The emergency rooms in any major city are perhaps the most over worked and under appreciated part of a hospital. They not only deal with victims of violence, whether it’s gunshots or crashes, but they also have to deal with the sick. If you are an ER in a “public hospital” you have to see and treat everyone regardless of whether they can pay. Private hospitals need to stabilize you, and then transfer you to a more “suitable” facility. But the public hospital has to take everyone.
The public hospital that I am now going to is no exception, and on June 12th I was in their ER with a raging headache and blurred vision. The same headache and vision problems I had tried to get the neurology department to call me back on. After the triage nurse and I talked, I was back to the lobby to wait. I guess since the headache was already ten days old they figured that I wasn’t going to die right then and there.
If you have any doubts about what will happen to our beloved medical system if things continue the way they are, spend an afternoon and evening in an inner city public hospital ER. There were people there with fingers nearly sliced off, older folks looking lost at all the confusion, people like me who wanted the lights off and everyone to shut up, and then there were the crazies.
One woman was in a hospital wheelchair DEMANDING that the hospital call and pay for a cab so she could go home. The social worker tried several times to explain to her that the hospital didn’t do that. The woman insisted that the hospital did, stating that she saw another patient getting into a cab not more than an hour earlier. The S/W explained again that the hospital did not pay for the cab, nor did they call for the cab. She told the woman that there was a free phone on the wall, and the woman was free to call whoever she wanted to come and get her. The woman’s response? “It’s ’cause I’m black, ain’t it? That’s why you won’t pay for the cab!” Security came over and spoke to the woman. That didn’t help. From what I could ascertain from the conversation with the deputy, the woman had just been released after a 72 hour mental health hold. All I could think was, “Just taze the bitch, and send her back upstairs.” My head really hurt, and her screaming and yelling was not helping.
After waiting for 90+ minutes I was told to move to the other waiting room and wait for my name to be called. Okay, so off I moved, and waited. Another hour went by and finally I got called back to the actual ER area. I checked in at the desk, barely able to see and was told, “Second hallway, room four.” I found the room, laid down on the cot and waited.
A nurse came in a half hour later and took vitals again, asked what was wrong – again, and said one of the doctors would see me shortly. I’ve been to ER’s before, and know that “shortly” usually means another hour, and it was. Again I went through what was going on, the fact that the headaches and vision problems did not start until after the MRI with contrast. The doctor was really great. Very kind and compassionate, but since there are certain protocols for the types of complaint I had, she could not give me anything until they did a work up. They came drew blood and sent me off to get a C-Scan, minus the contrast.
Several hours went by while I waited lying there wanting my head to just fall off. I had turned off the lights and closed the door so I wouldn’t have to listen to the moaning and screaming of other patients. When the doc came back in she was apologetic for it taking so long, and told me that the C-Scan appeared normal, and that she was going to give me what they call the “migraine cocktail.” Turned out to be Compazine, an anti-nausea med and Benadryl administered IV. I was hoping for a triple shot of Jose Cuervo. Damned if the thing didn’t work! It took a headache that was a 14 on a scale of 10 down to a manageable 6.5. They gave me some time for the “cocktail” to really kick in, and sent me home. I had thought about standing at the front desk yelling that I wanted a cab, but changed my mind.
I had gotten to the hospital around three in the afternoon, and was on my way home a little after midnight. When I was talking to the doctor and the nurse I had asked them if things were busy that night, and both said that it was actually pretty quiet. I guess we have different definitions of what a “quiet” night is. Dozens of people stacked up, all of whom think they needed to be see before anyone else. Screaming crazy people wanting cabs. Babies crying that cry that cuts through even the hardest of hearts. Quiet night huh? I went home and passed out.