What happened was, Leslie (my wife) comes downstairs at 1am Sunday night (well, technically Monday morning), just as I am starting to clean up the kitchen prior to going to bed (yes I stay up late). She has terrible indigestion she says, and is out of antacid. So I hop in the car and drive around until I find an open place that sells some, and bring it home. She lies on the couch groaning while I work on the kitchen.
It isn't working.
I call the 24 hour health link line and talk to a nurse; after discussing the symptoms and finding out that she has been in pain since 7pm the night before, we are instructed to go to the ER, RIGHT NOW
. So we do, arriving at about 2:30 am.
ERs in Calgary work like this: you come in, and there is a bank of clerk stations (behind glass) with, at 3 am, one of them manned (or more accurately, womanned). You walk up to them, and they say, no, you have to see the Triage Nurse, and points you up the hall. There, you find a thick Red Line painted on the floor, behind which you must stand until the Triage Nurse 10 feet away calls you forward to her station (also behind glass). She then asks you what is up, types some stuff into the computer, and probably invites you behind the glass to take your blood pressure. (Over the last couple of years, I have had a fair amount of hospital experience, and they sure do love taking your blood pressure, even in cases where there is absolutely no reason to. Every hour on the hour in fact, in ER, ICU and surgical wards, no matter what ailment brought you in. It's a RULE.)
You then are told to sit in the chairs and wait to be called, and the Traige Nurse does various mysterious things behind her glass, typing things into the computer, joking with the EMTs who are hanging about, talking to other nurses, whether about their recent vacation or the availability of beds, who knows. Eventually she calls the next person standing behind the Red Line forward.
One of the clerks from the first bank of stations then calls you up, to do the paperwork, or actually in this day and age, the typing stuff into the computer work, and then its back to the chairs for you, until things are ready on the other side of the glass.
Which in our case lasted about an hour, with Leslie passing out once from the pain. Sorry they said, we are waiting for a bed, we are a little busy tonite, nothing we can do. It didn't make a lot of sense to me, we were pretty much out of the line of sight of everyone except the check-in clerk, who was pretty absorbed with her workstation (playing solitaire? surfing boy-band sites? entering critical medical data?) An alien could have exploded out of Leslie's abdomen, and no-one would have known.
Yes, it was fun sitting there with a couple of insane (literally) people, and deeply ill groaning shivering people, and a couple of junkies hoping to cadge a fix, with your wife crying and groaning and passing out, with no idea at all of what was up, or when or what might happen next.
Well, finally, at 3:30, they took her in. Only by this time she couldn't walk, so they fished out this high tech wheel chair (wheel chair tech has improved immensely in the last few years, I must say). I am excluded though, they will call me when they feel ready to, so I sit with the sick, insane and addicted for another half hour.
Finally, the Triage Nurse waves at me, and tells me where in the warren Leslie is, and I walk by a bunch of people who have far far worse problems than I do, to where she is, lieing in a blood spattered bed (they drew blood for tests, and kind of made a mess of it, so the bed & floor are a little scary.) The Dr saw her and administered a little IV pain relief while they await the results. She's looking a little better, but not good. We sit & lie respectively for a while, listening to the groaning and clatter around us, under very bright lights.
I suddenly realize that this is Calgary, and I haven't paid for my parking (somehow slipped my mind, how irresponsible). I dash out and get there just in time to not get a ticket, and note at some other poor fellow's expense that, yes, at 3:30 am on a Monday morning, the Calgary Health Region does indeed tow cars from its ER parking areas if the owners haven't paid the exorbitant fee.
Back in, well, I have to stand behind the Red Line, in fact behind a lineup of people standing behind the Red Line, until the Triage Nurse gets around to me, so that I can go through the door and back to my wife, which takes about 20 minutes.
Um, I'm not really happy at this point.
Back in, the Dr. eventually shows up, says they have to wait for the blood tests, but authorizes some serious narcotics. The results will be back from the lab in half an hour apparently. In 40 minutes, I run out to put more money in the meter, and have to stand in line behind the Red Line some more to get back in.
At around 6:30 the doctor comes back. They are pretty sure it is a gall bladder problem, but the blood tests are inconclusive, Leslie needs an ultrasound. However, that is booked up, could she come back Tuesday morning at 9 am? She is actually feeling rather better. They issue her with powerful narcotics in the meantime, and its off to do the paperwork and go home, which we reach at about 7:30. Just in time to drive the kids to school, and then me to work. Where I am, I assure you, very productive.Part II
Tuesday morning, Leslie is feeling pretty good, I was going to stay with her, but she says no big deal, I'll call you when I'm done, so I drop the kids and her off and go off to work. Round about 11:30, having not heard a word, and getting worried, I call the hospital. Yes she has had an ultrasound, and has reported to ER. ER says, well, yes she is here, but it is a little busy, so she will have to wait a little bit. No, she can't go home.
Round about 3:00, she phones. She is still in the chairs at ER, waiting. It more than a little busy, it is insane. She can't leave, because the ultrasound revealed "abnormalities," an no, we can't tell you what kind or anything else, you have to talk to a Dr in ER about it. She is starving, she has done all her puzzles, could I bring her her knitting and something to eat (the food available from the vending machines is all contra-indicated for people with gall bladder problems, go figure). I do so, arriving to stand in line behind the Red Line because I can't find her in the chairs and the only person who can tell me anything is the Triage Nurse.
20 minutes later I am finally led to her bedside, where she is awaiting a surgical resident. Yes, she has gall stones, wait for the next Dr. The resident will come down and ask questions, and then take it back up to the surgeon, who will then come down and ask the same questions. This takes about two hours, its 5 oclock now.
The cool thing is, the surgeon turns out to be the son of the owner/founder of her employer. She is going to get a hell of a Dr's note, that is for sure. A really nice guy actually. They have decided that surgery has to be Right Now, or in Two Weeks, and eventually, decide that Two Weeks is the best option.
I should mention that on both visits, I had to stand behind the Red Line multiple times, because I did not want to pay more exorbitant parking fees than I had to, and they kept saying "half an hour" when they meant "an hour and a half." Or maybe my ears weren't working. And I discovered that the clerks behind the glass actually do pay attention, and they have a very important task. To jump on anyone daring to use a cell phone. In the waiting room. Which is bullshit.
Sitting there chatting with Leslie, I mentioned that Calgary is having hospital capacity problem, which Ralphie is going to fix with his "Third Way" rather than by, oh I don't know, blowing some of that SEVEN BILLION DOLLAR SURPLUS
. For the last year, at any given moment, at least one of Calgary's three general hospitals has been in a situation where they cannot accept more arrivals, called a "Code..." something or other, some kind of colour, mauve? pink?
"You mean 'Burgandy' I think-- it has been on the PA all day" she says. And indeed it is a mess, I count 17 trolleys with attending EMTs in the hallway, waiting for ER staff to get around to dealing with them; the chairs outside the Red Line are packed with about the sorriest collection of human beings I have seen in a long time, and the secure rooms at the end of the hall for possibly violent crazy people are all full with cops and EMTs hanging around outside pushing them back in when they try and escape.
I wish they would put me in charge, I can think of several substantial improvements that would not cost hardly anything more.