For most folks, July 4th is to pop the fireworks, drink a little beer, salute Old Glory, and all that patriotic family stuff. For me? Not so much. Two years ago on the fateful day, I awoke in the night with what felt like an alien trying to chew his way out of my belly. Wasn’t a kidney stone, been there. This time it had something to do with a misbehaving pancreas. I was in the belly of the hospital for four days, lying there in the darkness, totally alone. Okay, so maybe a nurse type did wander in from time to time to check my pulse but that was about it. The point is, do not go to the hospital on the 4th of July. Reason? The doctors, the techs, most of the nurses, the bed pan lady, the sweepers, and the cooks are all at the lake, getting drunk, and watching their kids blow their toes and fingers off. With the exception of the mob scene in the ER, the rest of the hospital is practically deserted.
On this past 4th (actually it was the 2nd) I had gone to bed around 11:00 or so being a tired puppy. The Missus was up, watching TV, baking bread (yes, she bakes bread in the middle of the night) while simultaneously checking on the welfare of the cats and dogs who are totally freaked out by the din outside. Out here where I live, on the edge of civilization, there are no fireworks laws and the denizens delight in detonating the loudest explosives they can find, some on scale with such well known big-boom makers as Fat Man and Little Boy ( ? ask the Japanese). Rockets red glare continue through the night until A: they run out of fireworks or B: pass out on the lawn. And so it was because of the reenactment of Apocalypse Now taking place next door, that I inserted my super sound deadening devices—otherwise known as ear plugs—and promptly went to sleep…for a while.
Someone was calling my name, screaming it actually, over and over. Ignore it my semi-conscious brain told me, it’s only a dream, go back to sleep. The voice persisted. I flip on the light to see an amazing sight; a crazed woman lying on the floor, yelling something about breaking an ankle. It wasn’t difficult to confirm. While a bone wasn’t actually poking through the skin, it was trying its best. Seems the Missus had slipped in some water on the garage floor and took a tumble.
Brain cells activate, but only a few. “Emergency, emergency, wake up, let’s get moving people.” Like drunken sailors—and some may have been—the rest of the group slowly comes to life and call for a conference. “So, what do you think? A splint? A couple boards? Duct tape? Talk to me people.” The last living cell, and possibly the most intelligent, spoke up, “How about calling 911?” “Brilliant” the other cells shout in unison.
The EMT’s were there in less than fifteen minutes, expertly wrap the ankle, check vital signs, load her up, and down the road we go. The ER people did their job as quickly as possible with the painkillers, the tubes, and the OH MY GOD resetting of the bones (stomach lurches). It was to be the last rapid response by any form of medical staff for the next 48 hours. Call lights go unanswered . The nurses’ station is a ghost town. Screams for help echo down the deserted halls. See a doctor? HA!
Four days later, we are back at the humble abode and suddenly, the situation has reversed; I am now the medical staff. I am learning first hand that the word patient is a misnomer to the nth degree. Patients are not patient at all and in fact, can be quite demanding; meals on time, fresh ice water, clean sheets, it goes on and on.. I say let ‘em wait. I have other duties you know.
Tomorrow, I’m going to the supply store for a set of scrubs.