The Waiting Game

I’m not a fan of hospitals.  Only had one of my four birth children in the hospital, and years later a hysterectomy, and neither experience did little to change my opinion.  (My three surgeries this past year at St. Charles Surgical Center in New Orleans don’t count — that place is in a category all to itself.)  Funny that my husband, Bruce, spent just short of 30 years working at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bellingham but the hospital environment has never been my cup of tea.

Yesterday, I got the opportunity to revisit my opinion.  While trying to cut a large spaghetti squash in half, the knife slipped and cut deeply into my thumb.  I’ve never been a big fan of pain or blood and things haven’t changed much after all these years.  As I loudly and pathetically moaned and sniffled, I wondered why it was taking Bruce so long to investigate.  Only after I took it up a couple notches did he appear at my side with some genuine concern, and convinced me to pull my hand out of the cold running water so he could have a peak.  Not able to look myself, I accepted his decision that I might be able to get away with bandaging it and applying pressure.  The blood however would not stop and a second look convinced Bruce that stitches were most likely in order.

Not wanting to go to the hospital unless it was absolutely necessary, I called the after-hours Walk-In Clinic.  After asking if they could stitch up my thumb, they put me on hold, returned to ask a few more questions, on hold once again, and then returning a last time to say that I could come in and the doctor would take a look but he wasn’t promising anything.  I wasn’t getting a really good feel about this, so I caved in and off we went to the ER.

I must say, it was quite enlightening.  Things seemed to have changed tremendously.  Either the receptionist who admitted me was indeed friendly, showing true concern for my condition, or the pain med I took before leaving home had led me to falsely interpret her body language and misconstrue her words.  No ID, no insurance card – just simply and very politely asked my name and confirmed my address before handing me a badge and hospital bracelet and instructing me to sit close by as my name would be called shortly.

True to her word, within 10 minutes, I was led into a small room where the cut was looked at and re-bandaged.  Again, I was invited to sit out in the waiting room until called again.  This time, ID and insurance card was taken, and I was asked if I would be willing to be treated in the waiting room rather than wait for an open bed.  As my thumb had resumed throbbing, I assured her they could indeed attend to my injury anywhere they chose, if it meant being seen sooner.  I assumed it was like being offered an immediate seat at the bar rather than waiting for a table in a crowded restaurant but she explained  it really was only a  5-10 minute time-saver.  I actually thought that was pretty lame and considered taking back my offer, but decided not to create any bad vibes, less I would pay for my sins.

Blood soon began gushing (okay, maybe dripping would be more accurate but remember this is my story) out from the bandaging, so I sweetly asked for a bit more gauze to hold over the cut.  I should have realized that the receptionist doesn’t hold that sort of authority.   She did assure me that she would pass on my request as soon as a technician (a term we knew as “mother” back in my day; who could clean and bandage even the worst cut and scrapes with no formal training at all ) was available.  Bruce then informed me that I would most likely be charged for this extra bandaging at some ridiculous amount and that I would be better off grabbing some napkins from the cafeteria.  Dang! I blame my pain med for clouding my thinking on this one but before I could run off in search of my own bandage material, my name was called and my glorified “mother” applied yet another  more expensive (as Bruce would later point out) bandage  atop the original.

Back to the waiting room. Here’s the good news!  Gone are the days of trying to round up a current People magazine for the latest Hollywood scuttlebutt only to be relegated to reading about breastfeeding in an long outdated Parents magazine.  No, with my iPad in hand, I was sitting on a goldmine of activities, music, email or web surfing guaranteed to keep me entertained for as long as needed.  At one point, I actually hoped they wouldn’t call my name.  Man, the internet connection was smoking hot!!  Now that may be a bit of an overstatement to many but when you live in an area only serviced my Hughesnet as we do, you appreciate even a semi-responsive connection.

The next call brought me to nurse who was to numb my thumb in preparation for stitches.  This consisted of him sticking  a needle into my thumb numerous times over, and each time telling me it shouldn’t hurt as much as the time before.  In thinking back, they really should have done this in the waiting room, because the way my body stiffened in anticipation, and then shook in mild spasms complete with painful sounds coming from behind gritted teeth really could have cleared out a few folks and reduced their Sunday load.

And where do you think I went next?  Yep, back to the waiting room!  After several app  downloads, responses to my latest e-mails and posting to Facebook, I was called and actually taken back into ER.  My nurse invited me to get comfortable on the bed and left me with these words, “I said I would get you a bed, I didn’t say I could get you a doctor.  That may a bit of a wait.”  Oh well, I was getting used to this by now.  Back to my iPad.

I know you’re not supposed to eavesdrop but being that the room held two beds and if it weren’t for the curtain hanging between, I could have been holding hands with the woman, it couldn’t technically been called eavesdropping.   All I will say is that the pain meds they gave her were obviously of a much better quality than whatever I took back home.  Her comments to family and ER staff were equal to any comedy act I had ever seen!  She was hysterical!!

Just as I was getting comfortable with the bed situation, complete with high-speed internet connection, the doctor arrives, takes a look and agrees I need stitches.  Leaving orders to clean and prepare the area, and give me a tetanus shot, he takes off to see another patient.

Wait …. technician arrives to clean the cut.

Wait ….wait …  nurse enters and administers the tetanus shot.

Wait …. wait …. wait …. doctor returns, stitches and leaves.  I’m thankful for the waterproof pad which soaks up the blood still dripping from my wound.

Wait … technician appears to clean my wound a final time and bandage it up.  Would you believe me if I said the first words to me upon entering, were, “So you got yourself a little boo-boo, huh?”  I’m glad Bruce was preoccupied or else I’m sure I would have burst out laughing.  I must give him credit for his gentleness  but his verbal interaction would have been more appropriate on a much, much younger patient than I.

Waiting … work is done but you don’t go anywhere without an official discharge.  Nurse returns to instruct me in the care of my bandaged thumb and reminds me to return to ER or primary doctor in 10 days for the removal of the stitches.

Wow!  The waiting time after all these years (I cut myself on a glass while washing dishes by hand about 35 years ago) isn’t all that different but I must say I liked how they divided the time up into smaller segments.  It kinda tricked you into believing the wait wasn’t so long.  And then again, maybe the high speed internet connection was enough to keep me entertained and happy no matter how long the wait.

My only recommendation is come prepared to WAIT — nothing really has changed on that account.


About dbdaze

Currently spending much of my time contemplating the remainder of my life ... realizing the importance of dreams that are fulfilled, support of those closest to you, and the value in downsizing and living with less.
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11 Responses to The Waiting Game

  1. Pingback: Similar lives | I choose how I will spend the rest of my life

  2. judithhb says:

    Debbie – sorry it took so long to get back to you. Don’t know where I have been. Hope the thumb is OK now.

    • dbdaze says:

      Funny, though it’s completely healed, if I knock my thumb against something it causes me to practically go through the wall. Ohhhh, it hurts! I figure it’s only temporary though since I can bend and stretch my thumb. How’s yours??

  3. judithhb says:

    Hi Debbie
    A few weeks ago I had a similar experience. I fell up the step between living room and kitchen with a fine china bowl in my hand. The bowl shattered and sliced into my thumb.
    Blood literally pumping up so a call to my daughter and we were off to the after hours emergency clinic. They were very accommodating and said I would be attended to shortly Yes, you guessed it. I waited for a short time in the waiting room – that’s why it’s called that of course – then saw a nurse who said ‘Mm a think you need stitches’ and ‘come through here’. Through here was a brightly lit cubicle and there I waited. Another nurse appeared who said she would have to get the doctor – waited and doctor appeared. She then told the nurse to give me a tetanus shot and a shots so they could administer the stitches. More waiting, the doctor appeared looked at the hand, asked the nurse to stitch it and more waiting. A different nurse appeared and started sticking needles into my very sore thumb. Wait and then she returned to say she would do the stitching as the doctor was attending to another patient. More injections to dull the pain, stitches eventually in and given instructions to go to GP in 10 days.
    Sorry this is such a long response but it exactly mirrored your experience from the other side of the world.

    • dbdaze says:

      Oh, my you are right, Judith — you could have written MY blog!!! lol Interesting to note that if I would find comfort in the similarity if I should ever be in your part of the world!
      Sorry to hear about your fall and laceration though. Glad it wasn’t any worse. I know I was glad not to have hit bone or tendons. (A little bit of my Pollyanna attitude is returning, I guess)

  4. Bobbe McGill says:

    Debbie, I’m almost happy you had this experience so I could read your blog about it.

    About those spaghetti squash: What is the secret anyway? They are hard as rocks! I understood that it should be microwaved a bit before cutting; but if that helped, I couldn’t tell. I think getting a spaghetti squash open must require a vise and a cleaver. But they don’t tell you that when they sing the praises of the vegetable. Or before you buy it. Maybe one of those little veg/fruit stickers with a warning should be required.

    • dbdaze says:

      Geez, I didn’t know about the microwave trick but sounds like even that isn’t much help. In the future, I’m going to cook it whole for an hour at 350. I hope that’s not too long. I like mine stringy not mushy. Or maybe I’ll just ask my produce man to cut it, if I’m going to use it the same day!

  5. MamaJRA says:

    I am HIGHLY entertained by your wonderful blog this morning. Of course, I have to remind myself that I’m sitting here in my calm house (kids are asleep), drinking coffee, Malcolm is breathing fine, and it took me an entire 5 minutes to read and chuckle, as opposed to your five hours actually experiencing it. Oh yeah, with a throbbing thumb. So thanks for posting this as it will give me something else to chuckle about the next time we’re sitting waiting. And Mariah is quite right: Malcolm’s pulled the ‘not breathing well’ trick upon arrival also and its amazing how they rush you right in 🙂 But God forbid you respond to their frenzied initial treatment and START breathing well, because then they pile the waiting you SHOULD have done at the beginning on to the middle in the claustrophobia (er, privacy) of your own room. I think our worst ‘roommate’ ever was being guarded by two Whatcom County sheriffs. Being checked out and sewn up so he could be hauled off to jail. I was wishing they could sedate all my kids so they couldn’t hear the language emanating from behind the curtain. The only time this young chap moderated his tone of bravado and filth was when his father arrived. Then he was contrite, tearful, and like a 6 year old boy. Such a farce! Ah well, it passed the time, but I would have preferred an iPad 🙂 Next time!!! Hope today goes more smoothly for you, Debbie. I sure enjoy your writing, so thank goodness it was only your thumb 😉

  6. LindaLou says:

    So, Debbie, how long from entering ER to leaving? My bet is not less than 4 hours.
    So glad you had your iPad. I’m surprised you were able to get on facebook with it though. Peacehealth blocks facebook, and I can’t even get on it with my phone if I’m connected to their wireless! Glad you are safe and sound home now. Maybe let Bruce do the slicing for a while?


    • dbdaze says:

      Four hours in the hospital, add the half hour drive both ways and there goes 5 hours on a perfectly cold spring Sunday afternoon! Funny, your experience with PH blocking FB — I had no problem at all! Weird, huh?

      • MamaJRA says:

        Oh yes. PH definitely blocks facebook, so you lucked out. A nurse (this is a big secret) in the ICU allowed me to wheedle out of her the ‘back door’ way to get on to facebook through a different website. The reason they do it is to cut down on employees spending their time there. Miserable for patients, though.

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