“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


one toe over the line: why i didn't email y'all back yesterday

breaking a rule here, my foot outside the line. 

i was in the midst of reading y'all's so kind emails or comments yesterday (i cannot thank you enough) when my mom called, unable to breathe, telling me she was calling 911, but couldn't find her cat.  call, i told her, i will find the cat, i am on my way.  the ambulance was still at her house when i pulled up and i was told she was being taken to hospital #2, not her normal hospital - it was full to the brim with folks and only accepting walk-in emergencies - and she was off.  i found her cat, called my brothers & sister-in-law, and sat down for a few moments in the quiet of my mother's living room to catch my breath.  i took anti-anxiety meds, hospitals being a bit of a trigger for panic attacks, and me having to be there and all, and then i, too, was off. 

my mom has copd and atrial fib and we go through this quite often.  i am familiar with hospital #1.  hospital #2?  not so much.  here's how it works:

you park far away from the emergency room, unless you're handicapped.  i mean far away.  i mean 2 bucks an hour in a parking garage away, the side streets already full of parked vehicles.  you have to walk through the open air to get to the hospital (there was a shuttle waiting area near where you parked, but no shuttle).  it is windy and getting chilly, but never mind - when you get inside the doors they direct you down a hall, through double doors, then through a 2nd set of double doors which brings you back to the outside on the opposite end of the hospital.  you stand for a second in the ambulance/emergency driveway, unsure where to go, and you finally spy - across that driveway, when one of the emergency vehicles leaves and you can finally see - a door with the words emergency center painted on it.  you walk in and this emergency room is smack dab full also and you try to not breathe or touch anything while you give the receptionist your mom's first & middle name, not knowing which name she's under.  the receptionist tells you she's not there.  you beg to differ, you tell her your brother made a quick stop to check in on her before he picked up his daughter from tennis practice.  you give her your mom's name again and oh! yes, she's here, hahahah, isn't that funny? and she sends you back outside - yep, back into the wind, and across that driveway, but through a different set of doors.  you find your mom and settle in for 6 hours. 

there is no chair in the room/cubicle - indeed, there is no real bed, there is a something or other that your mom's feet keep slipping off - unless she lays flat, which is uncomfortable for her.  you steal a dr.'s stool to sit on, no one is around to notice, but soon give it up to your mom's feet - something to keep her on board and more comfortable, more relaxed.  she is fine as long as she is still.  a trip to the bathroom leaves her gasping for air, needing oxygen, but no, not now, she is told, we need to do a test and she can't have oxygen for 15 minutes before the test.  you suggest giving her some oxygen because she can't breathe and delaying the test.  they flush her iv line without warning her that it will be as cold as ice and it hurts her and they are brusque and not friendly - it's just cold, she is told.  and they leave.  you still have no chair.  they are back in a bit, a breathing treatment given, oxygen removed and the respiratory therapist tells her she is going to take blood from an artery.  okay, neither of you have experience with this, but okay.  it hurts.  hurts.  hurts.  your mom screams like you've never heard her scream.  she makes the therapist stop, she refuses this particular blood test.  it is explained to you why they want the test, and you understand, but, you tell the nurse, she has been to hospital  #1 in worse conditions and they have never felt the need, can an alternative test not be used?  you are told well, we aren't hospital #1.  you are told that if she refuses the test the dr. may send her home with an unauthorized dismissal. you call your brother - his sister-in-law is an ex-respiratory therapist; she explains the test and says they should have offered to use lidocaine to help deaden the area, that sometimes that helps, not always.  (she also tells you that if she is released with an unauthorized dismissal, medicare won't pay for any of the tests already performed.)  the nurse and therapist didn't mention the lidocaine, of course, they just agreed that it was very painful.  they leave to talk to the apparently invisible dr.  you still have no chair.

outside the cubicle is an empty lobby - a folding table, a wheelchair or two, some larger rolling chairs, and then emptiness.  no windows, no doors, just an empty room.  when you make a phone call you step into this area and walk around a bit.  there is nothing to see or steal - you having already scooched the dr's stool from this area under your mom's feet.  you are eventually told by yet another person that we can't have you wandering in this lobby, that you must stay in your mom's cubicle.  you explain you have no chair and wandering and walking about is all you can do, and they seem surprised - who knew?  not they.

when you want a coke, you are directed to the vending machine area, which means - yes - going back outside and through those double doors again.

no one tells you anything.  but a chair eventually shows up and the dr. eventually shows up, concerned because the heart monitor is showing atrial fib - yes, you know - but he is surprised because he can't get your mom's records from hospital #1, nothing but an ekg from 1999, before she had this problem, never mind the fact that hospital #1 performs 3 or 4 ekgs a year on her.  he tells you that he may keep her overnight, but will talk to her "regular" drs. first and get back to you.  he doesn't.  they never do.  you have to go the desk to find out what's going on, and they have a fabulous big computer monitor on the wall, with cool graphics and everything, which they study and then say, well, we're waiting for a room for her.  nice to know.  that computer monitor was money well spent, you think. 

you finally leave at 9:30, her room # in hand, she still in emergency.  they don't know if she will be allowed to eat or not, they say - that will require the okay of another dr., the admitting dr., wherever he or she is.  it will cost you 7 bucks to leave - there is a sliding scale if you stay longer than an hour.

this is the way the real world works.  no one knows a damn thing, and no one cares.  but they got rules and they got fancy gadgets, and that's all that matters.

day 2.



  1. Gah !! For heavens sake, walk around in your warmest coat hat scarf and gloves. Your mom can't afford for you to get sick.

  2. Bitching is totally fine in my universe!! (now, I don't know that my family agrees with that, but I'm older than all of them so they're used to it. Ha!)
    I really do think "better out than in", though, & that is an awful night in the E.R.!!
    I hope your mom is stabilized today & that you are feeling better.
    Sending love, love, love.

  3. deep breaths, anxiety meds, prayers and just focus on loving on your mom as much as you can. Oh, and the warm coat sounds like a good plan too !
    Love to you....
    (F***, life is hard some times.)

  4. Talk about hitting someone when they're down. Hope your mom is doing better and gets to go home soon. Big hug. x

  5. Ugh. I totally get this, all of it, and it is so supremely frustrating, very similar to my mom's experience last year with double pneumonia that wasn't pneumonia at all, but a major infection from a dead gall bladder. Why is it that no one in the hospital ever knows anything?
    (Sorry, don't get me started on hospitals).

    Deep breaths are a necessity, an amused detachment whenever possible (and it rarely is), and for me, a big glass of wine when I get home, followed by as much ranting and bitching as there is time for.

    Keeping you both in my thoughts.

  6. I think your story explains why Hospital #1 was full and Hospital #2 has room. What an experience. If I had a medical emergency, knowing someone would come find my missing cat would be huge.

  7. yes, i know that hospital. I take blood pressure medication when i have to deal with either of them. I hope your mother is doing better today..

  8. bitch away Debi, we're all here listening and rooting for you, and your mom.
    big love

  9. There's no call for them to treat you or your Mom in a derogatory manner. Seems they've lost compassion and their professional edge: "First, do no harm."

    I'm so grateful you were there to advocate for her. Age doesn't mean we're less worthy of competent treament. I'm sure she was glad you were there too.

    I don't know you but that doesn't stop me from wishing you better days and better health.

    In peace, Dixie

  10. You have every right to bitch. I am off to the hospital now with husband and I certainly hope I don't have the same experience. I do know they don't charge for parking. Good luck with the continuing adventure with your mom. I hope she is tucked safely back home by now.

  11. Debi, I read your blog yesterday morning before you posted for the day, so I am just now reading the "last post" entry and the one about your mom's hospital ordeal. As you so kindly did for me a few months ago, I offer you back that "hand to hold over the Internet and a heart full of thoughts and prayers". Hospitals are so scary, it is good you are there to advocate for your mother. Every patient needs someone to do the running around and the speaking up for them and she is lucky to have you, even though it is hard and frustrating and scary for you at the same time. I'm sorry you both have to go through this but I hope it helps you to be able to get the feelings out and share them with us. I know I'm not alone when I say I'm not going anywhere, I'll still be here, reading your truth and admiring your strength and your honesty, and your willingness to risk that sharing, and sending you nothing but virtual love and support from one imaginary internet friend to another.

  12. I did this for 5 years after my mom suffered a massive stroke ...in and out of ER's ..falls..heart issues etc. it is not a very special place to spend time... sorry

  13. Feel free to bitch, vent, whine, scream, all you need to. Whenever you need to, and as often as you need to. We understand and will not judge you for it. And this--I was so shocked to read about it last night on facebook, but even more disgusted and angry about it reading these details. I guess I was too young to know exactly what my parents went through when my dad was sick/dying, although I knew that sometimes they had trouble with the doctors and hospitals. And I wasn't too thrilled with how my trip to the ER was handled last year, but it was nothing, *nothing* like this. You definitely have a right to be angry about this, to bitch about it.
    ...I said all that, and it still feels like I should something else, something more. But I have no idea what to say. There is not much help for this sort of thing, even if I lived close enough to bring you a cup of coffee or a homemade dinner while you wait; and there is even less I can do from so far away. But know that I love you so very much, and I will always listen when you need to vent, and I hold you and your family in my prayers.

  14. been there, done that, too at both our hospitals - I can never decide which one i prefer... first with kids, then with the aging parents. It's tough and I'm glad, too, that your mom had you there to go to bat for her. I 'm hoping that she's doing better and perhaps back at home by now. Blessings...

  15. i think many of us have had a very similar experience debi. it just seems to be the way busy hospitals are and they know we are at their mercy.

    i also think it's worse for you since hospitals are a trigger for your anxiety.

    i hope your mom is better soon.
    i hope you are better soon, too.

  16. Doesn't help, does it, to experience situations like that when you're worried and stressed to begin with. Know people care about you and want to hold your hand and find you chairs and go get the Cokes for you so you can do what you need to do.

  17. I hate hospitals....I know they are busy busy busy. but a bit of kindness would go a very long way. Sorry your hitting a pretty rough patch. I hope it passes soonest.

  18. Oh my gosh!!! My Mom also suffers from both copd and atrial fib!!!! It's scary... Sending lots of good light to you all!

  19. I live in the same town you do, and have dealt with both hospitals. As soon as you said #1 is full, I said "oh no". My son was in ER in #2 and I spent EIGHT HOURS lying on the floor in the middle of the night (no chair) waiting for a room to admit him to. He was also life-threateningly ill. Now, I have decided I will not go to a doctor who only admits to #2.

  20. This is just so sad...If these 'professionals' could just see what a little measure of empathy...kindness,and a chair could do to ease this frightening situation...just a bit.xo

  21. i am so sad to hear this tale, mostly because i fear it's more the norm than the exception...health care has reached a scary place.

    hoping that your mom is ok now and back at home. and that you're feeling better too.


  22. What the crap?!?
    Robots would be more compassionate than these people!
    I will be thinking of you today Debi...sending you as much love and healing as I can manifest.

  23. We've just spent eight ??? weeks with Dave in treatment for cancer. He's been in a state teaching hospital and we've gone through similar situations. The oncology folks made the "mistake" of giving me a 3-ring notebook called "Journeys" and I kept copious notes. They told me I'd need to keep notes because there was no way anyone could remember anything during stress times. I'm guessing right about now, they are sorry they gave me the notebook. I took names and job titles and at one point, very pointedly, said, "All right, thank you for ordering my husbands meds. By the time he actually takes them, it will only be five hours late and you know how important COPD meds are to a man who can't breath." There was a silence and the doc said, "we're taking very good care of your husband, you don't need to worry." I said, "thank you, that's good to hear because if anything happens to my husband your name, Dr. XX, is on the top of my list. I'll start with you and work my way down the list." It was funny how f-a-s-t the ER doc found a room so my husband could be admitted to the oncology ward...and after *only* 22 hours of being in the ER. I'd left after 14 hours to get a couple hours sleep and tend to other business.
    Hospital staff sometimes provide "compassionate, quality care" but a lot of times only when they are forced to provide it; all other times, it's just Big Business as usual. There's a huge disconnect between the patient being the method by which staff receives a check AND patient needing care. Both are important but patient as human being is, to my mind, ultimately the most important. God help the patient who has no one to help them through the process; it's sheer hell for them and, sometimes, not so good with a companion. I am so sorry your mother is going through this mess, I am so glad she has you, I am so sorry you're overwhelmed and struggling. Having gone through, still going through, with Dave, his treatments for cancer...and it's not over yet.. I do know the feelings of complete and utter exhaustion, sleeplessness, not eating well, not drinking enough water, not enough ME to complete the task at hand. It's just so stinkin' overwhelming!

  24. Yeesh. I'm sorry to hear that you and your mother went through this. Obviously (and sadly) your mother knows the reality of being admitted into a hospital. How stressful for you both. You are allowed to bitch.


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