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Suburban Island

Giving Dante a Run for His Money
Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2003, 9:03 p.m.

QUESTION: What circle of hell are we visiting again?

WHAT I LEARNED: Cardboard ain't bad if it has icing on it.

image by Blake

There’s nothing like a visit to the emergency room to liven things up a bit. Monday night found us back at the hospital visiting what we thought was the ER but might well have one of the 9 circles of hell from Dante’s Inferno. People were sitting on every chair and table in the waiting room. People were sitting on the floor in the corridor. Somewhere there must have been a sign that said – give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses because they were all there. It was a bit like A Small World Ride without the music, the great costumes, the smiling faces, or even a seat to sit on. It was a bad ride – where’s Disney when you need it?

A small and beleaguered staff of hospital workers protected behind glass repeated only two phrases – sign in here or you have to wait for the nurse to call your name. It didn’t seem to matter who turned up to talk through the glass window or what their enquiry was – these two answers seemed always to suffice in the minds of those staffing the check-in desk. Also, we discovered early on that it’s good in these situations to wait until they turn on the speaker embedded in the glass window before speaking – unless you want to provide some amusing pantomime entertainment for the exhausted health care workers looking at you from the other side of the window. I also figured out pretty fast that success in getting the nurse to call your name quickly (relatively speaking) is predicated on having the doctor call in with an order for your care beforehand. If you just turn up in the waiting room without such a call to underline your need, you could well find yourself drinking bad coffee and purchasing pastries that taste like sugared cardboard for an entire evening with no relief in sight, the only TV in the joint tuned to a perpetual restatement of the news, and the monotony relieved only when the burly security guard catches someone using a cell phone and makes them turn it off.

My husband was having some complications from his surgery and did have his doctor call in for him and did eventually get the nurse to call his name. His reward was to lie on a gurney for 5 hours in what appeared to be an auxiliary ER until he could be wheeled back to the real ER to talk to a doctor for less than 3 minutes and eventually be sent home as fixed up as can be expected. At least he got a place to rest while he waited for his moment in the sun. I had to sit in the waiting room with the sick and unhappy masses until I was finally allowed to proceed back to see him. Then I got to stand back there with him until even the waiting room seating didn’t seem such a bad idea anymore. Okay, he did have a lady next to him passing a kidney stone and then a screaming baby with a fever but I still contend it was better than listening to the kidney stone lady and the feverish infant while standing and standing and standing some more while trying to project a steady outpouring of compassion and concern.

At 3:30 AM we left the Emergency Room for home. I was glad to get to bed and put my head on the pillow just before 4 AM. I had a full day of work ahead of me and could only hope that a brisk shower and a big cup of coffee would sustain me through my commute and daily labors. Strangely, I felt pretty good all day. Maybe it was the coffee or escaping the rings of hell with only a few hours of diligent standing on my feet all night.

And my husband – he’s still recuperating but doing much better. I know he’s on the mend because he recited a list of chores for me to address today. And to show him what a good sport I am and how much I am invested in his health and happiness, I actually knocked out a few of them. Now if that’s not lovin’ then I don’t know what is.

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