The Long, Long, Long Night
Saturday, May 31, 2014 11:25 PM
My youngest son and I had enjoyed my introducing him to some vintage Star Trek episodes and movies ending with the Generations film. He had gotten sleepy so had wandered off to bed for the night while I was determined to finish the movie. At approximately 10:30 PM or so, I accomplished this and found my own way to bed, intent on sleeping soundly and waking refreshed to begin the weekend chores which pile up during the week. As my head settled on the cool pillow my mind coordinated the following day's work orders before drifting off to slumberland.
Less than an hour later I was awakened by my lovely wife who informed me that our just graduated high school aged son had called and informed her that he needed to go to the hospital. Seems he had fallen and struck his head on the pavement. So out of bed I got, threw on some clothes and headed out to pick him up at a friend's house. Now, in our little hamlet hospitals are not too convenient to our location, and where his friend lived made it even more inconvenient. We drove twenty minutes and ten miles northeast to another town, gathered him in and drove another ten miles and another twenty minutes due south to the hospital.
I must stop here and ask: why, in a town of this size, with two hospitals, are they built so closely together? Why not have one north and one south? Just askin'...
At The Emergency Room
We arrived sometime around midnight to find the waiting room fairly full. As we checked in with the registering nurse, our son sitting in front of her with a bloody paper towel on his head, I took the opportunity to check out the screen on the wall which displayed the status of all patients currently in the ER. What I saw was long wait times for all concerned. Thirty minutes, an hour, two hours and more for people listed as being in the waiting room, in the rooms behind the locked doors, waiting on doctors while in the rooms behind the locked doors. Our attitude towards our son for his less than intelligent decision to go car surfing took a turn for the worse as we realized we were in long, long night.
We waited in that waiting room for an hour. Then, when I was beginning to get perturbed, our call came. I felt like we had won a game show. "Let's take a peek at what's behind door number one!" Oh, it's just paperwork? You mean we have to stay out there, my son's head covered in dried blood while others go back? Oh, okay.
Precisely one hour after we had completed our paperwork and we were ushered behind those gilded doors and into a room of our own: alone for a full fifteen minutes. Then another person was ushered into the bed on the other side of the curtain which separated the two beds in the room. And what joy we would find in our hours together within the room.
A few minutes later our world was "blessed" with a sound which came from the other side of the curtain. It was a base sound, one usually reserved for the privacy of the bathroom. Mere moments later a scent crawled across the floor to our side and rose up to assault our nostrils. It was a foul scent, and there was nowhere to go. We were stuck with it and could do nothing more than bury our faces in our armpits (it was a minor improvement).
Approximately an hour later a nurse came by and I reached out to grab her. Once in our room we asked if anyone would be by to help our son because, well he did land on the back of his head after falling off a moving vehicle, you know. He held up a bloody hand to show the nurse he was indeed hurting. She smiled and said the doctor would be along shortly. We sighed and released her, hopeful that for once the lie would become truth.
Another half hour passed before someone resembling a doctor came into the room; another half hour spent smelling our armpits or with the front of our shirts pulled up to occlude our noses from the continued assault coming from the other side of the curtain. Then, miracle of miracles another doctor. Turns out we had a combination of doctors working with us to find out if our son was in danger. We were so glad; it had only been two and a half hours!
They decided to send him for a cat scan or MRI or something like that to determine if he had a concussion or other head trauma (so glad they were so concerned!).
So, another hour passed and it was nearing 3:30 AM. Another doctor came in to give us the good news: our son's head was as hard as a rock (as we had long believed it was) and there was no damage beyond the gash in the rear end of his head. This would require either stitches or staples; they elected staples. So they then offered him the option of a shot to minimize the pain before relaying the shot would most likely hurt more than the staples. He felt that as he had put himself in this situation perhaps he should just endure the staples without anything to relieve the pain. So we sat by and watched as the doctor proceeded to staple our son's head back together with three sharp staples driven into his head. We then were issued to the check out area and after only another thirty minutes we were on our way home! So, to recap: from bed to pick him up to hospital to home only took a mere four and a half hours! All for three little staples! My but I am glad not to have to come here more often!
The Very Next Weekend
Last night I was at the local store picking up a few things for the household when my phone rang. I looked at it and it was a local number but was not a familiar one. As we had just sold our puppies I felt it was a call about them, perhaps someone desiring to know if we still had one for sale. I ignored it and pocketed the phone to continue shopping.
A few moments later the phone rang once more. This time it was my wife. She relayed there was a situation with her father at the residential care facility. I quickly finished the shopping and rushed home. I dropped off the groceries and Tina and I left to go to the home.
As we drove she filled me in. It appeared that her father had thrown a wadded up napkin at another member of the facility then threatened bodily harm to this patron. What kind of harm could a 77 year old man with dementia and Alzheimer's threaten? He threatened to throw a glass of water on this person.
We were fortunate they did not call the authorities and have him incarcerated for this heinous crime of passion!
Another Saturday Night In The ER
So we arrived at the ER shortly before 8:30 PM. The waiting room was less than half full and no one was at the registering nurse's station so Tina walked right up and got him in. We shared the information that the residential care facility had called us to report that he had gotten upset and thrown a wadded up napkin at another person at his table and he had reportedly threatened to toss a glass of water on them. Per the nurse at the home they were fearful of possible violence, due to a chemical imbalance from medication or possibly even due to another mini stroke. Now, I am not a doctor nor do I play one on TV but I think I would know what the warning signs of a stroke would be: slurred speech, tremors in hands, unsteadiness in walking among others. He was displaying none of these but he was upset due in no small part to his being treated like he was. His dementia has worsened and he continually asks us questions answered literally moments before but he was adamant that this situation was a joke between the two parties involved; nothing serious was intended nor received. We were not sure what to make of this but it was odd that he maintained this throughout the night, and repeated it several times to different people.
So we were signed in. I looked at that wonderful screen and saw no one waiting in the waiting room longer than thirty minutes. Great, this might be a short night!
An hour and a half later, we were sitting in the waiting room watching the local news on the lobby television. We were still waiting. Others who had come in after us had made it to the Promised Land behind those gilded doors while we waited. Now, if a child comes in vomiting I understand them going first, but not all who went ahead of us were in that category. The longer we waited the more upset I became. I mean, if he had had a stroke this interminable wait could be dangerous, right?
Finally, at 10:15 PM we were brought back to a room. A male nurse greeted us and stated right off that shift change was at 11:00 PM so they would try to do something before then, maybe take blood or something equally useful. Another thirty minutes passed before this occurred. Swift is the passage of time whilst one awaits service in such a location!!!
Then, more waiting. 11:15 PM brought the doctor. I was straightforward and relayed that we felt this was a waste of time, brought on by a facility care nurse who either did not know my wife's father or was not interested in taking care of him. Because he had not displayed any evidence of a stroke, nor had he wavered from his story detailing the incident as a joke I felt confident he was okay and the issue far overblown. The doctor took a few minutes to examine him and give him a few neurological tests to determine the extent of damage should there be any. There was none.
So the doctor stated we would wait on the blood test results and see if there was anything to be concerned about there. Tests such as this take roughly twenty to thirty minutes he stated.
Midnight came and went and still we waited.
The Counseler Arrives
Sometime after midnight a counselor arrives to share with us her findings and concerns. We restate what we feel and she takes this into consideration. She then advises that normally, to determine if a medicine change is needed they keep a person such as my father-in-law in a secure wing for up to 96 hours, watching and "tweaking" their medicines to determine what will work best. Now, if you were not aware of this, it is normal. Far, far too normal. You see, most situations such as this and people with ADD, ADHD, and Autism the doctors must mix and match, experiment time and again to find the right combination for this individual; there is no "magic pill" that works for everybody so many, many pills and combinations are tried and through trial and error a band aid fix is arrived at. However, my wife was quite knowledgeable about this type of thing and she stopped it right then and there by saying, "No one even knows if there is a reason to try this approach, do they?"
Turns out, they didn't.
So we restate our position to her once more and ask what do we need to do? She goes on to relay that there are no beds available to watch him in town; none in a city some sixty miles away; and there might possibly be one in a town nearly a hundred miles away. Seriously? You want us to transport him a hundred miles in the middle of the night?
Well, no she didn't. Turns out this medical professional had some common sense. She spoke with us then contacted the residential care facility to let them know he would be returning shortly. They were less than pleased.
What ER Doctors Do When You're Not Looking
At one point, while waiting for the results of the blood work Tina pulled back the curtain keeping us from seeing others and from being seen by them and chortled "Ho ho ho!" and looked at me. I came over and peeked around the curtain and saw the doctor who we had been waiting on seated in the fish bowl station where the nurses sit to keep order, looking at something on the computer. It took just a second for me to identify what it was: a workout machine. He was rather stout I had noticed earlier, looking like he was one of those body builder types. As I stood there watching he flipped through the video pages detailing the machine and I could clearly see what it was. No doubt about it, he was surfing the net looking at body building equipment. I was amazed; we were sitting around waiting for test results to be able to take my father-in-law home from this fiasco in the middle of the night and he and one other nurse were looking at items they can purchase. So this is what they do when no one can find them, eh?
At approximately 1:00 AM the nurse came back in to advise that all was well and we would be allowed to leave - right after a urine test. Wait - you mean when you came by earlier and took blood for blood tests and we spoke with you about whether a urine test would be necessary (my father in law has diabetes) and you said you didn't think so and now you think so?
Can we refuse?
We didn't and it took Tina's dad a couple of times to fill it up. Then another forty five minute wait to finally get a clean test result.
Now can we go home? Yes, right after you are checked out (another ten minutes or so).
Then we left that building trudging along to the car and a twenty or thirty minute drive home. It's really been a long, long night!!
No matter what happens, next weekend we are not answering that blasted phone!!!