It all started late Tuesday night. Mr. T. started complaining that he might have wrenched his back, or…it might be kidney stones. I gulped at hearing the latter. He’s had three during our marriage lifetime and each time, let’s just say, it’s not pretty. I am going to make a sweeping stereotypical generalization here, and while I know that, I own it. Men are lousy patients. I’ve said more than once that I think they’d die from childbirth if birthing children was an option for them. Low pain thresholds and kidney stones do not mix. As we headed into the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the moaning and groaning accelerated, and a trip to the ER looked inevitable.
After I dropped our daughter off at school I headed back home to pick up the hubby. We took off in pursuit of some healthcare expertise, and immediately the sounds next to me had me thinking I was traversing washboard crossings and rained-out gullies like the kinds we remember Pa navigating in his wagon on Little House on the Prairie. With any slight dip or turn I encountered on the smoothly paved road there was a corresponding moan or groan. It was painful for me, but not in a physical way.
Acutely conscious of health care costs, we believed Mr. T could get treatment at our health care system’s prompt care facility, thus saving the system and keeping our out-of-pocket expenses below the $1 trillion mark. Wrong. No scanner, no care for kidney stones! So off to the ER in my wagon/car.
We arrived at our suburban ER at 8 a.m. I checked him in as he paced slowly in the waiting area. Think old, bent over, slowly shuffling man who isn’t really that old, and he’s 6’4” so even bent he’s still looming tall. Anyway, it was an agonizing site. Luckily, he’d paced less than 100 feet when he was called back by Nurse Nice. Can I just say that from the receptionist to the doctor, from the ultrasound tech to the security guard, the hospital staff was courteous, friendly and genuinely seemed like they enjoyed working there. I found that refreshing, and a welcomed diversion.
As I perched myself in the waiting room, all indications pointed to a quiet morning in the ER, until it wasn’t. Bursting from the treatment area doors came a skinny, 20-ish kid dropping the F*bomb every other word as he was escorted by two security guards. In tow, was the young baby mama who had a baby in a carrier and was trailed by a two-year-old. She was demanding he be treated, and he was yelling and spewing all kinds of profanity about how he wasn’t going to let them, referring to previous visits and how he’d been treated. It was clear they were making him leave. He was holding his arm against him, so something was wrong. I’ll never know, but I could guess. All I know was that I felt trapped between them and the door, as I sat in an alcove about 10 feet from them. I was stuck and feeling increasingly uncomfortable and uneasy about where this was going. I needed more coffee, stat.
Finally, the beefy security guards forcefully guided them outside. The baby mama was declaring that she’d sue the hospital for not treating him, and the dude was calling 911 to get the cops there. That confused me. Their scuffle and profanity continued directly outside the door so I asked to go back to the treatment room and see Mr. T, feeling like it might be safer and less eventful.
I’m escorted back to the ER rooms and right outside Mr. T’s room is a man on a gurney in the hallway, snoring loudly. My first thought is that the last place I ever want to be is in an ER hallway on a gurney, asleep.
I chat with the nurse about the waiting room scuffles and she confirms they’d been screaming back here before being escorted out. As she puts it, “It’s just another Wednesday.”
Shortly after arriving in Mr. T’s room, the overhead page calls a Code Grey five minutes out from the ER. I, of course, ask the nurse what that means and she informs me it’s an out-of-control patient. She says they must be in an incoming ambulance. And it’s only 8:30. At about that same time, I hear another nurse asking the snoring man to sign off on something required by the police. She communicates to another medical professional that he had logged 150 visits at this ER. Wowzer.
Five minutes pass and another overhead page comes over the intercom, declaring a Code Grey in Treatment Room 10. Um, we’re in Room 5, so I’m thinking the waiting room is calling me. Mr. T helped my decision-making by demanding I leave while they conduct an ultrasound. I guess them pushing and prodding around the junk was not something he wanted me to be a part of.
I head home to my own waiting living room since it was going to be an hour or two. On my way out I pass the snoring, hallway man sleeping it off, the Code Grey room and the previously volatile waiting room. I guess it’s just another morning in a suburban ER.