Thursday, June 23, 2005

Strawberry season

There is this obnoxious trait that some people have of wanting to take free stuff if it is offered to them and they have a need for it.

For example – you are in a hospital ER room, it’s time to go, all kisses and goodbyes, thanks, you’ve been wonderful, so you’re finally inching out and you remember: wouldn’t it be nice to take with you one of the ice packs to use at home? It’s “free” if you take it from the hospital.

I guess I am one of those obnoxious people, because I did turn around and hobble back last night (during my trip to the ER room) and asked (meekly) – do you suppose you could spare….

The nurse hardly looked up. You don’t have ice at home? (you know, putting those jagged bricks from your ice dispenser against a sore leg is just not as much fun as using an ice pack) No… -- unbelievable answer, but I wasn’t in the mood to explain.

Do you have any frozen fruits or vegetables? -- she counters. Caught me dead on. I could not lie. I have bags and bags of frozen strawberries from last year. Frozen blueberries? Raspberries? All gone: they’re wonderful to slowly munch on when you want to restrain your midnight greed. But strawberries are too big to just pop in your mouth, so there they are, in my freezer and the new season is upon us and so I may as well put them to ice-pack use, digging into the ziplock bag every once in a while for a nibble.

But I got my chance at a freebie: on my way out (for real now), I passed one of those anti-bacterial gel dispensers (that’s what they’re all using in the ER room – none of this hand washing stuff; I know – 99.9% germs are killed with the gel, it says so right there on the dispenser, but it just doesn’t seem in my old fashioned mind as fresh to go from wiping someone’s butt, to putting a little gel on the palms, to picking up your hand to take your pulse). From said dispenser I loaded on the antibacterial gel. For free. You might say I walked out of the hospital clean. Germ free. That’s nothing to sneeze at, btw.

Simulblogging the ER. No, not the TV show, we’re talking about reality reality.

Notes from the night that followed the bike crash:

By ten at night my upper leg had ballooned to such a large size that it felt like I had gone on an 365 day Michael’s Frozan Custard binge. Moreover, I could not walk.

Call to clinic. Nurse plugs in data into her triage computer program and comes up with result that is probably the result in 99% of cases: go to the ER room immediately. I mean, maybe if you call and say that you are at a nursing home and that the staff person was mean to you and would not help you go to the bathroom (the issue confronting the patient in the space next to mine at the ER headquarters of UW hospitals), maybe then they would have said: deal with it. For the rest: there’s the ER.

I was also told that I am absolutely forbidden to drive and that an ambulance would be forthcoming if I hadn’t a friend to take me in. HOW PATHETIC! That’s just an insurance set up! How many people will say – oh, okay, I have no one, no one at all to ask for a ride, so sure, go ahead, send the ambulance.

I called a friend. Friend came, friend drove. Thank you, friend. You saved me the humiliation of appearing pathetic.

Lots of police cars at the entrance to the ER room. I tell friend that if you go in at night, you’re gonna be rubbing shoulders with the overdose victims and gang shootings. Earlier, it’s poor people without health insurance who desperately need to see a doctor. Friend says it has been suggested that ER visits go up immediately at the end of prime time TV.

Inside the waiting room, everyone looks sick. I am thinking: I am going to get your germs so quickly, so please face the other way when you vomit – that kind of sick. Germ avoidance strategy: I use my own pen to sign wavers and death statements. Yes, if you kill me rather than cure me, you can take my remains and burn them quickly before someone discovers your mistake.

I am told: wait here in the wheel chair until your room is ready. Room is ready? Sounds like a Paris hotel that you arrive at early in the morning. Bonjour, not ready yet, excusez moi, quelle damage!

Background music is positively funereal. I had a friend die on me some years back and she requested classical music nonstop in her last hours of life and ever since, when I hear classical music in a hospital, I think of her. I think: had she known the effect it would have on me, she may have substituted it for hip hop. Hip hop in hospitals would not make me think of death and dying.

There are little insects flying around as I wait. Ugh! Germ carrying, all of you! Get OFF of me! You are contaminating me – I saw you buzz over near the vomiting woman there in the corner, go back, go back!

Three times, by three different staff members I am asked the question: is there anyone you do NOT wish to give access to your information from here? I don’t get it. YES! The world! The Dean of the Law School. Does he really need to know about my innards? Do students? In fact, 99.99% of the people out there should not have access to my medical records. Whatever are you thinking?? (Of course, then I go ahead and post everything on the blog. So private!)

Finally, I am wheeled to a segment of an ER room. I am a woman of many health dramas and so I know these places well. Too well. I know the ropes. I know what to say to get service and what to say to get out asap. I am ER savvy! [Mumbling something about being a law prof and teaching torts and malpractice helps; damn it, they always ask, so what, I am supposed to not mention it?]

I look up, stretched there on the ER table, with my leg now twice the size of a football stadium, and I see this cartoon pasted on the joint of the swivel overhead lamp. It’s a picture of a fist with a thumb up, and the words underneath, in bold, with an exclamation mark: yes! For some reason this totally disarms me. I feel the stress of the day, the night, the week and I want to cry. But that’s antithetical to the upbeat mood of that little sticker sign and so I reign it in.

In the “cubicle” next to me is the guy with the nursing home problem. It is indeed a problem and I do not want to detract from it even as he proceeds to describe the bowel movement he is having at the time he is telling the story. But it seems – from my meager qualifications to assess these matters – that it is not an ER problem. It is a call-governor-doyle-and-have-him-commence-a-criminal-investigation-against-the-nursing-home-facility type of a problem.

But then, his woman comes in and they have these rhapsodic exchanges while the staff is out. He is an old fart (literally) with an amputated leg and she is patient and he is so appreciative. I don’t even mind the putrid smells coming from their neck of the woods (remember: we are in the middle of his bowel movement). These guys are so touchingly respectful of each other. I wanted to get up and visit for a while, but the nurse was wiping his butt forever and ever and after that, the moment passed.

Sigh. It was one of those days when you are reminded of how lucky you are for a shrilling number of reasons. I got home minutes ago and transcribed my notes. I am thinking of going out for a bike ride first thing tomorrow, if I can wrap my giant leg around the seat. Hey, the doctors, with their multifarious almost-degrees (this is a teaching hospital after all) told me to move as much as possible, especially in the next few days, to undo the blood clot. I’m with you. Life is all about movement.