remember this from when I was in the ER five years ago; but, maybe we didn't think to ask if it was ok for Mr. B to go with me? Also, they did not appear to have any trouble with cell phones being present. There wasn't even a sign asking you to turn off the ringer, which sort of surprised me. I guess the ER doctors, PAs and nurses are hardened to sudden loud outbursts of jangling, God-awful ring tones going off as they are suturing someone up.
Anyway, a nurse, Rebbecca (or was it Rachel?) came over to take Mr. B's vitals and informed us the PA would be with us "shortly".
However, words do not have the same meaning in the ER that they do outside the ER. Similar to what Dorothy said in "The Wizard of Oz" when in Munchkin land, "My people come and go so quickly around here!", we could have opined, "My, people go away and you don't see them again for hours around here!"
And, of course, the wait seems even longer when you're freaked out about what is wrong with you or you're trying to keep your husband from seeing YOU freaked out about what's wrong with HIM. Smile in place, folks, smile in place!
Mrs. B


Analee said...

next time (hopefully there won't be a next time) try a private hospital like raleigh community. i think now it is run by duke, but it is less "popular" and their ER is more like an ER.

duke to durham is like wake med to raleigh. it is where all the nasties go. i never feel safe even in the parking lot, much less the waiting area. the lobby area (and people in there) tends to be worse than the bathroom at walmart!

anyway, rex isn't all that hot either, the ER part.

did they ever figure out what was wrong? did the meds work that he got? i hope he's feeling better.

Margot said...

I sure hope Mark is doing better now. Glad he didn't have the experience that the m-i-l of a friend had. Lady was flying from FL to Portland, OR w/a layover in Denver. She got sick on the first leg & was sent to a Denver ER. While she was lying on a gurney, someone went berserk, yanked the curtain aside & throttled her. An armed guard saved the day.
Funny on film but not in real life.