Adventures in ER Land

Just when everything seemed to be fine….

Today was a dialysis day, so I knew I had time to go to Lowe’s to pick up a few more things for the contractor for tomorrow before I headed to Southwind to meet Dad for supper. I shopped for shower faucets, a medicine cabinet, and new light fixtures. Drove a mile or so to Southwind, parked the truck, walked into Dad’s room, and expected to see him tired and perhaps sleeping.

Instead, he was lying in bed, eyes open and staring at the ceiling, and mouth open. I took a deep breath and sat down on the edge of the bed, holding his hand. “Dad? Dad?” No response. I reached up and touched his face, called his name– still nothing. I got up, bent over him and cupped his face in both my hands, turning his face toward me. “Dad? Do you know me? Do you know who I am?” Once again, no response.

After five minutes or so, he responded a bit, though it seemed as if he were trying to talk and couldn’t. Slowly–and I have no idea how long this took– he spoke a bit in response, saying he knew me. The phone rang, and I answered. Our friend Billie wanted to talk to him, and after I filled her in and held the phone to his ear. He answered her questions slowly.

When she hung up, I put the phone down and told Dad I would be right back. At the nurses’ station, I quickly told the nurse what was up and asked her whether anyone had noticed or remarked on Dad’s condition. Yes, she said– they’d noticed his confusion upon his return from dialysis. Oh, and had the dialysis clinic told me that he had an abscess? They had started him on Vancomycin there, sent himback to Southwind with a prescription for another antibiotic, and made an appointment with Dad’s surgeon for the abcessed graft–for Thursday morning.

The nurse came back to Dad’s room, checked his oxygen saturation level, took his blood pressure, and took his temperature. Sat level: up to 94 from the previous check. BP: fine. Temperature: 101.5!

NOT fine. From previous experience,we have come to know that by the time Dad registers a fever, the infection has really been in the graft for quite a while.  After calling his doctor and talking to her partner, who was on call tonight, the staff watched Dad for an hour. Nothing changed, and as the doctor had directed, they sent Dad to ER to be admitted.

And thus began tonight’s adventures in ER-land.

First of all, it was packed. A full house. I could hear two (two and a half?) languages: Spanish, English, and Cajun English. Two hours later, I was still waiting. Yet more people had turned up.

I sat next to a man who had brought his mother or mother-in-law in. He was from somewhere near Kaplan, and his accent was markedly Cajun, but easy for me to understand. He told me a lot about her troubles, indicating that she had had some previous strokes. He sat next to a small white-haired elderly woman in a wheelchair. She never said anything as he talked.

A young Hispanic couple checked in as I was finally called up to sign some paperwork. I could hear the admitting clerk ask for their ID, their Social Security cards (they didn’t have any). But their child had one–though the mother didn’t know the number. The admitting clerk explained about billing. The young mother asked something about their insurance, and the clerk said that the policy was for the patient/family to pay the bill and then submit the paperwork to the insurance company for reimbursement. The young couple sat down and began filling out lots of paperwork.

In the meantime, three women came in–one a silver-haired woman in bloodied white slacks and a Walk for the Cure t-shirt, also bloodied. A blue washcloth sat on top of her head.  After a while, two more women and a man joined them.

Another guy in the ER recognized him and as they talked, it was clear that he had recently left law enforcement. They chatted.

While all this was going on, a young boy kept popping the door open from ER itself–he was perhaps 4 or 5 and had a neck brace on.

The former  law enforcement officer talked to the clerk, whom he clearly knew, then came back and told us that there had been a wreck involving at least six people, a lot of them little children.

By this time, we were all talking. The mother had fallen and cut her head. Two of the women were her daughters; one was a daughter-in-law; one was a granddaughter.

People began pouring out of the ER–maybe 8 adults and children, talking Spanish and English. I didn’t see the little boy with the neck brace.

Then another man came out, leaving with the man who’d been talking to the law enforcement guy. Oh, and that law enforcement guy had a little glitter on his forehead–not surprising since he wore a t-shirt advertising a local flower shop, and it’s just a few days after Mardi Gras. The family store? Probably, since part of their conversation seemed to be about what products they had switched to for netting.

The ER was so full at one point that a woman sat in the corridor outside the ER waiting room. The security guard went over to her twice, telling her she wasn’t supposed to sit there. Another woman, holding an infant, joined her. The young woman finally got up, arranged her purse and a blanket, and moved to the other waiting room, never saying a word.

Finally I was allowed into the ER area itself, where I joined my dad. Happily, he was much more alert. He asked how I had found him, and when I told him that I had followed the ambulance and been with him, he was surprised. Didn’t remember anything.

At least two people at different times went in to the cubicle next to ours and talked to a man there; that man has gone.

I heard a young woman asking when she was going to see anyone, and whether she could just leave. Someone finally saw her, I guess.

I think I heard the older woman who fell and cut her head. I think she is gone too.

One nurse came in over an hour ago and took Dad’s temperature. No one has been in our cubicle since then. It is now just after 11pm, and I have been here with Dad since 9:45. The guy in the next cubicle is still here after all–now he’s talking to a nurse.

Dad is sleeping. I am typing.

The ER is still full, despite the car accident crew having cleared out.

I can hear the Cajun man at times, so they’re now in here too.

And the lady who fell and cut her head is still here too.

But each of us is curtained off –providing an illusion of privacy. And it’s quieter now.

The ER is full.

The shift is changing.

The moon isn’t full tonight, either.

And still I sit. Dad’s still sleeping–I wish I could!

Maybe we’ll get a room at some point tonight.

In the meantime, I guess I will eat the cold cheeseburger I thought to buy on my way here.

P.S. : at 11:30,they finally took a chest x-ray and ran an EKG. A med tech drew blood about ten minutes ago.

And I was admonished about the cheeseburger. I violated some policy, apparently. So the unbeaten half is wrapped up and shoved back in its bag with the cold French fries. I refused to throw them away.

At the rate we’re going here, we might not have a room before morning anyway.

I’ll finish the burger for breakfast.

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