TRAUMA AND DRAMA
My knee had been getting stiff and hurting at my job worse than usual. I began to resemble an actor auditioning for a Frankenstein movie, so I did what any red blooded American man would... I ignored it. Being dumber than a Yugo full of anvils, I just limped around for a couple more days hoping it would go away. It kept getting worse and worse so naturally I kept on ignoring it. By this time I had the mobility of an elm tree. I was getting out of bed one day and "Wham!" I was on my back screaming. Honey came in from outside probably thinking I had hurt myself with a power tool (wouldn't be the first time). This hurt a lot worse than just cutting off a hand. My knee felt like someone had just inserted red hot pokers under my kneecap and twisted them. It was just too horrific a pain for me to take in. I just laid there curled up like a boiled shrimp and screamed at a volume capable of disintegrating limestone. It took a few moments to go away and for me to accept what just happened. I'd always kept it wrapped so I didn't notice it had been swelling and was bright red. I figured this must be really serious. At this point anyone with the brainwave activity of an eggplant would have gone to the hospital. Oh no! Not me, Mr Manly Hombre! I waited for it to happen about four more times and was walking like a zombie on crack before I would go to the doctor. I passed out once and that was the straw that broke me. I got sick of it and went to the doctor expecting to get some de-inflammatory meds and some pain pills. I had just gotten knee implants and should have been more worried. I will deny anything to keep me out of the Dr.s office. The Doc took one look and went and got another doctor. They looked at me like a recently run over raccoon and told me to go to the emergency room right away. I was liking this less and less.
I won't ruin the suspense here for you by telling you whether or not I died.
I drove myself to the hospital with some considerable pain My wife was at work and I didn't want to worry her. Thank God she just had signed up for new insurance. It was difficult to press the clutch and the brakes in my old truck at the same time but I managed to avoid most of the handicapped people roaming around in front of the ER. They can move a lot faster than you would think. The young valet attendant looked at my old truck like it was an alien spacecraft when he saw I had a five speed manual on the floor. I didn't wait to hear the gears grinding as he lurched off.
As an aside, I work in an area of town with halfway houses, soup kitchens, shelters and many special needs people. They are kind of scary looking, aromatic and a few forks short of a fondue set. Most of them are pretty sweet people once you take the effort to get to know them. Many are actually pretty bright. The hospital is in that area. When I walked in to emergency about eight people from around there waved and smiled at me. It occurred to me that going to ER is the only health care options some poor people have and they can't pay what Medicare won't cover. It's probably why hospitals are going broke and health care costs so much. The staff handled it very gracefully and were kind to all.
One old guy was telling a young Hispanic nurse not to worry, he could understand her because he knew Spanish. I doubt if the nurse could speak a word of Spanish but he thought he was hearing her speak Spanish so everyone was happy.
I walked to a window that said triage. They in turn sent me to an admitting window where I had to sign many forms acknowledging that I understood and totally agreed with whatever the hell the forms said. Eventually they decided my social security number had enough digits and told me to sit down in the waiting room.
In emergency room time "You're next!" means two and a half hours. Two and a half hours of hurting in an emergency waiting room is longer than the Clinton administration lasted. It was not an auspicious start to my visit.
Some thoughtful person that never had a child or perhaps had listened to a psychiatrist that never had a child, or had one who still wets the bed and is in college, built a child's toy that made extra loud noise that was apparently irresistible to hyperactive children and placed it in the middle of the waiting room. I had to move away from the constant jackhammer sound partly because I couldn't stand it and partly because my eardrum opposite to the toy kept popping out and hitting the old man sleeping next to me. In retrospect I now believe must have been dead as the noise did not wake him. To get an Idea of how loud it was, press your ear to the following paragraph.
You can't hear now, can you?
Parents in the emergency room are not known for keeping an eye on their kids. I observed a phenomenon suggesting that the Sponge Bob Square Pants show blasting out of a TV causes mental shutdown better than a phaser set on stun. Kids were ignoring the show but parents were watching with their mouths open, drool running down their faces and their hats on sideways while their kids, apparently on an all-sugar diet, ran around screaming and hitting people that were bleeding and in pain. You need to wear a cup to the ER if you plan on standing very long as most children are of a height to give you another reason for being there, if you catch my drift. These children should be taken away from their parents and given to someone more civilized to raise, like chimps. If you are thinking of having kids, go to your nearest emergency room to see If you have what it takes, I'm sure you can get a vasectomy somewhere in the hospital. Older people without kids were on the other side of the room hunkered down, watching reruns of Judge Judy or reading 1993 issues of Women's Day, hoping the kids wouldn't notice them. They need some "Little Golden Books" with titles like "Garfield gets a frontal lobotomy at the hospital." A little fear might settle the little jerks down.
Annoying ring tones need to be banned in the emergency room, or anywhere else for that matter. The people who have the most annoying ring tones get called every ten minutes and stride around the waiting room babbling loudly about how no one came when they were in the hospital, what they are having for supper, what their sister was wearing at the cat show, how many polyps showed on their last colonoscopy, whether to get tuna in oil or tuna in water before coming home, and on and on and on, sure that everyone in the waiting room wanted to hear about every detail and drama in their daily lives. Loud cellphone users never get truly urgent calls. Just once I would like to hear someone saying something important like giving instructions to a person dismantling a bomb. "No don't pull that wire! You cut it already? Umm... Listen very carefully. Ruuuuuuun!!!" Then he would probably pull the phone quickly away from his ear and scrunch up his face. After a couple hours of being subjected to broadcast random neural firings I was ready to give them another reason to be in ER, namely having their phones removed surgically.
I, on the other hand, have an eight pound phone attached to the wall at my home via an answering machine. That's it! I can use it as a murder weapon if someone breaks into my house. Let's see you do that with one of those phones the size of a soda cracker! If it's an important call, the caller will leave a message or call till they get me. I have had about five important calls from someone I wanted to talk to in my entire life so I'm not about to spend the same amount of money for a phone as I do for my house mortgage. The only reason I'm on the Internet is that my son is majoring in computer engineering and he gave me this computer.
Some people acted like they were there (ER) on a weekly basis and this was just an annoying interruption in their daily lives, or they had nothing better to do. "Hey! I'm bored! Anyone got a headache? Let's go see what's going on at the emergency room and maybe get some Demerol. Someone dial my phone and see if this new ring tone gives anyone a headache!" Some of these people have five fatal diseases or injuries per week. I also imagine somewhere in the room someone was there just because of hemorrhoids. I believe this is what all Canadian health care must be like.
Here and there were people looking scared or worried that their child or loved one might not be OK. It seems to me that if you need to be in an emergency room that's how you would normally act. I've only been to the emergency room twice for myself, and both times it was much worse than it looked. The people with me at that time acted like that, worried. I just act goofy no matter what and this time I was alone so it didn't matter how I acted. I figured barking and growling at the children would just get me better drugs.
Eventually they called my name. If my knee hadn't hurt so bad the rest of the room would have flagged me for unsportsmanlike conduct in the end zone. A Hawaiian good-bye was all I could manage.
They took me in the first curtained booth where I gave out more fluid samples than a Napa Valley winery, gave me a smock with most of the snaps missing and the ties torn off, and asked the usual questions. After about a half an hour, they noticed I was so nervous I was squirming like a trout so they took me to a different stall and started pumping morphine in me. After enjoying about an hour of being too high to scratch my own butt with a ladder, a Dr. finally showed up and decided to aspirate (drain) my knee. They asked me what my name was and what the date was. Grinning like an idiot I told them It was either Tuesday or October and showed them my name bracelet. The Dr. got a tray and started working. Whenever they bring out that tray of medical implements I feel the need to reveal the location of the secret rebel base. First the Dr. injected lido-cain into the knee, then he put a needle in it with a large syringe type tube attached and began drawing out the excess fluid. The tube filled up, he unscrewed it and he put on another. It filled up and he sent someone for another. It and two others filled up and he finally attached a cartoon sized syringe and filled half of it up. It reminded me of the time I hit a pipe in the bathroom and was trying to find buckets. I found the look of incredulity on the Dr.'s face hilarious. He said he wished he had a class with him to see it. I was proud in a strange kind of perverted way. I hope to see a plaque with my name on it at my next visit commemorating this historic medical achievement. They took out a quart of fluid all told. I told the nurse I felt drained and about a quart low. She looked concerned for a second and then, much to her credit cracked up.
They sent me home with several prescriptions that sounded like Star Wars planets and said I could resume my normal activities in a couple days, which consists mostly of sitting around watching TV.
I had used valet parking and did not know where my truck and key were nor was I sure I could use them if I found them. Eventually everything was sorted out and I found someone dumb enough to give me the keys. It took about another hour of wandering to find my truck. I was feeling no pain. Heck! I wasn't able to feel many body parts. I waited unusually long periods at intersections several times while driving home. One of the people honking behind me came up to my window and explained that stop signs don't change color. If I remember correctly it seems like he might have been louder than he needed to be.
A couple of days later I spent another four days in the hospital in case my knee was infected. It turns out it was something called pseudo gout, I found out I will probably need two more surgeries but thats another story.
I had started this sojourn at noon. After I finally got home around ten PM, I suffered an AGA (acute gravity attack) and began thinking of leading my life without ever moving my muscles again. Well, I can almost string together a coherent sentence. That means it's time for more pain meds. See you at the ER or maybe detox.