Thursday, April 10, 2008

The ER Visit - Part One: Begin the Beguine

I beat the ambulance to the ER. Because when the MTA is working, it works.

Penny, the home aide jumps out and shrugs, "She's fine. Cursed me all the way up." We both knew Florence was O.K. but good to do it by the book.

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 it’s not their usual "pick-up-sick-old-lady" run.

The ER is packed with a lot of old people ranging from normal old sick stuff to normal old dying stuff. We get parked in a corridor. Penny splits back to the apartment. Good time to catch up on the incontinence-laundry pile.

Hospital Rule Number One: with an old person who spent the last month in bed refusing to do anything except pretend to sleep while listening to the radio, do everything you can to keep their clothes on no matter what hospital personnel request.  Because you know once they come off it will be impossible to get them back on.

So 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 last one out loud. Yet. But be prepared to say it a hundred times later.

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


"That's related."

Because I rarely call Florence "Mom" I'm often mistaken for the home aide.

A couple of hours later, we're moved to a better and much less drafty part of the corridor because the all stalls are still packed.

A whole bunch of cops  and firefighters wheel in a crazy old man, a nostalgic reminder of the 1980s when Reagan cut funding and the mentally ill poured onto the streets the next day to become the new homeless. He is handcuffed to the wheelchair. As he passes us, 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 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."

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

“Door Chimes! Phone Rings! In Comes Companeeee!”

The screaming old man quiets down - either he got moved or sedated. The firefighters and the cops head 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 is young, cute and moves like a jockey - that small butch-in-command mojo swagger.  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.  I scratch it and smell her urine. Find a hand-sanitizer dispenser and clean both of our hands.

"Have you ever taken care of anyone like this before?" Florence asks me.