I sat at the pass-through bar between my kitchen and living room this evening eating a sandwich for dinner (ham and Jarlsberg on honey wheat bread, with just a touch of Dijon mustard on one piece of the bread, if you must know) and picking at cubes of watermelon I’d chopped up after I made my sandwich, alternating bites of melon for myself and for the dogs, right off the same fork. I’m sure that probably grosses a lot of people out. Fortunately, a lot of people don’t read my blog, so the damage is minimal, and it’s been that kind of week that even if I were inclined to give a shit (which I’m not), I certainly don’t today. My rough-and-tumble collection of canines, who regularly threaten to relieve me of a finger or two when I feed them snacks by hand, are always so gentle, sweet, and dainty as they take fruit off a fork that it never ceases to entertain me, and they love watermelon. I can’t see it as anything other than win-win.
Dinner, and lunch, and breakfast, have been rather lonely propositions this week, as Scott had major abdominal surgery on Monday, and isn’t eating much of anything, though I nag him to, asking him quarter-hourly if he wants any broth, or maybe some Jello. There is always room for Jello, I’ve heard, but evidently that’s just an urban myth. Not even the entertainment value of food that jiggles can entice him.
We spent six hours in the ER last night, into this morning, due to Scott’s worrisome fever; he crashed minutes after we returned home at quarter after three, and I finally made it to bed at 4:00 a.m., certain that I could see the first stirrings of dawn out the window just before I closed my eyes. Whenever I read stories about how people abuse the medical system by using the ER as their primary care physician, I often wonder if the people repeating that (which I suspect is also urban myth, much like the Jello thing) have spent much time in an ER. Because if you have, you know that it is a miserable, patience-draining, time-suck of an abyss and no sane person goes there if they have any option at all. It is a desperation move, every time, even if you’re using it to deal with your flu symptoms. No trip to the ER ends in under six hours. (Well, I had one that ended in four, but that’s only because I finally gave up and walked out without being seen, so I really don’t think it counts.) And I really don’t know why that is. The place was oddly empty for a 4th of July evening; all the burned fingers and eyes punctured by bottle rockets were yet to come, I guess. Medical personnel wander in, occasionally do something, tell you other things are going to happen, and then leave you to vast stretches of time where absolutely nothing happens, and you wonder if it ever will again as you sit there on furniture that grows increasingly uncomfortable the longer you’re there, in a room so cold you could hang meat in it. Just the kind of evening a man still wiped out from surgery and his wife with the ill-timed strep throat need to endure.
In the six hours we were there, we heard the lady from New York tell the same stories, with color commentary about the neighbor’s potentially rabid cat named, appropriately, “Troubles,” at least eight times, and nobody was happier than we were when her sedative finally kicked in four hours into the ordeal. We heard the desperate cries of panting pain every time the automated blood pressure cuff fired up on the girl in the cubby next to ours. We heard private medical information that we had no business knowing, and I wondered for the hundredth time how one complies with HIPAA when patients have no privacy at all in describing their issue to the person at the desk in front of waiting room full of strangers, or in a busy lobby where surgeons come to explain to families what happened in the OR, or in an ER bay with 4 beds where only faces are shielded, not sound. We all are supposed to pretend we can’t hear, but we do, even when we’d wish otherwise.
It is in tired, frustrated moments when the absurdity of the whole proposition becomes clear. When your eyes light up because the nurse has finally come back to your cubby, only to ask if we noticed the last time she’d come in if her teeth were bright blue from a holiday cupcake she’d eaten. We had not, in fact. We all had a good laugh, which was probably as necessary in that moment, if not more so, than the IV that had been promised hours ago that still hadn’t been put in. It’s midnight in the ER on the 4th of July, and your nurse’s teeth match her scrubs. What else are you going to do?