Let me give you the underlying dynamics of a true hostage situation.

Anyone who has ever had an emergency ward encounter knows that it could be hours upon hours of crisis negotiations with exacerbating factors being played out. I’m at that godforsaken age when strange things start to happen. I experienced a little tightness in my chest that lasted several hours, so I took the precaution of calling my doctor who advised me to go directly to the ER. My delicate aorta was compromised again once I saw all those other people waiting to be seen. A man had his best friend with him and the receptionist had to inform the dog lover that it was a hospital, not the Humane Society, and that they needed to spend quality time together somewhere else. He left and we were down to eight impatient waiting room attendees on a pain scale from cranky, to wanting to heave a chair into the television screen that was airing an onslaught of horrific news. A hospital worker reassured us, “We will be with you shortly.” Their idea of “shortly” is a little different than mine. I should have asked her to put on episodes of Glee, bring me a cot, and refresh all their magazines – or at least stock a waiting-room-survival handbook and some ice cream sandwiches. Since celebrities get much swifter service wherever they go, I thought about checking in as Julia Roberts. But they would have stared at me for another twenty minutes wondering if I was the real deal.

One health center employee finally acknowledged my existence. And since admissions hears the most outlandish complaints, I had to convince them that I was not the one who broke a nail. They did ask a hundred general questions that hospitals require. I’m not sure how what president I was going to vote for had anything to do with my problem. But I told the happy hospitalist everything she wanted to hear so I could hurry up and start my extended evaluation. And no, I didn’t want a smiley heart sticker. I wanted three of them, some of those mesh undies, and a snotsucker, that nasal aspirator that siphons out boogers better than plain old Kleenex.

Once they attached the plastic identifying arm band, I was held hostage by an exploratory committee of complete strangers. The first attending nurse had on scrubs with skulls and crossbones. He would not have been my first choice for assisting me in my electrocardiogram. Yet the synonymous-with-death figure led me into a changing room where he began explaining the whole procedure with the word speed of an auctioneer. I couldn’t make out whether the gown should be open at the back or the front, if I was supposed to be naked from the waist up or the waist down, drape the gown like a veil, and wait for him there or back in the lobby – or in the cafeteria, because I was awfully hungry by then. That’s when I knew breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, since I hadn’t eaten anything. They could have brought me sunflower seeds in a bedpan and I would have been filled with stomach-growling delight. Plus it was pretty drafty draped in that little bit of nothingness. Now that I think about it, I should have livened things up, pretending to be a Rockette by flashing my tushie and kicking my heels into the air.

After that wonderful chest-crushing EKG, they wanted to do a blood test. A vampire came in cunningly disguised as a phlebotomist, asking if I was afraid of needles. I replied, “Hardly! I’ve had my ears pierced, undergone acupuncture, been hit in the skull with a dart, gave birth to three children, and been poked many times by Barbie’s sharp hands and feet when my young girls were trying to get my attention.” The blood-drawing female could not find a vein in my right arm. My left arm had a blood vessel the size of the Mississippi, but she poked my right arm for five flabbergasting minutes until I informed her that I’m only half human, and that she should try the left arm if she wanted to be successful at her job. I figured once she got the lab results, she was going to find out that I’m really 80 percent ice cream sandwiches. If only she had acted in accordance with my other command. I wanted her to infuse my blood with some Grand Marnier and Hershey’s syrup.

Hour two of my captive situation, I was still waiting for a hospital room. I was rather hoping for a penthouse suite but got a blue room instead. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder if it was generally used for code blue patients, where it is a representation of doom and gloom. They applied patches and wires, and the physician came in with a troubleshooting flowchart of inquiries. I’ve never pretended to be anything I’m not, except for maybe being sane and sober most days of the week. So what a coinkydink when he asked how much alcohol I consume. I said, “Not much Doc. But I can’t wait to get home so I can pour myself an afternoon snack.” Then came the entertainment segment of my stay. Another attendant slithered in who thought he would make my day with his undignified anecdotes. Personally, I don’t think anyone should tell knock-knock jokes to a weary woman who is in fear of heart failure. Then he asked, “Shall I pull the curtain shut?  Aren’t you glad that curtain isn’t iron? Get it? Iron…curtain?” Now generally, I am plenty darn thankful when someone wants to humor me in this sordid world. But I would have liked a more talented comedian, imagining the sheer and utter joy if he had been Kevin Nealon. Plus, my insurance doesn’t cover seizures from dreadful narratives. The not-so-amusing intern was completely devoid of any sort of comical compass, and probably wanted to make me laugh just so he could see my breasts jiggle. He didn’t exactly inspire confidence when he uttered, “Old McDonald had a farm, HAD being the key word here. Old McDonald came into the ER and never went home!” The guy truly thought he was funny. Then he added, “These two blondes were driving down the road and…” I stopped him dead in his goofy man tracks. I know it is rude to throw a pillow at someone while they are talking. But somebody had to do it.

When Mister Comedy Central recovered from the blast of feathers to his face, he asked me if I was okay. He must have seen my heightened sense of irritation, the hunger pains, and the fact that I needed a classier group of individuals entertaining me…like the Chippendales. He left to prepare for my discharge, and the cardiac monitoring system began beeping so loud that I thought the entire hospital staff would come running into my room. It’s the sort of scary sound you hear when someone has flatlined. They initially asked if I needed anything, And yet the blasted buzzer wouldn’t stop, and there was no one in sight. I had to pound the call button eighteen times. Someone finally came in wanting to give me a combative-patient peace offering.  But grouchy women who ask for Fentanyl, get Tylenol most of the time. Obviously the sound was a false alarm. I would have told them that I would clean up that room after I was finished and do the laundry, except that would have been a major false alarm as well.

I was diagnosed Type I for indescribable, and tests confirmed that I am most certainly an icecreamsandwichoholic. I had eaten Kobe beef with a pile of lardy mashed potatoes and a block of ice cream between chocolate biscuits the night before. The doctor said rich foods likely caused the pressure on my chest. Which was good, until he informed me that I also have severe scoliosis and extra flab in my stomach and thighs. I already knew I had a curvy figure. And doctors are never wrong.

One thought on “BEDSIDE MANOR

  1. With me, it’s my kidneys. The last time I went, thinking it was a UTI, it was, once again the kidneys.

    After a $2000 CT scan, I was told I have nonobstructive bilateral smallish kidney stones. I immediately pictured my kidneys as being like a fountain. A fountain producing, instead of chocolate fondue or champagne bubbles, little tiny kidney stones.

    Why? I don’t eat a lot of meat. That’s usually the number one problem. I don’t drink a lot of alcohol. That’s usually the number two problem. I just seem to have overactive, kidney stone producing kidneys.

    Cheerfully, they also informed me that the CT scan revealed a bunch of cysts within me on various major organs. Nothing to worry about, they assured me. OK. Sure, I won’t worry.
    Loved your story!!! The ER experience is best for lying down and avoiding.

    From now on, when I begin to feel anything close to UTI or kidney symptoms, I just start drinking barrels of water and cranberry juice. Why spend all that money to hear I have cysts that I don’t need to worry about throughout my body? I can pee through the sieve they gave me last time on my own.

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