Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Crazy 911

Crazy Dan has been on disability for a couple weeks, unable to walk very well after (we think) he slipped a disc and pinched his sciatic nerve. He wasn't able to see a "spine specialist" until two weeks from now (!) so he was holding out. But yesterday he was much worse. I went over and found him on the floor of his apartment, on his back. His leg was paralyzed and in terrible pain. He couldn't stand or walk. As he rolled around on the floor, he never lost his sense of humor, telling me. "This is God's punishment for me for gaining weight!!!"

Somehow we dragged/pulled him down out of his 5th floor walk-up and into a taxi to the ER.

A quick mention about emergency room-waiting rooms in New York City winter: They are the number one destination for the homeless and the nodding-out heroin addicts. It's warm in there! So in between the drugged out and homeless is Crazy and me and Crazy is in such bad shape he again is laying on the floor, pulling on his knee, fidgeting to try and escape the pain.

It's really hard to watch your friend in pain so I began fidgeting, too, in sympathy. As he's writhing around, a nurse comes out to call someone else in...looks over at us and quips, bitterly. "Sir, what are you doing on the floor??!" "Dying!" shoots back Crazy.

Minutes later, another nurse comes out to yet again call someone else inside, and she too looks over at Crazy and says, without one shred of compassion. "Sir, you need to get off the floor!" and it's hard to imagine that these women, at one point, got into nursing because they wanted to help people. But this time Crazy yells back, "Sir...you can't die in that position! Please DIE seated!"

We were called in next.

You definitely never want to be inside an emergency room in New York City. If you are going to have an emergency, it should be in a smaller community with space. I'm not sure why anyone is scared government will take over health care. How could the government do any worse than this? I don't have health insurance and if I slipped a disc I don't know what the hell I would do except hope to be crushed by a midtown Bus and end it all.

Because picture this. Inside the over-crowded bowels of the emergency room, there are dying people, a man talking about his open lesions, vomiting, beds everywhere, cups of urine, chaos, needles, one old lady being slowly walked around in a diaper. New York City's Beth Israel emergency room, mid-day, is part morgue, part slums of Mumbai.

The worst is, I stayed with crazy for two hours before he got anything for the pain! He was just put in a bed and told to wait. Every so often, I'd approach a nurse or a PA or whoever and ask, "Can someone see my friend, or at least give him something for the pain?" and they'd respond, "He's in the computer." At last, one doctor, rushing past, answers "Mondays are the busiest day at the hospital." Only partially joking, he adds. "Next time, tell him to tough it out 'til Tuesday."

We later visited Crazy in the hospital (living with Jesse #6, below) where he was transferred to an actual room and got to spend the night. So you see, he deserved that smuggled cocktail! Gawd.


Tony said...

Hey Jesse -

Please give Crazy Dan my heartfelt sympathy - I've been thru the same thing. First time was about 30 (!!) years ago, and symptoms were very much like Dan's: excruciating pain and left leg wouldn't work.
I was in Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte for 10 days; no surgery, just traction, intravenous painkillers, and physical therapy.

The Presbyterians had a rule: no alcoholic beverages. Now, the hospital was on the way home for my buddies at the end of the workday. Can't imagine how this happened, but despite the rule, a 6 PM cocktail party established itself daily in my room. Supplies were stashed in a cupboard beside my bed. When it came time for me to check out, my sister Deb removed a grocery bag full of booze, mixers and snacks.

I'd been home for no more than an hour when the hospital called. A stern sounding lady told me I had left a "personal belonging" behind, but wouldn't say what it was. Deb went to retreive the mystery object and came back with my nice silver pocket flask, which still had some bourbon in it. I'll never know why the Presbyterians didn't kick my ass out after the very first cocktail party.

Tell Crazy Dan to rest up, take his muscle relaxers, and when he gets better, work on core strengthing at the gym.


Don said...

Large cities do not have a monopoly on this!! With the cutbacks and closing of many hospitals most emergency rooms are ill equipped to handle the load. I also waited for hours with a massive blood clot in my leg that was breaking off. One piece to the heart or brain and I would have dropped dead on the spot. It has to be more than luck since it all went to my lungs which were nearly to the point where I could barley get enough oxygen to stay conscious. Most of what I know of the event I was told by my kids who brought me in. I was way out of it. My higher power had to have been with me. My main concern is what if we do have some major disaster - we could never handle it. Sadly, I did not get to have a little party while there - but did after - to celebrate life!