Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Scenes From An Emergency Room

Last night Donna woke me up at 2:00 AM with the words no man wants to hear. No, not, "I'm pregnant." It was-- no, it wasn't, "I told my ex-boyfriend he could crash here until he gets back on his feet." What she said was-- no, she did not say, "it's okay, it happens to all men sometimes." Would you shut up and let me finish?

What she said was, "I think I need to go to the emergency room." She was having sharp pains in her side. She guessed it might be a gall stone. It would later turn out she was right (ooh, foreshadowing! How literary of me). But before we get to that, there was the little matter of going to the worst emergency room on Earth. Okay, it's not really the worst. There's probably one in Guatemala that edges it out. But it's bad. It's called MeritCare (a.k.a. MeritScare -- 'nuff said) and I've never had a good experience there.

MeritCare was the hospital in which Macy was born. She had to go back there various times in her early life with various maladies, some accidental (like the time she fell into the fireplace) and some born from catching this bug or that. Each time we waited in a crowded room for what seemed like multiple epochs before being seen.

I remember when Macy needed stitches in her lip after a "friend" had pushed her into a table at daycare. There I am, waiting in the aforementioned crowded room with a 2-year-old screaming at the top of her lungs and bleeding profusely from a split lower lip. After 45 minutes of this, a kid, maybe seventeen, walked in, approached the desk and told the night nurse that he had pains in his stomach. He was ushered straight back. I approached the desk after the nurse returned, passing the time by constructing elaborate torture scenarios involving cheese graters, battery acid, and a pile of Now That's What I Call Music CDs. There was also something in there about the chair from A Clockwork Orange with the little eyeclamps and the complete Dane Cook movie anthology.

I got as far as, "My daughter has been bleeding all over your floor for almost an hour and you let some seventeen-year-old with a tummy ache go straight back?" before she must have seen a glint of grated cheese or Dane Cook in my eyes. Okay, that was redundant. Anyway, she suddenly decided we could go back. That was the last time I stepped foot in MeritCare's emergency room until last night.

Surprisingly, we were the only ones waiting. Shortly after Donna was ushered back several groups came in, one after the other. One man was carrying a child of maybe four who had the worst cough I have ever heard. It was like what an air conditioner might sound like if it only blew in fits and starts and had a fan blade ricocheting around inside the housing. Seriously, I think this kid had the plague. He was coughing that broken-fan cough directly into his father's face. I love me some Macy, but if she ever made that sound I would make sure she was pointed away from me at all times.

Eventually I was told I could go back to where Donna was getting all hepped-up on goofballs though an IV. She was feeling a bit better by then, though she was sleepy. I told her to doze off and I amused myself by watching a security guard, inexplicably loitering outside the neighboring room, ogle the women of the night shift as the walked by. He kept nervously picking at his fingernails and chewing them. He was making me nervous. Eventually his tic migrated from his nails to his nose. At one point he did the old scoop-and-sample. That's right: he reaped what he'd sown, tasted the fruits of his labors, sampled from the booger buffet. I am not joking. What made it even more insane is that we had made eye contact a couple of times, so he knew I could see him. Dude, you may carry a gun, but you'll always be the guy who eats his boogers to me. Still, as far as visits to the MeritCare ER go, this was the best one ever.

Eventually the doctor came in after reviewing all the test results (blood and ultrasound) and told Donna what by this time should be no surprise to anyone -- her gall bladder needs to come out. They squeezed the last bits of happy juice from the IV into her veins and sent her on her way. She has a surgical consult tomorrow, so she can expect to go under the knife soon. Okay, it's an arthoscopic knife, but still. Donna is feeling much better now and she was able to go out to dinner and open her birthday presents. Oh, did I mention today was her birthday? Happy birthday!

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