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March 1, 2006

Alive and Kicking

Hey folks. You probably thought I was dead. I'm not. I just lost my muse. I used to work with a guy who hardly did any work. You all have someone like this at your job. Here’s an example. During the summer, we had early dismissal on Fridays. We were allowed to leave at 2:00 p.m. One day he showed up at 1:45 p.m. NO, REALLY!! That's a whole 15 minute day. Sometimes he would even fall asleep at his desk. Now being a team player I would never bust him to management--but I would let the interns take pictures of him with their camera phones. Children can be so cruel-- the interns ... not me. Why have you never heard about this before? I never blog about people I work with.

When I get upset I get sarcastic ( somewhere an ex-girlfriend is nodding her head). I channeled this negative energy by writing blog entries. But on with my story.

I'm not dead, I'm alive. Although, right now I wish for the former rather than the latter. I'm standing as I write this because I don't want to touch anything in this emergency room. What has befallen your old friend Kwaku? Nothing, folks. I’m not sick; I brought my girlfriend here. She was not feeling well.

I hate this place. The ER is some level of hell yet undiscovered by Dante or mortal man. I have no idea how these hospital shows stay on the air. There is nothing dramatic or remotely funny about the ER. It is a nasty, dirty, and filthy place. Did I say nasty?  Let’s start with the woman coughing and coughing. The kind of cough I have never heard before (and I used to have TB). She coughs so deeply I can hear her soul make the sound of rustling leaves in her chest. Am I supposed to believe that the thin curtain (that does not even go all the way up to the ceiling) separating us is supposed to protect me from her germs? If she has something that is making her cough like this, her germs are going to treat that curtain like the Kool-Aid man treats walls.

This sound becomes the base of a tragic hospital symphony. The rhythm is kept by a man visiting his friend. He sits next to his stretcher eating food from McDonald's and rhythmically sucking his teeth. I have one question: HOW THE HELL IS HE EATING NOW? I’m not even sure I want to be breathing now. He places his fries on a sink ledge so that he can open a package of ketchup. I swear I saw a nurse test a urine sample on that sink less than 10 minutes ago. This is a whole  different kind of golden fries than the man is expecting. Then there is a man who looks like he finished 10 rounds with Mike Tyson AFTER he went man eater. I have never seen an eye swollen shut in real life. I want to ask him how it happened but that would be rude. I have a 50-50 chance it is either a way awesome story or a totally lame one like he tried to stiff his friend on drugs. (We’ve all seen “The Wire.”)  And then there is the beeping, the beeping, the BEEPING. I understand that doctors want to be sure that the patients are alive but the beeping makes me want to kill them. I think nurses who pull the plug on patients really just want a little quiet. I have been here less than three hours and I want to pull the plug. Maybe I can scare them all at once so that their hearts stop and restart in unison. I think shooting a 12 gauge in the air would be too much--but I know it would work.

My favorite musician in this symphony of infections is the soloist three beds down throwing up from his toenails. It slowly builds to a staccato set of heaves (unn, unn , aargh, splosh, aurgh, splosh, aargh). After 20 minutes I would have made the doctors knock me out. Five hours later he is still on his Grateful Dead-length solo (ahhh the dedication to your craft). All this is nothing without the high-pitched wails of  “Ay Dios mio” from an elderly Hispanic woman. They almost begin to sound like Gregorian chants. It’s like a chile cook off. Each woman tries to outdo the other with the exact same ingredients. One emphasizes the "ay" while the other emphasizes the "Dios." And my favorite--she holds the mi in MIO for like 10 minutes.

To make matters worse, It's also free-clinic night. We’ve all heard the free-clinic jokes. Now let me tell you there are people here who need medical help but don't have the money (and that's not funny) and those who clearly look like they're the reason for the free-clinic jokes. Wait, there has just been an announcement that all relatives of patients in section A must leave immediately. OK, where is section A ?  Am I in it? How close is it to me? What the hell is on the loose in section A and can a brother get a hazmat suit? I would settle for the bubble they put John Travolta in (The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, 1976). Man, I must be in love because every fiber of my being is saying, "Get the hell out of this room. You can always get another girlfriend--some of the stuff these people have you can never get rid of."  Am I going to hell for thinking that?

Then a lady that was just wheeled next to me tells her friend that she is done with crack. CRACK…Are there still crack heads? It’s 2006, people. I thought Whitney and Bobby were the last. They put this lady on a nebulizer (a doohickey that helps you breathe). She is comfortably holding it like a crack pipe (once again, The Wire.) I wonder if she is going to use her new lung capacity to do something healthy like jogging. (Stop laughing. It could happen.) Nope, we all know she will just be able to take bigger hits off the crack pipe (it’s puff, puff, give. You're messing up the rotation).

I have just been asked to leave the area after a nurse accompanied by three other hospital workers walks in. The nurse points at the woman on the gurney next to my girlfriend and says proudly in her outside voice that this patient has had constant vaginal bleeding for the last month. After hearing that I think my ears are going to bleed for at least that length of time. As I wait in another part of the ER I see a girl give me the eye. I am not quite sure this has really happened so I look again. Yep, she is giving me the eye. Eww. First of all, I am here with someone. Second, this is the most unromantic place on the planet. Third, she could be here for the free clinic. Keep it movin' sister. Man I just want to go home and wash my eyeballs with Brillo and take a bath in Listerine and bleach. Folks, the moral here is take care of yourself and be careful--not for your health but for no other reason than to stay out of the emergency room.

Posted by Kwaku at March 1, 2006 5:03 PM


Man - I do believe that was worth the wait! :-)

Posted by: I.G.Norance at March 6, 2006 5:01 PM


Some of us don't have health insurance and need the free clinic. We could be perfectly clean and healthy:)

Posted by: Norah at March 7, 2006 11:35 AM

then you would fall in the first group. It's the ones that look like they were in there to get a shot to stop the burning from their weekend activities that scared me.

Posted by: Kwaku at March 7, 2006 5:53 PM

Hey, what's new? Drop an old friend a line when you get a moment

Posted by: Alzy at March 31, 2006 9:59 PM

Hey, what's new? Drop an old friend a line when you get a moment

Posted by: Alzy at March 31, 2006 10:04 PM

FWIW -- the nurse who was loudly proclaiming the lady in the next bed's condition was in major violation of HIPAA -- patient privacy is a HUGE deal. The patient in question could sue for loss of privacy (I think -- or something like that.)

When I was doing my clinical, there was a priest from my faith in the hospital. One of the parishioners (who I knew, I hadn't known the priest before) asked me how he was.

In fact, this parishioner actually worked at the hospital.

I could not say word one to her about the priest -- not how he's doing, not why he is in the hospital, not anything.

Frequently, concerned and caring hospital roommates would ask about their roommate -- again, I could not say a word. (Yes, it does make the world seem a tad less friendly -- but, in one case, the roommate had AIDS -- how do you think that would have gone over?)

Posted by: AFormerRNStudent at June 22, 2006 3:41 PM

I spend quite a bit of time in the ER.. mostly on a damn holiday when normal doctor's offices are closed, since I have a propensity to contract some deadly form of sinusitis or bronchitis or pnuemonia in the winter season.

ERs suck. They _are_ illness-laden and filled with slow-as-fuck nurses and doctors, who always seem to have something better to do than come throw two antibiotics and an inhaler my way so that I can go HOME and be sick.

Isn't there a 24-hour Urgent Care clinic in your town?

Posted by: amethystarlight at September 6, 2006 8:26 PM

Man, this was hilarious. I found your page off a google ad in my gmail. How much do you have sunk into your ad campaign a month?

Posted by: Jeff at September 7, 2006 2:02 PM

I just love your weblog! Very nice post! Still you can do many things to improve it.

Posted by: Jessicator at May 10, 2009 5:18 PM

That was nice. Thank you for sharing this one.

Posted by: ArianaRile at May 13, 2009 12:25 PM

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