Oh, yes. Emergency Room. 10pm on a Monday night. Wearing a sarcastic meat-eater shirt.
To be fair, though, I wasn’t exactly in the Emergency Room. I was at the end of the patient registration line.
That line was getting close to stretching out the door.
Don’t even get me started on the parking situation.
If you had any doubts, let me make it clear that second degree burns on the hands effing hurt. I highly recommend avoiding it.
Since luck wasn’t on my side, I had to figure out a way to deal with what I was living through. First, I attempted to counter the pain my channeling all that yoga I do and trying to breathe through the pain. I wanted to send my focus, air, prana, and Buddha himself to my palm.
This worked for about 5 seconds.
My zen centering quickly devolved into more familiar coping mechanisms. I dug my nails into my wrist, exhaled slowly, and did an adult version of a toddler’s pee dance.
I got some strange looks. But since I’m not shy and was a little looped from the pain, I was more than happy to flash my palm at people* by way of explanation.
In all my dancing and weight-shifting, I caught the attention of one of the women behind the desk at patient registration, who offered the first of those cold packs I was so nuts about.
Eventually, I made it to stage one of my ER visit, declaring a need for and consenting to medical attention. The over-worked woman behind the registration desk praised my good manners and patience. As a reward, I was presented with what would turn out to be this month’s first hospital bracelet.
Braceleted up, I was free to join my fellow members of the mass of humanity gathered in the ER that night. Over the course of the next two hours, the following things happened in the waiting room:
1. I learned the harsh realities of one-handed bathroom use**.
2. On one of my bathroom trips, I was warned by another woman that the toilet wouldn’t stop flushing. I told her I’d deal with it. When I left the restroom, she asked me if I stopped the flushing. I told her no, I aimed for the center of the swirl.
3. I fought, and then gave into, a pressing need for Cheetos.
4. In satisfying my Cheetos craving, I nearly had a run-in with the family of a toddler who was encouraged to treat the ER like a new play space full of the sick, injured, and allergic. While beyond obnoxious, what really crossed the line was when they allowed her to harass complete strangers at the vending machines. In my case, the little brat was pressing the coin return while I was trying to get my Cheetos. If she had gotten her timing right, it would have been ON.
5. I watched a man soil himself 3 feet in front of me. It wasn’t his fault and there was little to be done about it. The most offensive part was the hospital worker who referred to the situation as “icky.” If ever I was going to harness pain and couple it with a sense of righteous indignation to fuel some sort of large-scale outburst, that nearly did it.
6. I watched one episode of Good Luck Charlie, two episodes of The Wizards of Waverly Place, and one episode of Hannah Montana on the waiting room television, which was inexplicably set to the Disney Channel. I have the following things to say about this:
- I am glad that I did not have to watch The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. One of those boys (I don’t know if it’s Zack or Cody) is creepily prematurely sexualized, and I can’t handle that on a good day.
- I don’t understand the whole “wizarding competition” angle of The Wizards of Waverly Place. Isn’t the whole family magical? Why are they competing? Doesn’t that negatively affect the family dynamic? Also, why is the 16 year-old daughter allowed to more or less live with her teenage werewolf boyfriend? I’m no prude, but I think that’s a little young, even in the magical world and especially on the Disney Channel.
- Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montana are the worst. How is this show not used in torture scenarios***?
7. I found the triage nurse to be unnecessarily brusque.
8. I decided that there are major issues with the “wait time” monitor. At this particular hospital, patients are divided into the “Fast Track” and “Acute Care” categories. “Acute Care” is easy enough to understand, since everyone has heard of that before^. “Fast Track,” though, is both confusing and a lie.
9. Speaking of the “wait time” monitor, over the course of my two-hour wait, I watched the time go from 98 to 132 to 22 minutes while the composition of the waiting room stayed more or less the same. I considered a “two waiting rooms” scenario and pondered what the people in the alternate, super-secret waiting room were up to^*.
10. After my second cold pack wore out, I decided that the cost of health care and my future wrangling with my insurance company entitled me to as many temporary cold packs as I wanted. So I took to requesting them at the registration desk every half hour.
Around 12:15 am, things started to change. A wave of patients was discharged. It was like Mardi Gras if Mardi Gras was a parade of pained, sick, and stressed people being assigned rooms and doctors. As I followed the nurse who called my name, the woman who gave me my first cold pack offered me a more permanent, longer-lasting cold pack. I eagerly took her up on her offer and disposed of my worn out cold pack, thinking more ice was on its way soon.
After all, I was finally a priority, right?
An hour later, she would remember the promises she made. But by that point, it was too late. I had hit up my very nice nurse for an ice pack and was finally being discharged. I had suffered through Basketball Wives, stood over the sink in the room with my hand under cold water feeling very forgotten in a very public place, and had received a tetanus shot.
But not before I discussed Moby Dick with my attending physician.
Luckily, I still had a round of urban disc golf ahead of me.
Is there more? Of course there’s more. You only know how this hand got burned, not how it got broken.
* Based on some of the reactions I got later in the week, I now know that for some people, that might have been a bit gross. Oops.
** Some day, for funsies, tie one of your hands behind your back and then drink a ton of water. This is my life now, and while you won’t have the pain issues when you compensate, at least you can feel like you’re playing along at home.
*** If you don’t believe me, ask my friend Dennis. I sent him a text detailing my feelings about Miley/Hannah.
^ You know, acute care = heart attacks and the like. REAL emergencies. Short term, nasty things.
^* In my imagination, they had a “make-your own sundae” bar.