As The Head Spins

AS promised.  I  can’t tell you how much fun we’ve been having lately.   I really can’t.

The Partner has a painful, chronic, and apparently undiagnosable “project”, as we say in Jin Shin Jyutsu, instead of saying problem, or disease.   Since we have no health insurance, this most recent episode forced us to go to the County Hospital Emergency Room.  With modest hopes of pain, nausea and vomiting, sleeplessness and other issue relief.    I used to work in an Emergency Room, and I am not naive about what they are like, and what their purpose is.   However, Gentle Readers, I confess I was beyond flabbergasted, beyond stunned, beyond offended and outraged, just….BEYOND THE BEYOND at what I beheld and endured there.

Firstly…well, what is the firstly?  I found it quite fascinating that they were quite willing, nay even eager, to give out as much morphine as anyone wanted.  Seriously.  The Partner is allergic to opiates, however, so for him, out of the question.  It’s always fun to tell a doctor you are seriously allergic to something, and have them say, what happens? Well, an allergic reaction, Doctor. Or Nurse. Or Whoever.  You know, LIFE THREATENING ANAPHYLACTIC SHOCK?  ‘MEMBA THAT FROM MED SCHOOL? Ahem.  Excuse me.  So then they are not terribly interested in you.  Granted they can cross “Just for the drugs”  off their list of reasons why you’re there.  But then it’s a problem for them.  What to give you.  So, just as an aside here, I sat there thinking, hmmmm.  Morphine.  Opiates.  Afghanistan is the largest producer of opium in the world right now.  Pharmaceutical companies benefiting from the War on Terror? Maybe?   Because I was truly astounded at how loaded they got every single person around us.  But, onward.

So, there we are, Day One.  At the so-called “Triage”, where first you meet a Latino Guy who barks at you to stay behind the line while he asks you questions.  But of course he can’t HEAR you from behind the line so you have to step forward and he barks at you and…you get the picture.  Then, on to either the guy with two hearing aids or the woman who is cruising the music downloads on the hospital computer to get your temperature and blood pressure taken.  Then, after a wait whose length there is no way of knowing, on to the person next to Mr. Hearing Aid or Ms. Music, who is supposed to figure out where you should go.  The “Triage Nurse”.  After that, again time being the unknowable quantity, you get to go the the REALLY charming administrative people who set you up for the major screwjob  billing portion. It’s really fun, because they call your name, see you react and walk toward them, then they say: What’s your name?  The first day we were there for over four hours.  After which time, because the Partner looked as though he were about to die, I went up and asked where he was on the “list” to get into the actual treatment area.  He was number seven.  Out of a roomful of people, none of whom were in any acute distress to judge by the potato chip munching, walking around, laughing and general drollery going on.  This meant, functionally, that it would be at least another four hours before he even got SEEN.  Then another five to seven after that.   I took him home where a long, long horrible night passed and then, hooo boy, there we were back at  Fun Central at 6:20 a.m., vomiting in front of the Cambodian dentist’s office on the way for extra fun.

Well.  Shift change at 7 am so they just couldn’t do anything.  Go through the whole “Triage Nurse” thing again although it was all theoretically in the computer.  Although perhaps it got mixed up with the downloaded music?  I handed the “Triage Nurse” the paperwork from the day before, there was some conversation of the general eff you eff off  if you’re in here you’re dog doo variety that transpires in that room from the “Triage” staff, and Then She Said, huffily, Well, I’m sorry you had a bad experience yesterday.  You should have stayed.  We were busy.   The whole tone, the whole everything, the lack of sleep and worry and all of it..well, Gentle Readers, I was polite but I was not Nice.  I said, Please.  You don’t give a S— about what happened to us.  Can you just do your job today?  I realize there are ambulances coming in the back but at least put him ahead of the people with the hurt finger today, OK?  Perhaps vomiting all over your floor isn’t as important as the undocumented individual’s arm in a sling from the weekend’s revelry but nonethless.  So, we sit down.  Then, on to administration, where this time? The young woman would only allow the Partner in.  Well, he was too sick to talk and could barely articulate his name, which I told her, but she stuck firmly to Trollop Mode.  OK.  So, I find a seat and within moments she’s calling me in, because, Jeez, he can’t answer the questions. Fine. She asks me some things, I answer, and then she says, in this astonishingly snotty way- I thought for a moment I was back in Junior High- I don’t need you here now.  Strangely enough, I said, I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU NEED. YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH I DON’T CARE. So, that went well.

Moving along some interminable time later, they actually call The Partner’s name to go into the bowels of the treatment area.  Which turns out to be something like Hitler’s Bunker, but who knew?  So, fine.  He can’t stand by himself, we totter over, and they say to me, Oh, No, YOU can’t come back here.  This is the first, and only, emergency room I’ve ever been in where that happens.  So they took him.  Not surprisingly, some time later an actual ER Nurse comes striding out looking for me.  You have some medical documents? he said in a cross between a bark and a psychotic croon.  Patient can’t remember blah, and blah, and blah.  So, I explained it all to him in proper English for the umptieth time, and asked when I could see The Partner.  This is where it went completely sideways.  When it’s appropriate! he barked.  Achtung baby!  I said.  I don’t appreciate your tone, especially seeing as how I am an Actual Taxpayer.  I need to see him.  I need to know what you’re doing to him.  This is unacceptable.  Go get some coffee, he said, backing off and narrowing his eyes at me.  We’ll call you.  But of course if I’m where the coffee is, I can’t hear them if they call me.   So, after sitting in the room with a locked bathroom,one drunk in a coonskin hat, another- female- with acites wheeling around a stroller in for a “pregnancy checkup”, a woman wearing a tshirt saying “YOU KNOW I’M NO GOOD” who gets wheeled in by paramedics, then moments later jumps up, hitches her britches up (thank GOD) and dances right on outta there, and various and sundry other members of a seething and roiling sea of irretrievable damage, and after practicing letting go and sending a prayer for all to enjoy the root of happiness, even those I currently wish to KILL,  I go outside to call my client and explain why I won’t be there today, and my elderly mother who is all alone all week which is not the ideal scenario.  Then, I do the mature thing.  I burst into tears.

At that point, as fate would have it, the Hospital Chaplain was outside, heard me, and got it handled.  She is a wonderful person and they are lucky to have her. She also, apparently, straightened the nurse out because he was eventually very nice.   It turned out, of course, to be a good thing, because as I arrived the Doctors didn’t know what meds to give him and were about to do the anaphylactic shock rag again.  Also, when someone on the next gurney got up and walked out, I was able to tell them what happened and get them to stop looking in cupboards.  Meanwhile, ten hours, multiple gunshot wounds and an expensive scan later, guess what?  In essence, they said: Your tests are all normal so there’s something Wrong With You.  And sent us home with a prescription for motrin.  I am not even kidding.  I asked for some Ativan, which helps, and they said, oh, gee, no, that concerns us.  It’s addictive you know.  Unlike, say, Vicodin.   Or Morphine.  So we are just where we were, and maybe even worse.

For all of you who question the necessity for health care reform?  WAKE UP RIGHT NOW.  The cost of the way things are being done now, both in money and in human woe, is insupportable.  Nobody is getting what they need unless they have an awful lot of money or an extremely good job.  But heck, the morphine is flowing at the bottom.

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9 responses to this post.

  1. That’s really a shame. Hopefully the Partner will have time to recover somewhat over the weekend. I find watching movies like Casablanca, To Have and Have Not, The African Queen or really anything with Humphrey Bogart to have amazing healing properties.

    The American Healthcare System is purportedly the best in the world. Of course those who harp its merits are highly paid, and therefore completely objective.

    Doctors, to be fair, are not qualified to cure diseases. Which may seem counterintuitive at first until you realise they are actually only qualified to either :
    a) Pump you full of drugs or…
    b) Scratch their heads and cut off a piece of your flesh if option “a” fails or…
    c) Scratch their heads and call next of kin when options “a” and “b” invariably fails.

    That’s pretty much all they’re trained to do and, from the first lesson in med school, encouraged to do. “Curing” someone, and even the word itself, is actually considered taboo by not only the medical industry, but the FDA as well. And that’s because (I’m not making this up) cures don’t exist.

    It’s true. You can’t cure someone of any illness these days because there’s no such thing as a cure. There are only “treatments” which can vary from a bottle of Asprin or Motrin marked up x1000 times from its original over-the-counter value to a “take a nap” verbal treatment. They apply this treatment as often as necessary and for as long as necessary until symptoms become bareable enough for you to ignore them.

    Of course, this is slightly different, as you mentioned, if patient is wealthy or well connected career-wise. That’s because bad press is directly proportional to improvement in care. And they can milk the rich guy for all he’s got to buy all that Motrin.

    If this all seems pretty strange, then consider….
    The last disease, they’ve “cured” was Smallpox back in the 70’s. And they’ve managed to bring down the Polio count to far smaller levels than it used to be.

    Since then, the medical industry has been hijacked by the drug industry. Doctors go to seminars setup by drug companies that offer them huge incentives to prescribe their latest toxic concoction marketed under an oh-so innocent sounding brand name created by a dedicated PR department.

    And as for nurses, the sad thing is that there are quite a few that truly do care about what they do and are dedicated to doing the best job they can. Doctors as well.

    But most are disappointed that they don’t have patients that fall in love with them. Others are disappointed that they’re over worked with rubbish (patients that aren’t really patients) and disappointed that doctors don’t care either way as long as they get their bonus from the drug company. And disappointed that those who came before them are too disappointed themselves to pay attention to their disappointments. Still others are disappointed at this level of compounded disappointment so early in their career.

    Of course, all that disappointment is prime fertile ground to ensue they themselves enter the hospital as patients some time in the future.

    It’s all a bit like in the movie The Matrix, where the dead are intravenously fed to the living.

    While thinking of a solution to all this, I’m reminded of a line from Henry IV by Shakespeare.

    The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers

    Who knows. It could also work for the drug and insurance industry.

    Reply

    • Oops, scratch that… It was Henry VI.

      Eh, the last thing I wanted to do was bring up “IV” considering the hospital trip and all 😦

      Reply

      • Again, you made Boozilla laugh.( Me too.) IV! HAHAHAHA. Really.
        And I am Quite Fond of that quote, even if my closest friend IS a lawyer. So very many things to insert there, too. Doctor, ISP, Bank…goodness. Almost endless. Today’s winning contestant so far is the annoying prattle one hears on the phone when on hold that goes like: we’re helping another valued customer JUST LIKE YOU right now so stay on the line and after you push a few more buttons and waste another half hour and have the interim music memorized? We’ll tell you we can’t
        help you! Cheerio.
        I’m hoping there’s some Bogart on TCM. For my part, I think I’m ready to go Back To Bond. James Bond.
        I also am VERY grateful, if that’s the word, for the cogency of your comment. Your insight into the nature of disappointment is accurate indeed. Having worked in hospitals and Residency Programs, I can attest to the truth of it. So, I continue to wonder, apparently because I am thick headed, why there is such tremendous aversion, in fact, to the truth. But. Nils Desperendum. Right.

  2. Hey, you’re welcome! Glad that brought some levity to the situation.

    I had my own little chance to observe this phenomenon during my own little trip to the ER. And of the nurses, there were a couple in particular who were very caring and understanding. Unfortunately they were surrounded by borg drones. I was lucky to have a doctor who cared as well.

    But in my case, I thought my heart blew up at 95Mph. Luckily, it was just a flat tire.

    It was a bit strange looking around and seeing all those people twice my age in surrounding beds. And they in turn were looking at me probably thinking I was high on coke or something. Well, technically they were right, but it was of the softdrink variety.

    Reply

    • It really DID help. AND: Holy cromoly. Was this recently? Are you OK? Do be careful.( And watch that coke. That stuff’ll kill you. (ha, ha.)) I think the deal with ERs is that in general, people who work in them- er- Thrive on Adrenaline, let’s say. So when they get tired from pulling double shifts, everything is just no fun for anyone. But there are indeed many who work in them who are, truly, devoted to service.

      Reply

      • Oh yes, this was about three years ago. I still occasionally take Asprin if I start feeling funny just as a precation.

        There was a lunch party at the office (including spaghetti and meatballs). After I got home, I thought maybe it didn’t agree with me. Lo and behold, that same night everything started going wrong. I felt dizzy, my chest hurt and I had trouble breathing.

        That ER visit turned out to be 7 days long because they couldn’t find out what what was wrong at first (shocking!). But it turned out to be pericarditis due to a possible viral infection. “Possible” because they never did find out if it truly was caused by a virus.

        I also found out I have low blood pressure. I should watch more infuriating videos on YouTube.

        The funny thing is that the boss was really upset.
        He was like “I’m so sorry I almost killed you!” 😛

        Moral of the story:
        What doesn’t kill us, makes us cynical… Probably stronger as well, if not more nervous. And more than likely cost an arm or a leg.

      • Ah, Nietszche. My old friend. I’ve been thinking about that very thing lately. I suppose you should count yourself lucky they didn’t manage to kill or somehow maim you in those seven days, really. I also have low blood pressure, which normally is a good thing, especially considering…well, everything. But that does not sound at all pleasant. Thank goodness it ended well, in any event. That had to be very scary. ( I suppose you avoid meatballs now? Just to be prudent?)

      • Oh yes, I’ve now switched to full time bacon. 😉

        Honestly, I’ve actually cut down on meat altogether. It never occured to me just how much diet affects the body.

        Hope the Partner is sticking to the basics as well. It’s time to tone down on sweets and meats if he hasn’t already.

        Did you find out what was wrong?

      • We actually eat an extremely healthy diet. Organic. Vegetables. All home made. Etc. Lots of vegetarian stuff, actually. I do make desserts of course: I MEAN REALLY. You cannot live without…chocolate….caramel figs…..chocolate caramel souffles…etc. Chocolate gelato. Goodness. Must need chocolate.
        No, we haven’t “found out” what is wrong with him because the tests they conduct relate to non-functional problems. If it isn’t a germ or something identified as a germ, it doesn’t exist. Which stands in contrast to centuries of herbal medicine & bodily energetics but there it is. So we are still tippy toeing very lightly. Thank you for asking. And you know? Bacon is wonderful stuff. In moderation, of course. I’m hungry, is what it is. Tonight it is tofu. Ah, well. We dream of bacon.

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