Saturday, May 14, 2011

Inhospitable Hospital

It was 1030 PM on Tuesday. The rain seemed to have driven the sick, the suffering and the simpering into the packed hospital emergency waiting room. My daughter, grimacing due to inflamed and infected tonsils, had been there since mid-afternoon. I had just arrived for the late shift, waiting, not so patiently, to see a doctor.

The waiting "priority system", although impossible to discern in the melee of comings and goings, was explained to me by the harassed intake clerk. Behind the heavy safety glass partition she vacillated between being halfheartedly sympathetic and stressed out. She had reacted with exasperation to my "how long will we have to wait" query, as if I had asked her a dozen times. "We cannot say. We take the serious cases first and others in order of arrival." This answer struck me as the slogan for our medical plan’s "priority system" for every illness and injury. The problem is that the definition of "serious cases" can fluctuate for any number of reasons. It did not escape me that rarely does Parkinson's disease hit that list so it tends to languish in the "incurable" waiting room.

Moments after hearing the receptionist's wait warning, a tired-looking nurse barked my daughter's name into the suddenly silent room. We were ushered past the electric-lock security door labeled "Emergency Personnel Only - Do Not Enter". Leaving behind the waiting room collage of broken bones, crying children and anxious family members, I felt guilty. I wondered whether my daughter's situation was now deemed serious enough or whether she had waited long enough to earn entry into the inner sanctum. Regardless, we were "in".

It was a deceptive feeling of success. We were shown to one of more than a dozen of those bed cubicles separated from beds on either side by sheets hanging from overhead tracks. We waited, as if holding a lottery ticket, not knowing whether we would get medical attention in minutes or hours. There was one doctor clad in hiking boots who walked hurriedly from patient to patient, grabbing clipboards, reading and uttering to nurses in unintelligible medical terms on the fly. Again, my thoughts segued to patients with Parkinson's, who were so often left holding onto hope of getting answers from overworked doctors.

As opposed to PD, my daughter got the needed medical help after another hour of waiting, and the intravenous antibiotic began its magic healing as it dripped from its elevated bag into her arm. If only PD were that easy to heal, rather than requiring the endless string of pills just to keep limbs from seizing or shaking out of their sockets.

As we waited that night amid the anguish of those in desperation, those in need of emergency care, I realized there would be waiting ahead for me. There seems to be an abundance of patience required for millions who wait for healing before the demanding nature of Parkinson’s disease has its way. But I will continue to believe that there is hope. It may not come through an IV needle, transplanted stem cells or the electronic stimulation of depleted dopamine production. Still, there is hope even now.

1 comment:

  1. Bob,
    I hope that your daughter has recovered and that she is alright.
    As for the waiting, there is always hope.
    Thank goodness for daily miricales of modern medincine. We have come a long way and there will be more advances soon.
    Keep the faith.
    Shirley B