Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I'm Chillin'

Well, I was chillin'...for most of the day. I took my mother to outpatient surgery today, and that place was a virtual meat locker. Perhaps it felt that way because we had to be there at 6:30, and did not leave until 4:30. There was no time to warm up between coolings. It was so cold that my sainted mother asked the nurse for another blanket. Oh, she declared that she wasn't cold--it was for me to wrap around my shoulders. The nurse brought it in and unfolded it and put it on my mom. As soon as she left, my mom said, "Here. It's so warm. It's heated." Who am I to look a gift blanket in the mouth? I took it. Mmmm. It was SO warm. My mom said, "You'll need that when they take me in. They always keep it cold in here."

Little did we know how long we would be subjected to this hypothermic chamber. My mom asked every man who walked by, "Are you Jim?" OK, she's not senile. A guy named Jim had left a message on her answering machine that he would come get her at 7:00 and take her to radiology for 30 minutes, then bring her back for two hours, the take her for some pictures. At 9:20, a guy who admitted to being Jim came in. That was right after he stopped at the nurses' station 2 feet away and told them, "This happens every time they schedule one of these. The picture-taker is broken." He then proceeded to tell my mom that they could still do the surgery, though not under ideal conditions. Which was perhaps not a wise move for Jim, because my mom dug in her heels like a calf on the way to a dehorning/castrating/branding party. She said that she had reservations all along, and this might not be the best day for her to have this surgery. Then that traitor Jim went back to the nurses' station (did I mention it was 2 feet away) and stage-whispered, "Now she doesn't want to do it. You'd better get Dr. NoPersonality down here." And they all cluck-clucked and stuffed in a few more bon-bons and gazed sideways into Room 2 as they pretended to go by the rooms and check on other patients. The doctor appeared, faster than a stoner at a Free Meth Convention, and Tattletale Jim followed him mouthing how he tried to explain, but she said this and she said that. After quizzing the doctor like he was a finalist on Tournament of Champions Jeopardy, my mom agreed to get it over with. Everybody in the hall on the way to radiology stared at her like she was wearing a scarlet 'C' for Complainer. During the two-hour wait for the surgery, my mom said, "I'm afraid I'm going to have to tell Jim not to call me anymore."

I went out to make two phone calls at 12:00 when they finally took her into surgery. I was gone about 10 minutes. When I came back, MY BLANKY WAS GONE!!! Those nurses were evil. In fact, when we got there, they let my mom in the cubicle, stepped in front of me, and snarled, "There's a waiting room out front!" It was like cutting a calf from the herd. My mom said, "But..." and they closed the curtain. Last time, they let me sit with her until she had to get undressed and have her vitals taken. Not so this time. Because of course they were in a hurry at 6:30 a.m. for that surgery that began at noon. I wish they had those little 'customer satisfaction' cards like restaurants. I surely would have filled one out, even if I had to sever an artery for lack of a pen. In all that time we waited, a nurse came into the cubicle ONE time. That's because I went out in the hall and flagged her down, because mysteriously there was no call button. Oh, and my mom asked if she could go to the bathroom before they took her into surgery, and the nurse said, "We'll do that on the way. We'll stop the bed right there by the bathroom." This was at 10:40. At 11:30, I flagged down a nondescript employee who was probably just a wheelchair pusher. She let the side of the bed down, and when I got out of the way for the IV stand to roll out, she said, "You can carry it. There's a hook in the bathroom." So I helped my waterlogged mother to the bathroom. They had been giving her arm a drink through a straw all morning. That's the way they explained the IV to My Little Pony at the GOOD hospital.

I'm not sayin' they lost my mama, but after the surgery, there was a big to-do. "Doesn't this patient have anybody with her?" asked someone from the surgery suite. "I called several times in the waiting room, but nobody answered." The nurses gazed up from their bon-bon eating, Devil's Playground Ad-reading frenzy. "Well, she had someone here earlier. I don't know where she went. The clothes are in Room 2." As was I. In the exact place I had been sitting for 2 hours. Where the doctor came directly after the surgery to talk to me. Where there was a glass door across the hall which reflected every move at the nurses' station to me. And, you would think, mine to them. But no. They had no idea I was there. Which makes you wonder. The surgery nurse explained that my mom was now in a hospital room, and could go home a bit later if she felt like it. She led me through a maze of corridors to reunite with my mama.

Again, it's a good thing. This wing was like a ghost town. But it was warmer. The nurse left. Nobody had explained the call button. Again, I had to flag someone down for the bathroom. They unplugged her IV pole attached to some kind of monitor, put the bed side down, and left. I am shocked by their lack of concern. My mom would have been as well off at home as laying around that hospital in a room by herself. We figured that by this time, Jim was home in his recliner with his feet up, drinking a cold beer, fiddling with the spare parts from the 'broken' machine, building one of his own to lease the hospital the next time this happens. We fear that when Mom goes back Friday for her follow-up appointment, she will be greeted with a framed picture of Jim near the elevators, proclaiming 'Employee of the Month'.

Anyhoo, I got her home around 4:30. My sister was going to sit with her for a bit this evening. Thank goodness she was out of that hospital. It's a lonely place.

And cold.

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