I sat in the waiting room for the CAMC General Hospital emergency room for several hours the other day.
Not because they didn’t want to take care of me but because they didn’t have a bed available.
I watched ambulance after ambulance come in, and I saw a waiting room full of a couple of very sick people like me — a few sick people and injured people who needed care but nothing that was life threatening — and a whole bunch of drug addicts who were there to get some drugs and did most of the bitching about having to wait for hours and people going ahead of them.
And then there are the smokers who spend most of their time outside and aren’t there when their name is called (more than once) and then get mad because they aren’t waited on.
Even though I had to sit in the ER waiting room, they still took me back within minutes to evaluate my condition when I told the lady at the check-in desk that the problem was my heart and my doctor had sent me to the ER.
Within an hour of checking in, I had a chest X-ray (to see if my heart was enlarged), bloodwork and an EKG.
I knew things were super busy when they took me back from the waiting room to run my second set of bloodwork. (They check cardiac enzymes every two hours when there is a problem. If there had not been a problem they would not have done that second set of bloodwork.)
Then I was put back in the waiting room.
I was in a wheelchair, so they had to do all the pushing.
I went in with my tank of oxygen, and they had to give me two more because mine ran out, as did their first one because I was there so long.
Emergency rooms take people in order of priority of their illness and injury, not who gets there first. So, heart patients, stroke patients and life-threatening injuries are first.
Happily, the drug addicts were last, but everyone (who didn’t get mad and leave) was waited on.
I saw an ER with so many people that there was barely room to walk through.
There also seemed to be several people taking care of each patient.
I did not see employees loafing and messing around.
I saw people who were so busy that they had their heads down doing their jobs and getting things done.
You could see that each one had 10,000 things to do and no time to do them.
And in the middle of all the organized chaos, they were actually pleasant while they did their jobs.
Time after time, I saw a nurse or orderly or secretary or security guard do a little something extra to make someone more comfortable or make the situation easier for patients even though they had tons of stuff to do.
I was in the most uncomfortable wheelchair on Earth.
At about the five-hour mark, I was feeling so bad that I wanted to leave myself, but I was too sick to leave. I wasn’t strong enough to throw a fit and walk out in a flourish with others saying, “Good riddance to ya baby! I’m one more closer in line now!”
And then you see the child.
The child that puts it all in perspective.
His mom brought him out in a cute little wagon that the hospital provides to make things a little less scary for kids. He was kicked back on his pillows and blankets looking completely pleased and comfortable even though he was in a half body cast from his waist down.
As they waited for dad to get there to pick them up because he could finally go home, someone asked what had happened.
His dad had accidentally run over the little boy as he was backing out of the driveway.
So while the drug addicts were bitching, and people were puking in buckets, and I was getting the care I needed even though I wasn’t actually in a bed, the nurses and doctors were taking care of children like this little boy. I was happy to know that he was at the front of the line.
And it was obvious they did it in a stellar way to boot.
Pam Brennan may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.