Thursday, May 08, 2014

A Beautiful Day for an Ambulance Ride

A week ago, my colleagues wrestled me into urgent care after I'd shown no improvement with a cough and cold I'd had for a couple of weeks. Testing of vital signs and a chest x-ray later, and the doctor was informing me that I had a mass of pneumonia in my left lung and that an ambulance had been called. Whoa, serious.

While, yes, it was serious, it was not so crazy life-threatening that I couldn't appreciate the experience and enjoy the show around me. Take the ambulance ride, for example. I've never had an ambulance ride before (thank God), and let's face it, this was a bloodless, painless way to get the experience of riding from the Upper West side urgent care to Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side, the route of which took me through Central Park. It was a beautiful day, I could lie back and enjoy the view, while Joseph and Kathleen, my ambulance professionals, took care of everything. Plus, my friend Ann got to ride with me. Best possible ambulance ride, truly.

And then, there was the emergency room experience. I was duly prodded, poked, tested, x-rayed yet again, and left to wait while others got their ER attention-time. One guy was raving and cursing so much that he was finally cuffed to the bed. A little Upper East Side "lady" fought and scratched as the emergency personnel tried to assure her that she wasn't in jail, but in the ER, because a passerby had worried about her on the sidewalk. "I only had one margarita too many and now I'm being held prisoner!" she kept yelling (this little UES "lady"). She tried to slip away several times, but they kept re-capturing her, until the last time - while no one was looking, she was out the door. I saw the whole thing, but, hey, what could I do?

I finally got to my room around 10pm (a 12-hour ordeal so far, if you're keeping score), I saw hundreds of doctors, residents, medical students, nurses, nursing assistants, and who knows who else, who asked questions (the most popular: name, birth date), affixed IVs, drew blood, snapped on a variety of wrist bands, showed me how to maneuver the IV to and from the bathroom and how not to set off alarms by keeping my arm absolutely straight. Well, just a lot of faces coming and going and asking questions and sticking me. I was vaguely aware of a roomie, but she was quiet and I tried to be the same. It was not a restful night, as anyone who's ever been in a hospital can attest.

If you have to have pneumonia, it's not a bad gig to be ensconced at Park Avenue and 77th Street in NYC. When you look out of your windows, you get to see beautiful buildings where really rich folk live, plus you get to see them coming and going to all sorts of fancy affairs. Quite entertaining.

The most painful part of the experience: my tiny, tiny veins, which caused untold pain every time my blood had to be tested (which was often) or my IV moved. I foresee this as a huge problem in the future, as I get older and need more medical care. Anyone know a way to boost vein size?

The best part of the experience: jello! Couldn't get enough of it. It's something I never make for myself, so I forget how comforting it can be. Mmm. Hospital jello!

The next day, my quiet roomie went away, and just having the room to myself let me get a lot more rest. I was roommate-less for one whole day. Then came Betty.

While I don't remember all the doctors' names (weird, eh?), I do remember the great nurses that took very, very good care of me at Lenox Hill. Here's to Esther, Alysa, Brigitte, John, and Emily. All of you treated me with dignity, care, and good humor. You made the experience bearable. Thank you.

As for Betty, that's another story for another day.

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