Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Boston to… Madison

Covered with wet snow. Buds, slapped down by a winter mix the next morning. Even Boston has to endure the reappearance of wintry stuff.


Early on Monday, I made my way home, to my Madison condo. But not without detours. On my walk to the T (which would take me to the bus, which would then take me to the airport), I happened to be chatting with my ever vigilant doctor (well, actually her rep) and she suggested that I might perhaps want to pay a quick visit to Mass General or some such place before boarding the plane for home.

Ridiculous. I told her that’s her opinion and now, please, may we disconnect, because I have several flights to catch.

Ocean isn’t really about my interaction with the medical community, but I’ll say this much: the world of emergency medical response is not new to me. Maybe because I was raised in post war Poland, maybe because I had a tough time making it past 4 months of life – for whatever reason, I have had more than an average share of such medical one-on-ones.

I assure you that I will signal imminent demise here (insofar as I know about it) and any other dire circumstance, but cataloguing my various medical curiosities is simply boring and there are plenty of domains within which I can be boring without bringing out the health card.

Still, upon landing in Madison, I found myself being escorted (by Ed) to the ER room and I have to say that if ever there is a reason to love your town it is when you are in love with the type of medical care that it offers to the privileged who have access to it (me) as well as to those who are scratching at the periphery of affordable health care.

I spent some seven hours in the ER room last night (why so long? Because, quite frankly, in any triage worth its weight in lives saved, I would be at the bottom of the heap). I was not what you would consider as “near death.” I was not even a broken limb. I was merely pursuing the recommendation of others. And so I waited for care.

Ed waited with me. Willingly. Our ER waiting facility has WiFi after all.

In the examining room (where we spent 5 out of the seven hours there), Ed and I watched cartoons (his choice) on his laptop, in between my being wheeled to one place or another and then back again.

It’s so Madison over at our ER room! Why do I say this? Well, by comparison, I am recalling the hours, nay, days I spent in a Harlem hospital as an undergrad. I was writing a paper about people in ER rooms and I have to say that I had enough material for a 24 volume series. Blood was commonplace.

And, I am no stranger to other ER situations. I lived through my very own special brain explosion (of blood) and a number of other little episodes requiring that trip to the hospital rooms reserved for those with gunshot wounds and horrible influenza (equally treatable in regular clinics, except if you don’t have health insurance; I would venture to guess that last night, 75% of those in the ER room were there because they did not have health insurance).

So, Ed and I waited and we read and we played with our computers and through it all, I kept thinking – Madison is truly and uniquely a wonderful place to require medical intervention. And when the technician came in to administer test number 26745, I couldn’t help but notice that he was wearing a UN strap for his UW Health ID. You interested in the UN? – I asked. Yeah! Really! I want to work there or at an NGO when I am done with school.

Basically, Madisonians want to save the world.

And when the nurse came in and he asked Ed – so you’re????? ...and I said, he is Ed, because you know, Ed is best described this way, the nurse was not phased. And he is…??? I knew the nurse was asking for a relational definition and I was about to say that Ed was my Occasional Traveling Companion, but Ed beat me to this by saying – I’m her chauffer. The nurse wrote it down without batting an eye.

But it was the doctor who was the culmination of my small city’s best of the best. He came in late, just before midnight (again, I was in need of care, but hours would not make me or break me). He sat down and apologized for taking so long to get to me. Ed responded that we were doing ok on our own and indeed, that the doc was just now interrupting our viewing of the rerun of NBC evening news.

I, of course, felt that at least one of us, preferably Ed, should apologize for that remark, but my ER doc laughed and explained that he was not your conventional medic. I think he thought we’d caught on already, what with his shaved head and two diamond studded earring studs, and maybe we should have, except I was too busy admiring his patience and willingness to answer the million questions that I always have for doctors when they are within spittin’ distance of me and my medical issue du jour.

I do so love my little city.

Tuesday – I paid the price for my protracted recline on the ER bed the previous day. I had classes and endless meetings and appointments to get through and it was a tight fit. Luckily the day ended with a glass of wine with my most happy friend. I suppose you don’t remember my suggestion that mental health requires putting in hours with happy people? I did that tonight.