Andrew pulled into the VA parking garage. In the military everyone is given a parking test wherein they have to be able to park a humvee within the parking stall made for a Cooper Mini*; so, for a veteran parking is no issue in that garage. However, Andrew had to drop me into a wheelchair by the door first so that I would be able to get out of the car – and then I assume parking went swimmingly, but he strategically placed me with my back to the garage, so I can only speculate.
We elevatored it up to the ground floor and entered the ER. Andrew pushed me to the check-in counter, which is a narrow squeeze in the wheelchair. I handed the desk-guy my license and tell him my last 4 digits of my SSN. He asks me what is wrong and I tell him. He checked me in and told me to have a seat. I pointed at the wheelchair, “I already have one.”
Andrew and I moved to the waiting room and I kept trudging through the New York Times Crossword Puzzle and the moaning. Eventually the moaning subsided to make way for tears. I was in so much pain – while I enjoy making a spectacle of myself, as a general rule, I hate it when the attention is from pity. So, now I am stifling my bawling in order to seem a little more innocuous. Of course, instead, I sound a little more like a crying garbage disposal grinding through a chicken carcass. Eventually, I make enough noises that I am pulled into a room because they don’t want other patients in the emergency room to get upset. Another vet compassionately thanked the nurse, on my behalf, for taking care of me; because, it was obvious to him I needed help.
I got into the room with Andrew and they took away the wheelchair I was in and put me on the bed in the room. I stripped off my knee brace and started peeling off my knee wrap because my knee was really hurting a lot and felt really pressured. The nurse asked if I wanted ice and I looked up at her as though she had just offered me a calorie free dessert of frozen yogurt with marshmallow, peanut butter chips and almonds (oooh that sounds good). At home I had been using the miracle of the Breg Polar Care Kodiak Cold Therapy Unit. I got one from the VA on the day of surgery. This thing has a cuff that wraps around my knee. Then ice and water get put in the main cooler/pump part and a tube is attached from the pump to the cuff. Then when it is plugged in the ice-water courses through the cuff constantly cooling the knee with new cool water. It is a miracle. A wonder. A life saver.
I furiously unwrap my knee in anticipation of the glory of the coolness coming. The nurse comes back and hands me one of those first aid bags of ice, the kind that requires an engineering degree to break open the inner bag causing a chemical reaction in the bag that makes the contents reach the approximate temperature of ice that melted 30 minutes prior. My knee is so swollen it looks more like I am using an ice cube to lower the heat of a Redwood. My eyes well up and I look up to thank the nurse so she leaves before I start bawling, but she is already gone.
Instead I look at Andrew, and we just started giggling at the inferiority of the ice pack. Suddenly, I realize that the pain I had been feeling has dissipated. Just then Doogie Howser walks in. It wasn’t bad enough that I was going through a lot of pain and scary swelling and discoloration, now I also had to face the sudden truth that I am now at that** age. Doogie poked at me leg, heard my story, thought it was a good idea that I came in. He said that the swelling was normal, the discoloration was concerning, but not extraordinarily so. “I am going to go talk to my supervising physician and see if he agrees with my recommendations,” or as I heard it, “Let me ask daddy what to do next.”
Andrew put the pillow under my foot and sat at the head of the bed. I worked the Friday puzzle some more and felt great relief from the lack of wrapping on my knee. About a half hour passed and Doogie came back in with his father. All four of us looked at my leg – it was no longer discolored except for some minor bruising. Apparently, even though I was following the advice of the medical professionals on the phone, having my leg bundled in constricting things was the cause of the discoloration. The doctor and the kid-in-the-doctor-uniform conferred and agreed that they would consult with surgery to see if I should get an ultrasound. They would get back to me in just an emergency room minute.
I napped lightly with Andrew sitting next to me and about 10 minutes later the doctors come in. I sat up and Doogie told me that surgery did want to do an ultrasound to check for blood clots, “just in case, and since you’re already here.” “OK.” Then Doogie says the the ultrasound tech is on his way from home and will be about half an hour. I asked for another pillow.
Andrew and I snuggled up on the bed and threw the blanket we’d brought with us on top. We napped hard. It may have been 20 minutes or 7 hours. We startled awake to a knock on the door and the door opening at the same time. It was the doctor and a nurse whose faces looked like they had just walked into a room of puppies – yes, we are that cute when we nap. They had come in to tell us they had called transport to come take me to ultrasound. I had about 10 minutes. I had to pee.
They had taken my wheelchair away when we first got to the room, and promptly scurried as soon as they told me transport was on the way, as though afraid they might catch some of our adorableness if they were in our vicinity too long. So I hopped up on my good leg and went to the doorway. Down the hall a bit I saw an office chair. I pleaded with Andrew to grab it because I really had to pee. He wheeled me to the bathroom ergonomically correctly. When I finished the orderly was waiting to wheel me to ultrasound.
Woody had shoulder length wisps that might have been washed once or twice in 2011. He was chubby and chatty. We got to the door that led out of the ER and to the elevators. The doors were closing even as we were going through them and I put my hand up and pushed them open. “Wow, you may be the only patient who has not been afraid of that door.” “Well, I figured it couldn’t have been too dangerous. You weren’t going to put me in harms way, and your job is to get patients from point A to B without harm.” “Heh. I’m a great driver. But I could never convince my ex-wife. That’s probably why she left me.” He chuckled as though he’d said something witty. I did not disclose that perhaps she had left him because he had fallen below her minimum acceptable teeth quota.
We were turning through a doorway as Woddy jabbered on about what a good driver he is. That is when I lunged forward in my chair and put my arm on the doorjamb to prevent Woody from slamming my leg into the same. Andrew was beside himself and when Woody went to the desk to ask for directions to the ultrasound lab Andrew said, “I can’t wait to read your blog.”
I got to ultrasound in one piece and Andrew was directed to the waiting area. Woody was sent away and Bruce/Larry/Kyle or some other apocryphal “dude’s name”-d guy gets me onto the ultrasound table. We banter a bit about how it was Saturday and he didn’t want to be there, and about the rumors at the VA that Woody used to work at the Pentagon. “Someone had to mop the floors.”
He placed a towel up by my hip and squeezed goo on my leg. He ultrasounded me all the way down to my ankle. “Are you going to do the cankle too?” “Cankle! Ha! You don’t have a cankle. But, no, there isn’t anything there to really ultrasound.” He grabbed another towel and started cleaning up my leg from my knee to my calf, “Take the towel I gave you and just wipe off the goo I left on your leg. Then you can leave.” “Wow, it’s been a long time since anyone said that to me; and last time it was with even less feeling.” Joe/Troy/Steve really laughed hard at that one. Then as he was helping me back into my chair. “So that guy that came up with you, he your husband? boyfriend? brother?” “Woody? No, I think he works here. Oh the other guy, yeah, that is my dude.” Sorry Charlie.
Andrew and I managed to find our way back to our ER grotto. One of the staff stopped by, “I know you are done with your things now and all we need is to get you signed out. However, we have a critical person right now so, it might take a while.”
Andrew said he saw the critical person when I was peeing and there were a hoard of people around him asking him questions like what day it was. “He didn’t seem that critical. It shouldn’t be too long.”
Just as those words finished coming out of his mouth, what could only be the wife of the critical guy was saying, “What? But, I don’t understand…” right outside our open door. Then she started falling apart. Apparently, Andrew is not a good judge of what looks critical, as the guy had died. The next half hour was an enthralling performance of hallway theater. There was the brother having a moment with his new baby trying to find solace in her and comfort her at the same time. There were family members who were being brought up to speed on what had happened. There were medical care professionals looking battered. Then, about 5 minutes before my discharge paperwork was signed, a hispanic orderly was pushing an asian patient in his bed right outside my door.
Patient: Someone died today.
Orderly: Yah. Someone dies everyday.***
*It might be true.
**The age where the doctor looks so young I feel I may need to ask for his credentials, or a driver’s license, or to talk to his mom to be sure it isn’t just take your son to work day.
*** Totally is 100% true.