Triage Nurse: I wish family doctors would come to the hospital once in a while. They have no idea how things work here. A letter doesn't do anything to move you faster. That all depends on the volume of people and the number of doctors available.
Me: It'd be nice if there were some way to be called on, with an automated phone call or something, so we could leave and come back. Last time I waited nine hours without food or water because the volunteers told me I'd lose my turn if I left.
TN: (annoyed) Your health care is your own responsibility. If you're hungry, then you should have left. Someone would keep your place for you.
Me: They were very clear with me that I wasn't to leave or else someone would call me and, if I wasn't there to answer, then I'd be dropped from the roster.
TN: You just come to one of us. We would have held your place for you.
I gave up this line of discussion because it was futile to indicate that any attempt to walk directly to the triage nurse area would always be circumvented by a string of people. It's not possible to just poke in your head to get them to watch our for you personally. That's such a ridiculous suggestion! Or it wasn't possible for me last Friday, at any rate. Not at all.
TN: How's your pain level?
Me: It's not too bad. It's tolerable. It's a lot of pressure, like elastic bands around my arm and armpit and chest. I'm really just here because the doctor told me to get checked out if the hematoma doubled in size, and it has. So I saw my family doctor, and there's still a lot of bleeding, and she was like, "Woah! You should go straight to the ER!" I have to change my dressing leaning over the sink, it bleeds so much. So here I am.
TN: So low pain level, but your irritation level's at a ten!
And then, so uncharacteristic of me, I started crying. Once one tear escaped my hold, then it snowballed. I acted like it wasn't happening and just kept answering questions, surreptitiously wiping my eyes as if maybe I had an eyelash curing inward or something innocuous needing some tending to. Last time I was reeling in pain, and it was 90 minutes to the triage nurse, followed by five hours before I actually set eyes on a doctor, and then two and a half hours of tests and waiting for test results before I could go home. I was just hoping for a script for more Tylenol 3s to help me sleep through a night, but they only gave me Advil anyway, and then told me the name of my condition. My time there was completely fruitless. This time it took even longer to get to triage, which had me worried. And I wasn't in enough pain to want to be trapped there all night again.
TN: It shouldn't be long now. There are just a few ahead of you.
Me: Last time they said the same thing. Less than an hour, they said. And I'm not even sure I need to be here. I think I should just go.
TN: But it's better to wait. Then you'll know for sure if everything's alright.
I sat in the other waiting area, the one further from triage and closer to the droning of the TV. There are captions running along the bottom of the screen; do we really need the volume cranked as well? Only one baby crying today. Last time there was a few. The man next to me came in at the same time with a severed finger - like, completely severed. He didn't get in any quicker. They didn't even offer him ice. I felt like I was wasting everyone's time and taking up a spot that someone else should have. And then they called me to a bed to wait.
Instead of sitting alone on a bed for hours, it was just minutes. I can't help wondering if my sudden emotional outburst had any effect.
Doc: I'm going to check the hematoma, and... just wait! Wait!
He motioned with his hand for me to stop unbuttoning my shirt and called for a nurse.
Doc: (his back to me, leaning just his head out of the curtained doorway) I just need you for a minute. No, he can wait. Just come here right now for a minute!
I felt bad dragging someone away from another patient, and it also made me nervous that I was suddenly such a high priority.
Nurse: Do I need gloves?
Doc: No, I just need a chaperone.
Me: What the f... Are you serious?! I don't even have any boobs anymore!! What do they think's going to happen behind a curtain? Do you really have to take up the time of another person for this?
Doc: it's just in case.
In case of what?! It was weirdly flattering, though. Like I still vaguely resembled a woman. Or maybe I just looked voracious, and he was concerned for the harassment to go the other way. I mean, it's been a while. He checked out the bulges of blood clots collecting under my skin, the skin so taut it looked about to burst. Of course he was concerned about something happening between us.
Doc: You're scheduled to see your surgeon tomorrow. You could wait to see the surgeon here, but it's probably best to get advice from the surgeon who operated on you.
Me: My doctor told me I should be seen today.
Doc: It's up to you, ultimately, but it could be some time to see the surgeon here, and I think you'll be fine for the night.
And I left. Just one more sleep before I can see the surgeon about this bloody mess! But isn't it curious how all these decisions, to wait in triage, to see the surgeon tonight, they're all so adamantly MY decisions to make. It's been the case from the first moment it was suggested I might get surgery. It takes all the responsibility off the health care staff, but it often leaves the patient at odds as to what's best. I was pleased at least that this doctor made it clear which way he'd go, even though it's still completely up to me (aka not his fault if I happened to get worse overnight). But it's really too bad my family doctor couldn't have make that call.