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Friday, August 30, 2002

My mother is a strong and independent woman. So when she called me late this afternoon and asked for help, I knew she really needed it. She'd taken a spill and didn't think she'd broken anything, but she twisted her hip and was in serious pain. I raced over to her house and found her hobbling around with a cane, and not doing very well at it.

Be careful what you wish for, right? Just yesterday I thought I might like to see more of the Mammoth Medical Facility, and now I've been in every building in the complex. It's kind of odd, though, that the Emergency Room is in the far corner, way off the street and a long, long drive through parking lots. It's a good thing they have big red signs with big red arrows.

I parked in the blue zone and found a wheelchair just inside the ER entry door. It seemed harder for Mom to get out of the car and into the chair than it had been for her to get down the stairs at her house and into the car in the first place. That's when I was sure we were doing the right thing. At first she thought she might have been able to wait it out, see if she felt better tomorrow. She wouldn't have, though.

The people at Mammoth, no matter what you hear about the place, are kind and dedicated. They helped Mom with the pile of forms she had to fill out, and we had people every step of the way who treated both of us with courtesy and compassion. It's just that... well... there were these interminable periods when we were out of contact with any of them, just left on our own to wait. And wait and wait.

The next stop was the X-ray lab, and that part took less than half an hour. It was a teaser, though. I thought the rest of the visit would snap along at a lively pace, but things bogged down as soon as she got her pictures. We went back to the waiting room and waited. Well, that's okay; that's why they call it that. I finally found the brakes on the wheelchair so I didn't have to keep chasing her and bringing her back to where I was sitting. After some time we were shown into an exam room, where we waited again.

Eventually an EMT came in and Mom told the story of how she was stepping up onto the curb to get her mail and her foot slipped and she twisted her hip as she went down. He helped her sit on the bed. Then the nurse came in and she told him the same story. He helped her get undressed (while I waited in the hall). Then the doctor came in and she told him the story while he yanked her around trying to figure out what hurt, how much, and why.

That's the condensed version. Imagine stringing all that out over about three hours, and then we still weren't finished. The doctor knew from the X-ray that nothing was broken, and he could tell from poking and prodding that it probably wasn't nerve damage, so he guessed it was a muscle, probably a hamstring, probably a pull.

The doctor told her he wanted to give her a shot for pain and he prescribed drugs (which she hates) for pain and to relax the muscle. He also ordered a walker, because that seemed the best way to keep her mobile, but mostly he wants her to rest as much as she can. He walked out, and we waited another hour for something else to happen.

I tracked down an attendant and asked if Mom could have a glass of water. (She had a mop and a bucket, so this probably wasn't her job, but she brought Mom a glass of water.) Eventually our nurse came back and sent me off on a mission to pick up Mom's prescription at the pharmacy, which is in a whole different building that he was sure I'd have no trouble finding.

He was wrong about that, but I did find it after a few wrong turns. It wasn't his fault, because I made wrong turns coming back to Emergency, even though I was supposedly retracing the same route. That's just the way I navigate, by running into dead ends, turning around and trying again. I almost always get where I'm going.

They have a wonderfully automated pharmacy there, although they do have real live people, too. It's a good thing, because the first line I got in was the wrong one, but the pharmacy clerk said she'd help me anyway. I was given a number and told to wait for it to flash on the electronic display above the counter. Number 291 appeared twenty minutes later. That was pretty fast; I hope they did it right.

When I got back to the ER waiting room I sat down in the chairs, but a few minutes later I realized I didn't know what I was waiting for. Were they going to bring Mom out to me? Probably not, if they didn't know I was there. I checked in at the desk, and they let me back into the examining area. Mom was sitting in the wheelchair waiting to have her blood pressure taken. It had shot up and her nurse wanted to check it one more time before he let her go.

The doctor came in briefly and we told him we were waiting for the nurse to take Mom's blood pressure. He said it was probably just elevated and not to bother. But she was dizzy and when the nurse came back she told him that. He took her blood pressure and the numbers were down a little, so he gave us our papers and held the door while I wheeled her out.

We did get home, and she got into bed. It wasn't easy and it was painful, but the injection was starting to work so I knew she was ready to sleep. The phone rang and it was the medical supply company. They wanted to deliver her walker tonight, so I watched for their truck. Incredibly, it was there within fifteen minutes. That was by far our shortest wait of the night.

Mom got out of bed again so the driver could adjust the walker to her height and show her how to use it. Not that it's very complicated, but it's something she's never had to deal with before. We thanked him (and paid him) and got her back to bed. I didn't stay after that, because she didn't want me to. And I was kind of tired myself by then.


The sturdy old oak tree behind my garden.

After I got home I watched the end of the baseball game, glad that the labor problems had been settled and there was a game to watch. It was an exciting finish and took my mind off things for awhile. I was so tired I almost forgot I hadn't eaten anything since lunch, a long time ago. David is the only other family member who isn't up at the lake, so I gave him the news when he called. We talked for a long time. I was too nervous to go to bed and too exhausted to do much of anything else. All I can do is wait for tomorrow and hope it's a better day. I'm fairly confident it will be.

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