Friday, June 16, 2006

Fun and Games with Bon and Mal - Hospital Follies, Part 1

No, this is not a puzzle page.

I suppose, to complete the recent series on our experiences with the local health care system, I should detail my own trip through the digestive tract of the hospital. This will probably bore most everyone, so you may feel free, in good conscience, to skip this entry.

Wednesday, April 19th, began as any other day, except for the fact that my left leg, from hip to ankle, was in agony. I had not been able to sleep for more than a few minutes at a time since Saturday afternoon, when the inflammation had first manifested itself. On the occasions when I had to leave the bed, I was able to be on my feet for bare minutes at a time before the muscles in my leg would vigorously protest and force me to lie down again.

The refrigerator was almost empty. I knew that I had to take some action, because I had no idea how long the inflammation might last. The only action left to me was to have us both admitted to the hospital, to allow Bonnie to receive the treatment that she so desperately needed, and to ameliorate my own suffering. I took two Oxycontin that I had been saving for an emergency and, after waiting for most of the morning traffic to leave the neighborhood, which would have been around 10:00 AM, called 911.

In a short time help arrived, and here I wish to publicly thank the EMTs assigned to Ambulance 3759 of Penfield and the officers assigned to Medic 36 for a masterful job of coaxing Bonnie into leaving the house. It could not have been easy for them, although I have no way of knowing, as I was already in the ambulance. In due course, Bonnie and I were on the way to Strong Memorial, she on the gurney and I stretched out on the small side bench. It was a memorable ride, and I gained a full appreciation of what a grueling job EMTs have, although they handle it with aplomb and make it seem incredibly easy.

We arrived at the hospital’s northern Emergency entrance at around 11:15 AM. As I exited the ambulance, I observed with no small sense of irony that it was located directly across the street from the southern boundary of Mt. Hope Cemetery. A small dilemma quickly presented itself as the EMTs realized that they had no transportation for me, and they could not leave the ambulance unattended with a patient inside. I suggested that they procure a wheelchair for me, and they went one better, bringing from Emergency a regular hospital bed so that I would not have to be moved too often. Bonnie and I were wheeled down a short passageway to a crossroads, where the admissions desk and security station were located.

As in previous episodes, Bonnie was unable to supply the information necessary for admittance, so I proceeded to answer all the questions for both of us. After we had received our ID bracelets (red for mental health), Bonnie was wheeled down the eastern passage to the elevator leading to the preliminary ward, and I was taken down a southern corridor to an emergency cubicle.

I thanked the EMT for his solicitude as he left and, thinking that I was here to stay, placed my cane in a corner of the small room and settled in to watch the tv that was mounted near the ceiling. Before many minutes had passed, an aide who was apparently in charge of this portion of Emergency entered and began to wheel me out again. Evidently this area was not for patients who were undergoing mental health problems, and I was to be taken elsewhere. I explained to the woman that she had removed me so quickly that I had been unable to retrieve my cane, and if she would, to please return to the cubicle and secure it for me. She murmured some words that were meant to be reassuring, but somehow did nothing to allay my anxiety. When we reached the admissions desk, the aide returned to her charges and I was left to answer a few more questions. To be on the safe side, I mentioned to the woman presiding over Admissions that my cane was back in the cubicle and I would feel more secure if it was safe with me. I received more soothing words and was wheeled west into the main area of Emergency and positioned against a cabinet in which were stored gowns, sheets, blankets and pillows, it apparently being the only space in the corridor that was vacant. This became annoying, as members of the maintenance staff were forced to frequently move my bed in order to access the contents of the cabinet.

I was also located directly across from the main Emergency station, and in those periods when I was awake and lucid, was able to witness the comings and goings of the various medical personnel. A Xerox machine was directly in front of the station, placed so as to allow the EMTs to duplicate whatever forms were necessary to complete their jobs. To my delight and relief, the Penfield EMT who had first brought me in availed himself of the copier, and I implored him to please bring me my cane, as none of the hospital staff had heeded my pleas. He smiled and agreed, and shortly I was reunited with my third leg.

The medication that I had taken was still exerting its effects, and I began to drift in and out of slumber, finally being able to relax and succumbing to the exhaustion that I had been experiencing since Saturday. During the afternoon, I was awoken at various times by the question "Mr. Mott?" and I was required to answer yet more questions and undergo examinations of my feet and legs. Blood work was done, and some small instrument was used to determine the circulatory capabilities of my toes and left leg. This required me to remove my jeans and submit to a gel being spread from groin to ankle, an uncomfortable proposition. A doctor and his assistant spent some time in discussions as to where the best place to access the pulse in feet may be located. I absorbed all of this with as much interest as I could muster, and as much as my condition allowed.

At some time in midafternoon, as a likeable and forceful doctor was completing yet another inspection, one of the transport staff arrived and began to wheel me away. The doctor remonstrated, and the staff member explained that I was required to undergo X-rays. In somewhat of a huff, the doctor said to me "You will see me again." I never did.

I was taken on a ride through the twists and turns of many corridors; I could still, if necessary, delineate my exact route. I was taken through a set of doors leading into the X-ray department. My attendant announced my arrival, delivered my records unto the desk, and wheeled me into a holding area, explaining that someone would be with me shortly. Some mixup must have occurred somewhere, for after what seemed to be about a ten-minute wait, a member of the X-ray transport team, clutching my folder beneath her arm, wheeled me all the way back to Emergency. Hilarity ensued as my two transport attendants held a lengthy discussion about where I was supposed to be and why. Sometime during this amusing conversation, I drifted off.

I was awakened by movement, and discovered myself to be in the process of being transferred back to X-ray, where a couple of tests were finally conducted. After the tests, oddly enough, although I had not so far been administered any kind of pain relief, the agony had ameliorated far enough for me to once again fall asleep. I drowsed my way back to Emergency and managed to sleep for another hour or so before I was for a third time taken on a thrilling ride through the corridors, this time arriving at a door directly across from that leading to X-ray. This door led to the wonderful world of CAT scans. (You might have thought that a lot of time and energy could have been saved by leaving me in that general area until all the tests were complete. You would, of course, have been wrong. That is not how the health care system operates.)

This seems to be turning into a rather lengthy expose, so I’ll break it off here and continue in the next post.

Until then,


1 comment:

sunnyside46 said...

what a story. nothing is easy, is it? Hey, all you can do is laugh....