|Posted on July 26, 2013 at 11:25 PM|
The day after my birthday. You cannot imagine the joy of finding myself in Trauma Room 1 at Northridge Hospital, completely alone (having sent my long-suffering honey away, saying, "I'll call when I know what's going on," because he was on a book recording deadline).
All because I had called to make an appointment with my doctor, that afternoon. I was off my feed, feeling nauseous, generally punk, and as, for the past few days, feeling a compelling need for a nap at 11:30 in the morning.
It was a Friday, they don’t have an emergency room at the Motion Picture Hospital in Calabasas (where my doctor is) and, the last time I felt a need to call for a quick appointment on a Friday (February, 2011), it had turned out to be Sepsis and we were told later that, if I’d waited one more day they couldn’t have done a thing about it - so I wouldn’t be here, kvetching at you, right now.
Anyway, I was connected to the nurse, so I repeated the symptoms, adding, “and, while I was talking to my daughter, (Shawna, as it happened) earlier this morning, my left arm went tingly and numb.”
“Get to an emergency room. Now!” was the command, in a tone that did not need to elaborate. OMG, left arm. Heart. OMG! was undoubtedly trampling, like a herd of hysterical bison, through the poor woman’s head.
I, on the other hand, was mildly startled, said, “Okay,” hung up, and told David, figuring that the closest emergency room was less than a mile away.
Oh, so wrong. My new Anthem Blue Cross directory (about the size of the Greater Los Angeles phone book) told us that I was only allowed to go to emergency at Northridge, four miles away.
Side note to those not in the L.A. - San Diego megalopolis: even when the freeways are not part of the travel plan, it takes about 2 minutes to go a mile in sparse traffic, not including traffic lights that last no longer than 2 minutes, if there isn’t a separate, left turn arrow.
Took nearly twenty minutes. I knew it wasn’t my heart. I would have been dead, by then.
Another fifteen minutes to fill out paperwork (yawning all the while), and I was finally put in a wheelchair (with one broken, useless foot rest), and pushed through endless, busy halls (good thing, the walk would have killed me) to Trauma Room 1, a double-garage-size room with shelves and cabinets that quickly proved to be the repositories of every single bit of emergency supply for every single emergency need, and continually as busy as Union Station, Los Angeles, during WWII.
I was hospital-gowned (my nicely pressed clothes stuffed into a see-through plastic bag), connected with tubing and wires to various computer-enhanced machines, covered by a blanket thin enough to qualify as one of Salome’s veils, and left to lie on a gurney with my feet toward the door, my purse in the well of the slightly upraised head of the bed.
The drape covering the doorway was pulled back and I could see into the hallway. I was at the T-end of a crossroad. People were talking into cell phones. Patients on gurneys lined the walls while I was in a private room with all of the privacy of Louis XIV’s dressing room at Versailles.
People were talking on cell phones, in the hall. My poor, loving worried husband was hovering. I felt ridiculous. But, people were talking on cell phones.
I told David to go on home, it was okay. I’d be fine. I would call him when it was time to pick me up. I wouldn’t take, “No,” for an answer. Finally, after receiving assurances from my (male) nurse (whose name I have, mercifully, forgotten, so he will be “Dante,” here), David left.
Dante. Unforgettable, except for his name. He left, too.
It was a busy hospital.
I had brought a 20-ounce bottle of water with me. When it was gone, I realized I was receiving a strong call from Nature - and my throat was parched.
Unfortunately, Nature could not make herself heard by any of the people who were constantly in and out of the room for the next two hours. Those people did not include Dante.
I call him “Dante,” because he presided over the last (and never described, for the sheer horror no one would ever believe) circle of Hell: the place where one waits for hours watching a constant stream of passersby, all of whom are deaf to one’s pleas for the john, more water, a phone that works (surprise! My cell had all its bars but I could not call out from Trauma 1 and nobody was going to move me into the hall, so I could), sustenance to prevent a low blood sugar attack (in anticipation - so my finger was expertly pricked, my blood tested: “Your blood sugar is fine!” - well, yes, Dante, but wait twenty minutes and you’ll be calling for a straight jacket as you peel shaky me off the floor), or any acknowledgement of one’s basic humanity, until one is approached by yet another stranger, to be whisked away for another, endless test. Without water.
Finally, Dante popped in and I convinced him of my need to use the facility. I was supplied with a second hospital gown, used as a robe to cover the natural air conditioning feature of the first gown, disconnected, and walked . . . way . . . down . . . the . . . hall . . . to the restroom, then back (a distance that did not seem as far) to my gurney-bed in Trauma 1.
Sometime later, Dr. “Blondie Whoever,” who looked as if she had just escaped Grey’s Anatomy - which I never watch, but E.R. is long gone - popped in to tell me that everything looked just fine. They were going to do more tests. When I told her I had not been able to get anyone to give me water, she chirped pleasantly, “No wonder your blood is so dehydrated!”
Equally chirpily, I was also told I would not be moved to Motion Picture.
By four-thirty p.m., I was containing my chagrin with great presence of mind. The neurosurgeon arrived. She was “Dr. Lee,” (spelling deliberately misleading) a most definitely Pacific Rim person of great kindness. Why my heart needed a neurosurgeon was never explained to me but, between Dr. “Lee,” Dr. Whoever, and the irrepressible Dante (“people ask me why I didn’t want to be a doctor - no return on the investment, anymore,”;), I began to understand that I was going to be staying overnight, that there were many other tests to be taken, that I was trapped.
This was not good news. Earlier that month, I had been elected President of our local, San Fernando Valley, chapter of the California Writer’s Club. My first, informal meeting with the new board was scheduled at my house at 1 p.m., the next day.
Dr. “Lee” assured me that I would probably not make the meeting.
After she left, something in my face - it certainly couldn’t have been in my voice because, except for the watery desperation that had gotten him to escort me down the hall, earlier, Dante had not seemed to hear much from me - Dante grabbed a blue telephone (?blue?) with two (?two?) receivers, and showed me how to dial, “9” for an outside line.
I called David and let him off the hook (pun intended, sorry), and asked him to get in touch with a CWC Board member, to postpone the meeting tomorrow to 3 p.m.
I was not admitted to the hospital. I was taken around the corner to a private room, in the area where they keep patients for observation. David arrived in time to share the delight of watching the less-than-100 pound nurse shoving the balky bed around the 9 x 10 foot room, so that it would be possible for me to actually look at the television screen on the wall. Having survived the excitement, he kissed me goodnight and went home, to more recording and editing.
I was given lunch at 4 p.m. and taken for a test which I cannot remember well enough to describe, but which returned me to my new room at 6 p.m., where dinner was waiting.
Oh, I wish I’d written this sooner - or taken notes - because the dinner served to this prospective “heart patient,” was even more of a symphony of carbohydrates than lunch (2 hours earlier) had been - although it was outdone, the next morning, by breakfast.
At last, a call button. A TV. I actually slept.
Never mind about breakfast - but I would advise, forever and always, to run as quickly as possible from egg substitute, scrambled. The only saving grace was a choice of tea bags. I went for Earl Grey.
No toothbrush, no bathing kit. What luxury. My mood was not lightened by the news that I was going to have a nuclear stress test - necessary because I cannot use a treadmill (arthritis in the feet) - and it would not be done until at least noon.
I called David and asked him to cancel the Board meeting, that I’d reschedule as soon as escape had been accomplished.
More machines. Mercifully, I have developed an ability to zone out and let it happen - except for MRIs, in preparation for which I will willingly ingest almost any effective drug.
Long story not any shorter, the last person to visit me (once they had established I was breathing on my own and would probably continue to do so for a while longer) was the Physical Therapist!
This enthusiastic and charming young man arrived to give me basic instruction on how to stretch. I did not show off my prowess at touching my toes (which, I am led to believe, is astonishing, at my age), but assured him I try to do a modified yoga routine every morning, repeating, as I had to every medical practitioner I had seen in the past 24 hours, that I have arthritic feet, thoroughly trashed L4 & L5, and dissolving rapidly C1 & C2. (My chiropractor, Mark Somberg, is my first line of defense, every other week of my life.)
When I told Physical Therapist they had been able to find nothing wrong with my heart, in spite of the numb arm, he said, “It’s probably a pinched nerve.”
David picked me up. I was fine. The Board got together. This is L.A. It was a dramatic meeting.
On June 28, I got a call from my middle daughter that changed everything.
But that’s going to have to wait - and it’s probably going to be a locked blog, open to registered members only, for a while.
I love America. But some of its citizens deserve a hard smack on the side (or the back) of the head. Gotta love NCIS.