Annual emergency

21 Dec

What is the story with the health care crisis really?  Who says that uneducated, poor people don’t have access to care?  I am no stranger to a doctor’s waiting room, surgical center or a full-blown hospital setting.  Why do I never meet P.L.U. (people like us) in these places?  Before you judge, just consider the facts: Never have I come home from a hospital visit saying, “I met the most interesting family today at the coffee station.”  I never find play-dates for the children or exchange digits with anyone.  Usually I am clutching my purse and fearful of contracting tuberculosis from the guy sitting next to me.  Thank you Proctor and Gamble for the sanitizing hand foam.  The waiting room usually looks like what I imagine Britney Spears’ basement rumpus room being like the morning after a hard night.  There’s cheese puffs ground in the rug, coagulated coffee in disposable cups (that sit on tables, ironically, undisposed of) and people slumped over and passed out in every corner.  I get it, though.  To a point.  People are stressed, and pissed that they are going to have to pay $16 when they leave the parking garage.  They haven’t had good showers and they have spent the better part of the day planning to see a loved one who is wincing in pain and bitching at them about some inconsequential something.  That said, friends and loved-ones of patients are by and large bizarre and proud of it.  And chatty.  If you are ever in need of an over-share, head to the soda machine bank at your local emergency room.  You won’t be disappointed.  However, I must warn that if you are a stickler for proper grammar, you might want to sit that one out this time.

Posts are going to be a bit scanty this week.  In addition to all of the Christmas merry-making, our family is continuing a Christmas tradition, begun with Margaret in 1997, of lurking in hospitals and tending to the sick.  Make no mistake, this is no fuzzy volunteer effort…these are our own.  I guess we O’Neals just like to get scraped out, cleaned up and pieced back together for a new, shiny year.  We are optimists.  My father-in-law had open-heart surgery last Friday.  While his valves are working just fine now, some of the other wheels are getting a bit wobbly.  He’s a man who is usually very composed and together and it is a new experience for us to listen to him singing in Spanish.  He doesn’t speak Spanish, by the way.  Then Hot Tub is having his tonsils and adenoids removed, with a vein cauterization thrown in for good measure on Thursday.  And of course, I am still a bit hunched by late afternoon myself.  A lot of you gentle readers focus on preparation, celebration and thankfulness this time year through fine deeds, gifts and honest prayers.  If you could throw a word or two out to your Lord on Hot Damn’s behalf while you are at it, I’d be most grateful.

Oh, and if you happen upon any ranting, not-so-fresh smelling people while you are out in your last minute rush, hold your breath, fix a sympathetic eye and give them a smile.  They could be on a waiting room snack run.  Just hold your breath and smile, but don’t start a conversation.  You’ll never get home.

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One Response to “Annual emergency”

  1. Laurel December 21, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

    We did the open heart surgery routine with my mother-in-law last year. It was quite an experience, starting with the argument over whether she would even go in for an EKG. Here’s my overshare:

    MIL: It feels like an elephant is sitting on my chest! I can’t catch my breath since I climbed the stairs, like, ten minutes ago! My! That’s annoying!

    My mother (CCU nurse): Let me take your pulse.

    MIL: Okay, but I’m fine. They checked my heart like, two years ago. Plus, this has been going on for months. No biggie.

    My mother: I can’t get a radial pulse. At all. Let me try carotid. Oh! Yep, there it is. It’s thready and erratic. You need an EKG.

    MIL: Oh, no! Really I am fine. [Refrain]

    My sister (CCU nurse): Here, let me check. I can’t get a radial. At all. Let me try carotid. Oh! Yep, there it is. It’s thready and erratic. You need an EKG.

    MIL: Repeat Refrain.

    My dad (M.D.): Here, let me check. [Please see above under “mother” and “sister”]

    MIL: Repeat Refrain.

    My husband (physician assistant): Let me check, Mom. [I can’t get a radial…]

    MIL: Thank you, everyone (everyone being 2 cardiac nurses, an M.D., and a P.A.) but I swear I’m fine.

    Me: You are planning to take my 2 year old child across the state to stay at your house for a week. You are crazier than a three headed cat if you think she is getting in the car with you when you have symptoms like that.

    MIL: Oh. Well, if you put it that way…

    And that is the story of how my mother-in-law got a new aortic valve for Christmas.

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