I went to the ER on Saturday night.
Strictly speaking, it was Sunday morning. It was a little after midnight when my mother pulled the car into the ER parking lot at Banner Desert.
I had my choice of ERs. There's a hospital every few miles around here, I swear. But I couldn't go to Gilbert Mercy, because that's where the ambulance took my dad after his stroke, and I don't know much about Banner Gateway, and Baywood was too far. When I had gallstones three or four years ago, I went to the Banner Desert ER. They treated me pretty well. So I thought I'd go there this time.
I had a fever of 100.5, chills, and a sharp pain in my back. I told this to the woman at the front desk. She seemed uninterested and shoved a paper at me to fill out - their computer system had gone down or something like that. I filled in the blanks and gave it back. I was sent a few feet away to have a nurse (I think) put a little clip on my finger and ask me the same questions the first lady asked me. Then I had to sit in the waiting room. My mother had found two chairs apart from the rest, which was a good thing because the waiting room had sort of a leper colony feel. My skin was crawling just being in there, and if I hadn't been in so much pain I'd have just walked back out the door. The place was packed.
I sat and waited. And waited. I observed an interesting cultural phenomenon during this time, and if I have any Hispanic readers, perhaps they could enlighten me. But it seems like every Hispanic person that came into the ER had the entire family with them - no less than five people.
I waited. Finally, a nurse named Alvin called me back to a little curtained-in area. He asked me the same questions I'd already answered twice and took my vitals. I waited a few minutes more and an actual doctor came back. He asked me the same set of questions. I started to think that maybe someone should write my answers down, save a little time for the next person. The doctor said something about my appendix and my kidneys and wandered off. Alvin led me back to the waiting area.
About 45 minutes passed. The waiting room was filling up. Several people seemed possibly to have highly communicable diseases. It was getting harder to avoid sharing their air. Finally another nurse called me back into a corridor marked "Procedures." She said she was going to start an IV. She asked me the same questions I'd already answered.
I should mention that, in addition to being exceptionally pale, my skin is on the thick side. No one has ever been able to find a vein on the first try, and most of the time it takes a good 5 to 10 minutes. It took two nurses and an ultrasound machine to locate a vein for my IV. They got it going, put me on a saline drip and gave me drugs for pain, stomach acidity, and something else I'm not clear on. And then ... they sent me back out into the waiting room with my IV pole.
About a half-dozen or so people in the waiting room also had IVs in. My mother and I found a place to sit that seemed slightly less disgusting and were settling in when two orderlies wheeled two women into the area in hospital wheelchairs. One of them had a plastic bag she was vomiting into. And vomiting, and vomiting. I'm not sure what the volume of the average adult stomach is, but this woman had to be pushing it. I thought surely she'd run out of contents to vomit, but no such luck. And these were gut-wracking, 50-decibel heaves. I nearly threw up myself. I found myself wondering, shouldn't someone do something for this woman? Pump some fluids into her? Find a bed for her? And what about the rest of us with our IV poles? Why the wait? If I felt well enough to wait, I wouldn't have gone to the ER. But I did. I went to the emergency room because it was an emergency.
A nurse called me back into a little room. He checked my IV and asked me the same questions I'd answered already. He said something about a CT scan and a room but implied it might be a few hours. I was sent back into the vomitorium. This part of the waiting room was emptying, and my mother and I, too, went to the other side. Right next to an elderly gentleman who was hacking up a lung.
We'd been there three and a half hours, and I was in a great deal of pain. I whined to my mother for a moment, then went back to the nurse in the little room and asked him to remove my IV.
My mother drove me to Gilbert Hospital on Power Road, where they say it's door to doc in 31 minutes. Only six or so people sat in the waiting room and none of them were losing bodily fluids. A kind, well-dressed young woman asked me a few questions and printed out a bracelet for me. No sooner was it on my wrist than I was taken back. One nurse took my vitals while another asked me a series of questions - and put my answers into the computer. Then I was taken back to a room. An actual room with a heavy wooden door. I changed into the gown they gave me and a nurse started an IV and took some blood. A doctor came in. Both he and the nurses knew my answers to their questions from looking at the computer. Fifteen minutes later I was getting a CT scan and an hour after I'd arrived, I had a diagnosis (a kidney stone and infection) and I'd been given an antibiotic shot. Then they sent me on my merry way with a prescription.
I don't have any funny points to make and there is no moral to this story (although it's obvious which hospital I'd recommend) but, seriously, vomiting in the waiting room? That was pretty bad. I'm just saying.