At 4.30am today I was staring in the mirror trying to decide what to do. The mirror was not being helpful. I hate that. Going back to bed didn't seem like an option, it was hot and still and my pillow felt like a pincushion full of hot needles. So I tried the coffee and toast option, maybe I could just start the day a little early.
Coffee was nice but the pincushion effect was still there, even without the pillow. I won't even tell you what the mirror made me look like. Reluctantly I called the 811 public health nurse, which is really really not a useful thing to do, they only have one thing to say. Go to Emergency.
I am sure the government could save a lot of money replacing those live nurses who answer the phone with a simple recorded message (Go To Emergency), and then after a while people would stop calling and they could dispense with the phone line altogether.
Not only did she tell me to go to Emerge, she also said Do not eat (I had just made a bowl of strawberries and cereal) and Do not drive.
She asked, Is there anyone who can drive you? Anyone you can call?
I said, At 6.00am on a Saturday morning?
So $20 for a taxi to the hospital. At least, I thought, I'd be there early and beat the rush.
Wouldn't you know it the ambulances were very busy today, there was a nonstop stream of them all night and all morning, and ambulances ALWAYS have priority over walk-ins. The waiting room was relatively empty at 7.00am, but that meant nothing. And it was freezing! They had the air-conditioning cranked up something fierce. One of the nurses later told me that they are so busy they hardly notice, it's we folk sitting for hours on end in the waiting room that get to take notice. Thinking that it was going to be a hot day I didn't bother with a jacket, and so apparently did every other person in that waiting room.
Several of us chatted to while away the time and not wallow in our various pains. The woman next to me started by apologizing for being so grumpy, she was normally a very patient person. She had set out in the wee hours of the morning from her home town halfway down the Valley and arrived to the nearest hospital only to find the Emergency shut down. So she continued on up the Valley to the next hospital and arrived here at 4.00am. She thought that at least she'd be in and out at that hour. Hah. She had found a position she could sit in that was not too painful but daren't move from it. She had had surgery and was quite certain her incision was infected, and had been for quite a while. At her followup with the surgeon he said, Give it a bit more time. Last night was the last straw for her.
The next lady was in for a bee sting, a couple of days old and swelling steadily. She also had decided that she couldn't give it any more time. Another woman never spoke at all, we think she had some kind of migraine or such, she looked pretty terrible. As the morning progressed we watched the new people arrive, speculating on their triage position. It isn't in order of arrival, it's in order of how bad off you are, so the fact that you've been there since 4.00am means nothing if they think you're not as bad off as the little old guy clutching his chest at 9.30am.
I said to the lady with the incision, Couldn't you just tell them it is chest pain? I mean it was, kind of.
The waiting room filled up. The most crowded part was the waiting area for the Triage Nurse, they just kept coming and coming. We scrutinized everyone passing through that door to determine if they were better or worse off than we were.
At one point we were watching the little old guy tottering out of the car that was dropping him off, and the incision lady muttered, Please don't let him clutch his chest, please!
Then the little kids and their parents started arriving. One kid ran around until he found a light switch and started flashing the overhead lights. I wished he would find the thermostat and play with that. The nurse gave the incision lady a blanket because she was freezing and the bee sting lady a cushion and an icepack for her stung foot. She told us that there was a Non-Emergency Emergency Room, but it wouldn't open until 11.00am. So those of us who were low priority (basically all of us) might get some attention once they opened that.
I debated whether to just go home. I checked bus schedules and the local health clinic hours as an alternative to Emergency. My local health clinic is closed on Saturday (today) but open on Sunday; if I thought I could make it through one more night I might not feel quite so frustrated there. But the nurse pointed out that the clinic was closed on Saturdays and holidays, and Sunday being July 1st may or may not be considered a holiday. She said that the federal government considered Monday July 2nd as the official holiday, but whether the clinic agreed was anyone's guess. I might not get into the clinic till Tuesday, and did I really want to take that chance? Sigh...
I went around to the main door of the hospital looking for the cafeteria to buy something to eat: being cold and sick and hungry too was just over the top. Outdoors was pleasantly warm at 9.30am. I got a sticky sweet muffin and enough change in case I needed it for the bus.
At 10.20 the bus I might have taken home came and went, I stayed put. Good thing, for not 10 minutes later incision lady and I got called into the Non-Emergency Emergency Room, the first two in line for non-emergency emergency service. Yay! By 11.00am we had both been seen by the doc, she was given a bunch of antibiotics to take home with her and I was instructed to stay for an IV antibiotic. Another hour in the waiting room but at least I felt like I was doing something.
Nurse had a bit of a time inserting the IV needle, on the third try she threatened me, This is the last time.
She got it in and grinned, Apparently threats work with you.
I told her that come to think of it, the last time I had an IV the doc threatened me and it worked then too.
She said, You should have told me, I would have threatened you sooner!
Afterward she left the IV needle in my arm and wrapped it up in lots of gauze. I told her my dog was going to jump all over me when I got home so it needed to be really secure.
Anyway, what I have is periorbital cellulitis, and I have to go back two more times for IV antibiotics. The doc thinks it may have been caused by a mosquito bite on my temple.
My neighbour kindly came to pick me up at 12.30pm and offered to drive me back tomorrow since the injection is scheduled for 11.00am (when Non-Emergency Emergency reopens). Depending on how I feel tomorrow, I may just drive myself.
I don't know what happened to the bee sting lady, I hope she was well out of there before I was. A little girl with an earache was not so lucky, just as her turn to see the doc came up he got called away to an ambulance patient. She was still sitting in her Daddy's lap with tears streaming down her face when I left. Sometimes triage sucks.