Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Overheard in the ER

Treatment Pod 36, 2011

At 2:15 a.m. this past Saturday I received a call from my mother’s nursing home. Her condition was dire and they were preparing her for transport to the hospital a few blocks away. I met her in the hospital emergency department a few minutes later and tried to stay awake and alert for the next three hours while a serious team of physicians and nurses addressed her declining condition.
It was, all things considered, a relatively quiet night in the ER. Doctors, nurses, aides, custodial and administrative workers were going about their business methodically and professionally. There were twenty or so patients in various stages of diagnosis and treatment. At one point a police officer herded in a cluster of young men with bloodied faces, their hands safely cuffed behind their backs. But there were no raised voices. The intercom was quiet. The young men were more anxious to be treated than to continue whatever dispute had called for police intervention.
Every now and then I was asked to leave my mother’s treatment area while things were done that a more conscious woman might have found undignified in front of her son. But mostly I just sat in a stiff chair at the entrance to her treatment area and listened to the sounds of ER life.
"We're going to draw some more blood."
"Sir, were you hit with a bat, a bar or just someone's fist?"
"I don't remember."
"Are you warm enough, Mam?"
"I need to run some laps, or something. I'm starting to nod off."
"Blood pressure is 64 over 29."
“Anyone going out for breakfast when we get off?”
"That sure looks like a purse, man."
"It's not a purse. It's a backpack."
"Sure looks like a purse to me."
"I just came out the door and they started coming at me. Dude, they were everywhere. I didn't even know who they were. They were just out there swinging at everyone."
"We've partied there for months. Never had a problem."
“I hear there were a lot of fights in that neighborhood tonight.”
"I was just back on a boat from Antarctica. It was great."
"BP is now 71 over 34."
"Dr. _____ said all this, and the patient's husband was standing right behind him. RIGHT BEHIND HIM! The doctor didn’t even care. He was so rude."
"72 over 27."
“Polar bears are the coolest!”
"When I was a kid in North Carolina they had a soft drink called White Lightning. I liked Tab. But I really liked White Lighting."
"We're not even from here. Our house is rented and we're staying at the KOA campground."
"Sir, let me put you in a wheelchair. We don't want you falling and knocking out your other eye, as well."

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of Auden's "Musee des Beaux Arts..."

    About suffering they were never wrong,
    The Old Masters; how well, they understood
    Its human position; how it takes place
    While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
    How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
    For the miraculous birth, there always must be
    Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
    On a pond at the edge of the wood:
    They never forgot
    That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
    Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
    Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
    Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
    In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
    Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
    Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
    But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
    As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
    Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
    Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
    had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.