Pick up the Pace: A Hospital Interlude

When Novant took over our local hospital, they quickly rebranded everything, from making the ambulances purple to adding garishly smiling pictures of cancer patients on the elevator doors. With equal relish, Novant proceeded to take the  already middling hospital and scalpel through the budget.  Goodbye travel nurses, hello EMTs working on the overflowing ER patients. To make way for more emergent patients, Novant turned part of the waiting room into a behavioral health intake area for those not requiring physical intervention, a bit of cloth separating  the waiting room from people in acute psychological distress (because fuck HIPPA).

Everyone in the emergency department seemed in varying degrees of misery. Because K. had been advised to go to the hospital right away, her heart rate dipping into the low 30s, we were allowed in the back , only to be sat in hard chairs across from the rest room, which smelled strongly of sick. They promised K a bed as soon as possible, but a couple of trauma 2 patients came in rapid succession, so fat chance.

In one of the beds was a 90 year-old man who couldn’t urinate after a kidney stone surgery. He seemed to be waiting an extremely long time to be catheterized and his relative was justly livid. In the only recliner in the hall another old man sat with pancreatitis. Further away, a man was screaming about sitting there all night, claiming to have a brain bleed and the nurse warning him not to talk to her that way.

Just as a bed became empty, a woman in her fifties, who swallowed a bunch of oxycodone and Xanex got brought in from the ambulance. The faint memory of being on a gurney ten years ago after swallowing a bunch of Ativan surfaced. As a rule, women don’t do suicide well. I wondered what thrust her over the edge and pushed down the thought of how tidy my story would’ve been had I died that day, February 10th 2012.

When the doctor finally got to us, he thought I was the patient. I’m fatter and even when half dead, K looks better than me though she’s 16 years older. It is what it is.

K was angry that she mainly was brought to the hospital that night for liability reasons and that the cardiologist who was going to do her pacemaker “probably went home at 4:30.” When she asked to speak to the head nurse, magically an exam room was made available. This may have been coincidence, but they probably knew if a symptomatic cardiac patient with a heart rate in the 30s to 40s left and coded it would be a liability.

The exam section of the emergency department felt like a different dimension somehow to me. A marker board with patients on it had in giant letters EXPIRED by someone’s name (but hey, we got a bed), and as we passed by, a medical worker was saying “…several inches into her vagina.” It was the fragment of a conversation that I’m sure would’ve been interesting. Accidental impaling? Misadventure while trying to insert something in absence of a proper dildo? Or was it something worse?

A crazy looking fellow lay on a gurney seeming perplexed. Small world, but I’d see him the next day at the Walgreens across the road looking just as crazy and perplexed.

The cardiology PA on call came to the exam room and convinced K that she’s be taken to surgery as soon as possible the next day and it was imperative that she be admitted., So K. finally agreed. K. was permitted to eat something since she hadn’t in 12 hours. K handed me her card and I wondered if I’d ever find my way back to Exam Room 83, or even if I’d find my way to the cafe, an overpriced Panera Bread knockoff. It’s easy to get turned around in that giant hospital and I managed to both to and from the cafe. Luckily, most people who work at the hospital are nice and will help a wayward idiot on her journey. On the way, I was helped by the nicest orderly. He seemed bursting with sunshine even at 2 am and asked people on his way if they wanted anything as they camped out in the halls (probably ICU people). I was in awe of him. I’d like to think I’m a good person, but when you see the genuine article, you have to be amazed.

We wound up on the 4th floor, one of the cardiac floors in a comfortable room. I had to ask an aid how to work the fold out guest bed and I could tell she wasn’t happy though I apologized a couple times. She was the only rude person on the floor though.

It took awhile to fall asleep. K.’s monitor alarmed several times as her heart palpitated and her heart dipped down to 32. The nurse later admitted she had to turn away when that happened though K. told her it happened frequently.

Did you know you can order Domino’s contraband and they’ll bring it to the main entrance. The food has gone to shit since my sabbatical there 10 years ago, but K. doesn’t remember that part.

Sometimes, we’d make the rounds on the cardiac floor. I saw the cloroxing of a mattress for the next lucky person and once we got a “Code Red.” Apparently, folks in maternity hit the fire alarm if they smell cigarette smoke. Is it spite, genuine fear lest a molecule of a carcinogen hits their snowflake babies for a millisecond, or are idiots churning out babies? Fuck if I know! I probably inhaled all the smoke of Hades before I ever saw the light of day and look how well I turned out.