February 22, 2005


At Little Company of Mary Emergency Room, there are the room-dwellers and the wall-dwellers. Pete and I were among the wall-dwellers.

Let me explain. Last night Pete started feeling some intense pain in his gut. Of course, he didn't tell his wife. When I noticed he was awake unusually late and did not seem like himself, I asked if he was feeling OK. Pete answered irritably, in the manner he usually does when I dare to ask such questions. "I am fine!" Why is it that some people find it so hard to admit that they are not feeling well?

Last night was a noisy night. There was thunder. Heavy rain was pounding our roof. At one point it became so loud that we realized that the rain had turned to hail. A continuous stream of water ran down the street toward the drain. Pete didn't want to talk. This is not unusual. I fell asleep sometime after 1:30 AM. Little did I know that Pete did not.

When I woke early this morning, I looked over at my husband. Pete was sleeping peaceably with almost a smile on his face. I fell back to sleep. I awakened sometime later to hear Pete talking on the phone. It soon became apparent that he was talking to a doctor. I sat up. Pete walked back into the bedroom.

I asked, "What's going on?" It was then that my secretive husband leveled with me and told me about the pain. Dr Takemura, our gastro specialist, had advised him to go to the emergency room for a work-up. It was still pretty early.

I hurriedly got dressed and we were in the car. Pete insisted on driving. At times there is no arguing with that man!

Pete drove up to the Emergency Room entrance, exited the car, and instructed me to find a parking space. He disappeared. I walked around the car to the driver's side, got in, turned the key in the ignition and drove around until I found an empty spot. When I finally made my way to the Emergency Room, Pete had already seen the triage nurse and had signed the necessary papers for admittance.

We waited. Pete paced. He told me it hurt more to sit. He was calm. A bit later, his name was called and we were taken into the ER. A nurse took his temperature and blood pressure. She then instructed Pete to remove his shirt, replace it with a hospital gown, and climb up onto a gurney. Pete complied. The gurney was pushed up to the only empty wall space left. All the exam rooms were full.

A young well dressed man moved from patient to patient, rolling from bed to bed while seated on a wheeled stool, pulling along with him a narrow computer laden table. When he reaches each patient, he introduces himself and starts asking questions. This well dressed young man works for admission. After talking a few minutes with Pete, I was surprised when he started asking me about my work history. I am not the patient. Strange.

A bit later the attending doctor introduced himself and talked with Pete a moment. Tests were ordered. One of the nurses found a chair and brought it over so I could sit. It was placed just behind the gurney, almost blocking the door to the adjacent exam room. Pete was hooked up to an IV.

The atmosphere was calm. The staff was kind. Pete told me that he was feeling better. We waited with the other wall-dwellers for what was next.

Pete was rolled away for his ultrasound. The well dressed young man noticed that I was occasionally looking up at him while I continued to pen these words. He asked me what I was writing. I told him was trying to find the words to describe him.

"Are you writing a book about me?" "No", I said. "I have a blog, and I am actually writing about the 'room-dwellers' and the 'wall-dwellers'. The nicely dressed young man smiled. He told me that it is getting more and more like this lately. It has been incredibly busy since so many of the emergency rooms in the area are shutting down.

Pete and I wait. More and more gurneys are rolled in. The latest is occupied by a very large woman. She is accompanied by four paramedics who are either police or firemen, and two other men who are also in uniform, but look more like ambulance drivers. They wait by her gurney. The latter two attend to the patient. She is soon moved to a hospital gurney with the help of the men I now see are LA Firefighters.

The woman's face is contorted by pain. I say my mantra for her. A nurse gives her oxygen. The firemen depart. I say more mantras for her. This woman is moved to a now available room. The well-dressed young man rolls into her room with his portable admissions station. He starts asking questions, typing silently as his questions are answered. I was surprised to hear her birth year. She is younger than me.

It is still crowded in the ER. Pete was given blood and urine tests. I watch as portable X-ray machines are taken from room to room. There are now only three groups of wall-dwellers left. Pete tells me that the pain has gone away. I'm glad. He doses on and off.

Pete is taken away for an ultra sound. I wait. After a bit he is back. We wait. A few words were exchanged between me and a few of the other wall-dweller's loved ones.

One older woman told me why her husband was here. They were about to leave for a trip in their motor home this morning. They belong to a motor home club that take frequent trips together. She tells me that her husband had collapsed in their kitchen just as he was about to load the last item for their trip.

I look up and see a lovely woman with gray hair sitting in a chair against the wall almost directly across from me. This woman has a nice face. She is wearing a Christmas red turtleneck and a bright red plaid vest. The only spot of cheer and color in the room. Kind of like a bright ornament brought in especially to brighten up the beige colorless sameness of this space. I'm glad she is there.

The woman in red sits alone. The person she accompanied to the hospital had been wheeled away for some sort of scan. We smile at each other. She tells me that she came in with her sister. Just then, the patient is rolled back into the room and her gurney is moved back to her place against the wall. She is warmly greeted by the sister in red.

We wait. The ER Doc is back with Pete's results. The blood and urine tests are normal however the ultrasound shows that Pete has a couple of gallstones. He is told to be careful bout his diet and to limit fried and fatty foods. We are to wait for discharge directions. Pete is still hooked up to the IV.

A new patient arrives and is moved into a room. It is still quiet here. The doctor and the admission's clerk confer. A nurse arrives to unhook Pete from the IV. She takes his blood pressure one more time and gives him his discharge directions.

I tell Pete firmly that I am driving home as I clasp the car keys tightly in my hands. He has no choice to agree.

Pete tells me that when we get home he wants cream of wheat.

Posted by Judi at February 22, 2005 9:29 PM | TrackBack
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