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.