I had to take my son to the emergency room the other day. Now, we all know how an emergency room is supposed to operate. An ambulance brings patients fighting for their lives. Nurses and other staff members rush to the stretcher. Doors swing open as some members apply oxygen to the patient, some put an intravenous drip to his or her arm, others clear the way, while some give support to the family members that traveled in the ambulance. Operation theater is ready with still more nurses and many doctors.
The lead doctor takes over, asks for a scalpel while he administered anesthesia. Then they all dig into the patient. The doctor operates, as one nurse hands him different tools, while the other wipes sweat off his forehead. Soon there is a smile, and everyone starts clapping as the doctor finds what was causing all that trouble to the patient and removes it. Another life saved, another miracle performed — all in a day’s work.
That’s what we see on T.V. every day. Emergency rooms are full of guardian angels standing between life and death. Our last hope—nay our only hope—when something tragic happens. Full of professionals working very hard and working way, way over time, to save the lives of our loved ones.
When we walked in with our son, we saw a waiting room full of other people in dire need of assistance with their aches and pains, with their emergencies and traumas. Only staff member present was the receptionist behind a glass window, like a bank teller, who pointed to a wall full of clipboards behind us. We first had to fill some forms.
We found a couple of empty chairs. My son took one, his mother took the other, while I stood next to her to assist. My daughter, who for the first time in her life showed a soft spot for her brother when she insisted on accompanying us, despite our advice that it was going to be a long night, started to complain about, well, everything. She was turning out to be more and more like her mother every day.
Once we turned the forms in, we were told to take a seat and wait. Wait, we did! Oh, boy, did we wait!
What I learned—something that will amaze you, I am sure—that there is no such thing as an emergency in the emergency room. There were people already waiting there, some in much worse shape than our son, and all looking towards the two doors that led to the inside of the hospital, hoping for someone to come out and call their name. Some were holding their heads in their hands; others were holding blankets that covered them, while our son was holding his cell phone tight—he had to Instagram the crap out of his experience.
One lady was brought in by an ambulance. No one rushed to help her. The ambulance crew dumped her in the same waiting room with us. It looked like she needed to lie down, but there were no chairs big enough to do that. Only chairs available were made of stone, and when one became available for me to sit in, within minutes my butt was asleep, my thighs were tingling, my legs were starting to become inflamed, and my feet went numb.
There was a two-seater under the T.V., occupied by one rather happy individual. When her name was called, my son hobbled quickly to jump in and stretch himself across to prevent that old lady from taking it. I have never seen him move so fast since the day he was born. His mom announced, rather aggressively, “that is for my son, my son needs to lie down.” He did. He can play his game on the cellphone much better when he is lying down.
Another ambulance brought a young man in a wheelchair and positioned him next to the receptionist. He was told that soon they’d come to take his x-rays. Hours passed, and no one came by, not even to check his pulse to see if he was still alive, let alone take any x-rays. Another man came in, also in a wheelchair. He kept asking for help and kept saying that if they cannot attend to him quickly, he was going to leave. There was one couple that kept asking for attention, as well. They were told that the doctor was doing a procedure and won’t be available for a while.
Both parties left after another hour or so of waiting.
It seemed the emergency room was shorthanded. I could understand that part. Businesses usually go through staff shortages, and an emergency room is a business just like any other. What I couldn’t understand though, nobody was complaining about the wait, other than that guy in the wheelchair, of course. At my business, people start complaining after ten minutes and start demanding their money back after another ten minutes. I didn’t see that kind of nastiness there that I usually see at my place.
A few names were called. A nurse interviewed our son and told him to wait again. More people came in. I could swear that at that time of the night, there were individuals that looked like from another dimension, or another planet, at the very least. Zombies were invading the emergency room, but since no one was paying any attention, they couldn’t do much, besides sit and wait. We kept shifting our chairs until we all could sit together next to one another. The bathroom was rather clean when we got there, but it kept getting worst and worst as the night progressed.
There was a lady who cleaned the floors a few times but didn’t wipe any of the chairs where all the sick people were sitting. I must have changed my chair about ten times, and by the time our son’s name was called, I must have picked up quite a cornucopia of germs.
The person who helped him was not a doctor; it was a nurse-practitioner. That is the answer from the medical profession to the insurance companies. While insurance companies mostly set the rates that doctors can charge to their members, doctors have promoted their nurses to the level of a practitioner. Honestly, maybe nurse-practitioners are probably the receptionists who have seen enough patients with routine problems that they can diagnose the majority of the cases.
They don’t even need a formal education. A nurse-practitioner is slightly above a mom. Only she doesn’t have a certificate to show for it.
Some doctors don’t even see new patients anymore. A nurse-practitioner must see all new patients, and once she or he refers a patient to be seen by the doctor, only then will the doctor take that case. Only then will the doctor be able to charge according to the juiciness of the case.
Our son needed two stitches. It is truly a sad story as to how he hurt himself. He was swimming in the community pool with his brother but had forgotten to take the key with him. When all other pool-goers left, they both got locked in. The smartest thing they could think of was to jump the fence. They could have asked someone for help; the manager only lived 100 feet away, but they decided to climb over the fence.
As all tragedies are made, this son of mine decided to use the trashcan on the other side of the wall as his landing pad. Of course, the trashcan did not like the idea and decided to move before my son could put his full weight on him. As my son fell, the spike went through his thigh. His wound had to be stitched, and he needed to get a tetanus shot, as his mother insisted.
We were back home after six and a half hours in the emergency room. My wife and I both had to take the day off because we didn’t get to sleep until after four in the morning. My son and daughter didn’t care because they are both off from school for the summer. I woke up the next day with a fever and a runny nose, which turned into a full-blown plague in the next couple of days. I had to ask my wife to take me back to that emergency room. I wanted to put all the germs back that the emergency room had so kindly given to me as a gift.
The worst part of our visit to the emergency room is the fact that my son’s uncles are upset with him. He couldn’t even jump a tiny, little fence; they are saying, while they had jumped bigger. Well, let’s leave it at that. I don’t want I.C.E. to pick their next lead from reading this column.