Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Emergency Room Blues

I've given explicit instructions to my loved ones that if ever my health is in enough danger to call the paramedics, they are to make sure I'm sent to any hospital other than West Jefferson. If my health is in so much danger that I don't have a choice(West Jeff being the closest hospital around when I'm on the West Bank), I've instructed them to shoot me twice in the head and once in the heart, just to be sure. Such is my loathing for West Jeff Medical Center.

I have been having abdominal pain for months now. It comes and it goes, but lately it's been so painful that I was forced to call in sick from work. Being the smart bitch that I am, I procrastinated going to the doctor until I could procrastinate no more. I went to a regular physician who did nothing but look at me and ask a bunch of stupid questions. No lab work. Just questions. She proclaimed I probably had acid reflux and then prescribed me a generic form of Zantac. She said to see her in a few weeks if the medicine didn't take affect. Have a nice day and here's your bill.

Was that the end of it? Of course not. I took the medication like a good little girl. It didn't work. I came to the conclusion that all doctors are idiots. This conclusion came to me while I was clutching my stomach, curled up in the fetal position of my mother's bathroom floor. That's pretty much where I stayed the rest of the night. I should have called an ambulance right then and there, but that would have meant going to the hospital. There was no fucking way.

"Why do you hate doctors and hospitals so much, oh magnificent Karma Girl," you must be asking.

I'll tell you why. Because every fucking time I go, I'm sent to Waiting Room Hell where lost, injured souls wait in vain for medical assistance. Whether I see a regular practitioner or go to the hospital for an emergency, I'm always made to wait. When you finally get to see a doctor, they give you a quick once over, a measly Band-Aid solution, and a bill that requires you to hand over your first born child.

Case in point: Wednesday morning. My stomach pain is too much to take. I call my boyfriend who has been nagging me to get my ass to a doctor for weeks. I tell him he'll have to drive because I can't drive in the fetal position. After a quick round of I told you so's, he picks me up and asks me where I want to go. Okay, I'm thinking, I could go to that quack that prescribed me the Zantac or I can go to the nearest emergency room(West Jeff...sigh). At this point, I figure I might as well cut to the chase and go to the hospital. If something's terribly wrong, they'll be sure to spot it and admit me, if need be. And I have insurance, so I'll probably be in and out in no time, right? Right?

We talk to the receptionist who takes my info. Then I'm sent to the back where they take my blood pressure, temperature, and so forth while asking a lot of stupid questions. I'm having déjà vu, but I try not to worry. Because I'm in a hospital. And I have insurance. After that, I'm sent to the main waiting room and told to wait until my name is called.

Time marches on. And on. And on some more. It's been two and half hours. People who have come in well after I did are being called to see a doctor. My boyfriend is getting pissed.

"This is a crappy hospital," he says. "If we were on my side of the river, you would have seen a doctor by now."

He goes to the back to talk to a receptionist. The nurses take my vitals again and tell me I will get the next available bed that isn't taken by a patient being brought in by the paramedic team. As I'm sitting down, a group of paramedic rush in with three more people.

"Guess you just got pushed back, baby," my boyfriend says. I decide not to hurt him, fearing my status will be pushed back further.

It has now been close to three hours. My boyfriend talks to the receptionist again. I'm finally told to go through the double doors where a nurse leads me to a bed sitting in the hall. I'm told a doctor will see me in a moment. Apparently, the medical profession's idea of what a moment means must be anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half because that's how long I waited on that bed. In the middle of a cold hallway. With no blanket.

The doctor sees me and asks me the same fucking questions the nurses asked me. He tells me he's going to order some test for me and walks away. After waiting some more, I tell my boyfriend to go get something to eat. He asks if I'll be okay on my own, but I could tell from the look on his face he was eager to get out of there. I kiss him good-by, and promptly fall asleep waiting for the healing to begin.

Pictured Above: Not the healing...but hey, at this point, I'll take it.

The first test is a urinalysis. I'm sent to a dirty bathroom with a piss drenched floor and told to pee in a cup. I give the nurse my cup o' yellow sunshine and lay back on my bed in anticipation of another hour long nap. I am surprised when only fifteen minutes latter, another nurse returns with a cart full of needles to take a blood sample. The fun truly begins. I tell her she will probably have problems finding a vein. This happens every time I give blood, I tell her. She feels up both of my arms, finds what she thinks is a vein, and sticks that sucker in. Hmm, she says. It was there a second ago. I can feel the needle swinging back and forth while she digs for that damn vein. She tries the other arm. She tries to find one in my right hand and then my left. Then she gives up and gets another nurse who repeats the process. Tears are streaming down my cheeks as they finally find one in my left hand. Where do they train these bitches?

I fall asleep weeping until a nurse nudges me awake. I'm told to strip and put on a hospital gown. I'm sent to another waiting room before they send me to get x-rays. The x-ray tech says she's glad I'm thin because it's so hard to feel for bones in a fat patient. I don't know whether to take it as a compliment or to be totally insulted, so I keep my mouth shut. X-ray's done, I get dressed and go back to my bed.

After another eternity, the doctor finally tells me I don't have anything serious. He says I'm pretty blocked up and that I should take the laxative of my choice when I get home. He also says that I probably should see a specialist just in case I have gastritis. Pats me on the head and sends me on my way.

The cost of constipation: $2,000 with a $125 co-pay on my insurance.
Next time I'm ill, I'll prescribe myself some hemlock. It'll be less trouble and my insurance covers burial.

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