OK, for fear that people think I abandoned the task at hand, I submit another exciting episode of Kidney Wars. It takes me longer to write something than to live it! I decided to switch writing styles from Episode I, inspired by the last paragraph of Episode I. The story remains true as I recall it except for dramatic music and the like. As fond as I am of purple, I think I may go goth and do it all in black for ease of reading except for the intro. Thoughts?
Welcome to my guest appearance on ER. It is a sunny, hot day, the sort of day you expect nothing bad could happen…
Cue dramatic music…
But even on the best of days, the absolute worst can and does happen. The Patient is ambulatory when she arrives in her ghetto/trailer park style van. The van makes a noise, the loud death throes of a wild animal. No doubt even patients in a coma hear and is as effective as the blare of a siren. As the van stops, the brave patient says to the subject with her (The Patient’s mother, a smoker), “Isn’t it stupid they won’t even let someone smoke in their own car?” They both agree, yes, very stupid, Cigarette Nazis and all that…
Which brings us to a commercial break: Insert public service announcement about not smoking, one with the woman without a voice box, because those are particularly freaky. Then an antidepressant commercial that warns as a woman smiles in complete bliss, “Tell your doctor what medicines you’re on and contact your doctor if swelling and nausea appear as this may be a sign of a serious medical condition and can be fatal. Tell your doctor if you contemplate, attempt, or commit suicide.”
And now back to our show! The ambulatory patient and her mother walk in the sliding glass doors, leaving the beautiful sunshine outside, maybe forever. To the reception desk STAT!
The woman at the reception desk is a friendly woman around 60 and she asks The Patient what makes her think she has a kidney infection. “Blood in urine, fever, ache in stomach and back, and I’m weak,” says The Patient.
“Have you ever been a patient here before?”
In the background, more dramatic music, this time starting low and building to a crescendo as the receptionist mournfully says, “Sorry, then you have to fill out this form.”
The Patient says to her mother, “I thought it would be much longer, but it’s only half a page. Will you look it over to see if I did it right.” It seems the patient doesn’t trust her own judgement. Our narrator must stop and shake her head at the 32-year-old patient, but since that isn’t in the script, we must proceed.
Now the patient must find a seat to await her time in the back where all the real dramatic stuff happens on this show. They sit down, but directly behind them hidden by a grey curtain is a heavy drilling sound that puts a patient in mind of having dental work done. One can hear the Spanish-speaking workers yelling over the racket (additions to sets can’t wait until filming is over, plus we at the network wish to show ethnic diversity in our shows anyway, so it all works out in the end). The talking didn’t offend the patient, but the drilling appears to be a bit too taxing for the ailing Patient, so she decides to move.
“We can sit over there,” says The Mother, pointing to a space recently vacated by a mother and her little boy. The Patient looks and immediately rejects the idea, seeing a Diet Coke can and clear plastic cup on the side table. Everyone knows children in emergency rooms are walking Petrie dishes, and The Patient with great wisdom decides not to get near these left over articles from the child, lest his germs jump ship and hop onto the Patient. Finally, The Patient and her mother decide on a seat next to the window.
The Patient and The Subject now may make a survey of the humanity around them. Surprisingly few are here; perhaps it’s too early to cut one’s finger off or drill a hole into one’s hand at work. Perhaps later, but as it stood now, only one young man has somehow injured himself. With surprising adeptness, he jumps about with only one foot, the other injured. A woman in her fifties is rolled into the waiting room by a nurse. She has a rolling suitcase, which she makes certain the nurse puts exactly where she wants it. Eye view, right next to her, but out-of-the-way. A man in his seventies is wheeled in, speaking with a hint of curtness in his replies to his wife. They take the old man back and the wife waits behind. She strikes up a conversation with the woman in the wheelchair and the patient listens to them speak. The older woman introduces herself and the younger woman does in kind. She notices the wheelchair bound woman is cold even though it’s comfortable to The patient. The older woman puts the sweater around the younger and tells her to keep it, she has plenty in the car and at home.Then they proceed to tell each other why they are here.
“I’m trying to get into Hospice,” says the younger woman, as though knowing you have six months to live is only inconvenient and annoying. “My cancer is all over now.”
The patient listens and steals glimpses at the woman. She neither looks healthy or all that unhealthy, she just is there with her long, stringy gray hair and thin frame. Before she admits she has no family around it’s obvious.
Now the older woman tells why she’s here. “They don’t know what’s wrong with my husband. They keep running tests.”
And then the older woman is giving her phone number to the younger.
Curiouser and curiouser. The Patient wishes she was as open as the older woman, as good. Every thought worthy of being told to the audience is done by a voice-over of The Patient in a slightly echoing tone popular in these dramas. The patient has the inclination for being all good and kind and junk, but she finds her voice unequal to the task of constant open magnanimity. If she survives this ordeal, hopefully she will be of better use to others one day.