Thursday, April 10, 2008

The ER Visit - Part One: Begin the Beguine


I beat the ambulance to the ER. P. jumps out and shrugs, "She's fine. Cursed me all the way up." Knew Florence would be OK but good to do it by the book.

The ER is packed with a lot of old people ranging from normal old sick stuff to normal old dying stuff. We're parked in a corridor. P. splits back to the apartment. Good chance to catch up on the incontinence laundry pile. I do my "look in eyes, shake hands" with both ambulance drivers just in case we run into them again. They recount the various comments Florence made on the way up. Judging from their attempts at diplomacy, it is clear she's an anomaly in the "pick-up sick old lady" department.

Hospital Rule Number One - with an old person who is less and less mobile and spent the last month in bed refusing to do anything except pretend to sleep, awake, and listen to the radio among other miscellaneous acts of life, do everything you can to keep their clothes on no matter what hospital personal request. Just say no.

Say "Pull up her shirt and hook her up to the EKG that way."

Say "You don't need her in a gown for the X-Ray. because doesn't it just goes through the clothes?"

Say "She is not being checked into the hospital I'm in charge of my mother's care we are going home so I'm not putting her in a gown." Don't say that out loud. Yet. But be prepared to say that a hundred times later.

For the meantime, just refuse to take off her clothes because you know it will be impossible to get them back on.

The X-ray technician asks, "Are you related?"

"Daughter."

"That's related."

Because I rarely call Florence "Mom", lots of times I'm mistaken for the home attendant.

A couple of hours later, we're moved to a better and much less drafty part of the corridor because the stalls are still packed. A crazy old man, a nostalgic picture of the 1980s streets when Reagan cut funding and the mentally ill poured homeless onto the streets, is wheeled in on a chair. He is handcuffed. As he passes it sounds like he is screaming "Stupid Spirit!" which I think is a pretty imaginative curse. One of the women cops corrects me. "Stupid fill in any ethnicity you want..." We listen to him scream for the next hour or so the following:

"You fucking Nazi."
"You fucking Spic."
"Why am I handcuffed?"
"Get these fucking handcuffs off me."
"Nazi, Nazi, Nazi, Nazi Hospital. I didn't want to come here."

And repeat.

In between the screaming, Mr. C. tries to draw Florence's blood. But people keep going back and forth with stretchers. So he has to step out of the way. He doesn't get much. I sing musical numbers to her as he takes another stab at it.

The screaming old man must have been moved or sedated. The EMS/NYPD folk are heading out. The really cute firefighter says to the other really cute firefighter, "What do I know? I'm just a stupid Spic." The woman cop complains to her partner, "I don't wanna leave my handcuffs here."

Dr. Hottie R. is young and cute, moves like a jockey - that small butch in command mojo move - you can tell he's going to be a great doctor. He asks Florence, "Are you home?" Florence says, "Well, I'll call it home..."

I have been holding her hand during everything. My nose itches and I scratch it and smell her urine. Find a hand-sanitizer dispenser and clean both of our hands. Florence asks, "Have you ever taken care of anyone like this before?"

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