Tag Archives: doctors

Following the Story Since it Broke

The snowstorm may have hit yesterday, but the eye of the storm came last night, when my sister met me in the emergency room at St. Vincent’s Hospital.

“Are you O.K.,” she asked me. I’ve had a weird stomach pain that I initially thought would end with that awful stomach bug that’s been going around. But after the bug, the pain remained for a week. Fed up, I figured I’d cut to the chase, go (doubled-over in pain) to the hospital and either be discharged in time to grab some sleep and head to work or admitted for appendicitis. After looking me up and down and diagnosing me with “a paler shade than your typical pale,” my sister plopped down on the bench next to me and turning her eyes to the corner-mounted TV. “Oh, thank god they have The Bachelor on,” she announced. We had enough time to catch the fact that the Bachelor still had feelings for the girl he turned down, but then my name was called and we were brought back to emergency triage.

Ladies and Gentleman: Welcome to the Bowels of emergency_room_3Hell late night comedy hour courtesy of the ER nurses, doctors and the local drunks and homeless. Seven hours can pass relatively quickly when you have a a three-ring stand-up show going on around you.

First, it was a homeless man who smelled so extraordinarily badly of feet that the ER nurse kept spraying the room with a disinfectant to cut the smell. When that wore off, security stepped in. “What the hell’s that smell?” they asked. The nurse explained and added that he had given the man his discharge papers, but that he was currently burning up the lines of the courtesy hospital cell phone calling everyone he knew. Essentially using the curtained-off bed as his personal phone booth. Security gave him the boot and the smell went with him.

While we waited to see who came in next, my sister apparently got a job working at the hospital. My curtain area also housed the supply of bed linens and paper bags in which to store a patient’s clothing. My sister sat conveniently next to the linen cart. Nurses and EMS workers stopped by and asked her to please hand them a few linens and a bag. This continued for the entire duration of our stay. My sister never missed a beat. “How many would you like,” she asked them. “Do you need a bag with that.” Or, “Let me go into my closet and check my supply level.” The ER staff came and asked her first, like it was, in fact, her cart. If she had turned down their request, I don’t doubt they would have just walked away, thinking my sister, in her black knit poncho and leggings with her Pocahontas braids and black rubber Wellies, had the final say in the matter of the bed linens.

Next up in our comedy ring was a seriously drunk guy, who announced his arrival with: “Am I going to die?”
“No sir,” the nurse replied, “you just broke your hand.” The drunk started to cry. “So am I going to die,” he questioned again. The doctor answered this time, “well, we all die, sir. But not today. You’re in good hands with me.” Then, without missing a beat, the doctor added, “Except I just went off duty.”

As the sister and I cracked up, we saw the drunk’s nurses whispering to each other, consulting. Then, they asked him: “Sir, do you have hair plugs?”
“I don’t know,” answered the drunk, crying.
“Sir, this is important. We need to know if you have hair plugs in case you need brain surgery.”
“Yes,” he replied, weakly.

The drunk left for a while, later returning a little more sober, but not quite. “Why is my hand like this,” he asked the nurse. The nurse replied back that it had been broken when the drunk fell down the stairs. “Oh,” he said, as he proceeded to kiss his hand several times to make it better.

The later it got, the more scary the characters. Finally, when we hit on a violent, homeless (but fur-clad) psych patient, I told my sister to go home. “Are you kidding,” she exclaimed, gesturing over to our hand-kissing drunk who had proceeded to call everyone of his iPhone contacts at 3am to let them know he was in the hospital. “I want to see what happens. I’ve been following that story since it broke.” She smiled at me with a glimmer in her eye. “Haha.”


A Doctor Today

Finding a physician in a new city is not an easy task. Especially when you are married to one. As an adult, I’ve never been a person who goes to the doctor for my annual check-up but instead on an as needed basis. I’ve been fortunate in the eighteen months+ that we’ve lived in this dump important/center of the universe/think Saul Steinberg’s famous New Yorker cover city of power brokers not to have fallen ill. But when itch came to lack of sleep for a few night’s running, I was inclined to make an appointment.

One UES doc, “in private practice,” which means he or she takes payment upon service (i bill my insurance, okay, i’m used to that, no different in la but we had the good fortune of being linked to the UCLA medical center who took insurance, can see me in late June.

And before I can schedule an appointment, I’m indulged with the rules of the office road:

Count on about an hour for your first appointment
Fee for first exam $800, doesn’t include any tests or additional fees.
Everything else gets added on.
Payment (as I mentioned above) is at time of service.
They will accept all major credit cards
furnish the patient with a super bill
patient may submit it to her insurance provider.

My head is a blur as I envision yet another sleepless night filled with itching and scratching my hands and feet.

“Would you like to schedule an appointment?” asked the scheduler.

Yes, I would like to schedule an appointment. Mid-August is the next mutually convenient date. The doc isn’t available until late June at which point I will be away and then she will be away. We settle on August 18, 2008.

In the meanwhile, I need a doctor. I’m itching and scratching and the cursory google search last night delivered lupus, a circulatory ailment like raynauds as possible explanations. My doctor husband thinks these are unlikely causes. The itching began, as far as I can recall, five days ago. Onset in the evening (at sunset, not when I climb into bed), no one else in our house is itching, no rash, no bumps, hands and feet primarily but just writing about it makes me itch. We haven’t switched detergents, no new creams or meds. Clearly, I’ve thought this through.

In response to my query if there might be a possibility that the physician would extend a physician’s courtesy to my husband who is a new recruit at a major medical center in this dump city?

“It’s a function of the doctor’s very busy schedule.”

Gee, I hadn’t thought of that. This experience comes on the heels of an unpleasant experience securing pediatricians for our school aged children. No one takes insurance, that’s a given. Fortunately, we have insurance and we have credit cards. In my experience, docs in this town, for the most part, don’t take new patients. They go for the newborns. Both kids have had their checkups, are in good health, whew, and the 14 yr old even had the benefit shock of a breast exam, sans explanation. We won’t be visiting that doctor again.

so that’s part of the back story. The bottom line is I’m not mad, I’m itching.

The doctor’s office will call me later today to inform me if the doctor can see me sooner or with a reference for someone else who might.

My lips begin to quiver, eyes well with tears as I look out onto the rain drops falling from a gray sky. Mud colored, red and gray brick buildings face toward me, closing me into this concrete jungle where one of the pediatrician’s office told me, “it’s all about who you know.”

Does anyone know someone who can relieve the itching?