Friday, December 02, 2005

Observations From the ER.

“Social Work on two” Comes the voice from above.

The woman two chairs to my right is put together. She has perfect cherry wood colored hair that is held away from her face by a thick black crocheted headband and a perfectly neat flip at the end of each of her uniform strands. She has clear makeup, a smooth lipsticked mouth, and bright eyes that are accentuated by her hairstyle.

Her cream colored shirt, long corduroy ruffled shirt, and shiny black healed boots are capped off with a black Prada mini backpack that is only acceptable because of the brand. She delivered her father and now she’s sitting there, reading her new hardback copy of Ruth Stein’s new book Just One Word. Every few minutes she wipes a tear.

“Radiology on One.”

There’s a security guard waiting in the doorway of the room across the hall from where I’m sitting, and he can’t leave his post because of the mysterious patient in the darkened room- I didn’t notice him when I first walked in. In fact, I still haven’t noticed him, but I know he’s there, cause the guard is there; his bed is presumably just out of my view. Maybe he’s a danger- the patient I mean.

“Transfer ready, Doctor Stenlen to front.”

A man comes in seated in a wheel chair. His blank stare doesn’t register with me, I only see his rusted bandage in the center of his forehead that betrays the injury underneath it, and his hands are folded in his lap, but one of them is bloody. When his name is called the young Korean-American doctor directs him into the room over my left shoulder, and so all I can do is listen. “Can he talk?” The doctor inquires of the man’s caretakers. I don’t hear the reply. “Can he tell you if something is hurting?” Again, I miss the reply. “Can he follow directions?”

A deep Jamaican voice comes around the corner from the room, “Maury, can you ask the doctor her name? Ask the doctor her name Maury.” But Maury is silent. “I found him on the floor, he had hit his head on the wall.”

“The wall?”

“Yes, his bed is against the wall, and he hit his head like this,” I assume there was a gesture to accompany.

“Which side is paralyzed?” The doctor asks: and I learn that Maury had a stroke, rarely speaks, and is paralyzed on one side of his body- his left side. “Is he acting his normal self? Is this his normal behavior?”

“Yes, yes this is normal.”

The voices persuade, question, and hamper Maury; “I’m going to need to make a full exam on him because I can’t tell if anything is broken. I need to make sure that everything is ok inside and outside, so I’m going to get him a CAT scan. I’m going to send the nurses in here and they’ll undress him completely so that I can make sure nothing is broken.”

A few moments later Maury is wheeled out, his face a bereft emptiness, his right arm resting on its elbow with his hand straight in the air. The doctor leads the way and his two caretakers, two tall middle aged Jamaican men, follow behind, one pushing Maury, one surveying the crawling ER.

“Blood bank on three.”

The woman in the bed next to Staci’s explains how she has been in the ER three times in the last few weeks. She had her pacemaker put in a while back and was in for that. Then last week she experienced vertigo and had to come in. Then yesterday her arm started swelling and looked bruised so she came in at 5:00pm and has been there ever since. They told her that the person she needed to see would be back the next day at 8:00am and that she could come back then. “It took a lot of convincing, but I told them I live alone, I’m a widow, and I live far from here, so they let me stay overnight. But I’ve been here, I haven’t gotten a room.” She had been living in a curtained off area and I imagine had gotten quite comfortable with her cotton gown and robe and booties and cartons of milk. A few minutes later, after expounding on hemorrhoids, she was transferred to another room, and I just kept wondering where her family was.

“Visiting hours are over. Please proceed to the waiting room. A security officer will be circling the ER to ensure your exit.”