Department of Emergency

I had a pain in my calf so I went off to an accident and emergency clinic. I figured it was probably just a pulled muscle and that I’d get a pressure bandage and be sent on my way. Instead the doctor said that it could be a blood clot. It probably wasn’t but that needed to be ruled out with blood tests and an ultrasound.

So off I went to the emergency department of Auckland Hospital. I spent about 12 out of next 24 hours at the hospital. I had the blood test and ultrasound done, but I spent most of the time waiting.

You know on medical-themed TV shows or movies, there’ll be a really busy, under-staffed emergency department that’s so busy they have to put patients out in the corridor? Yeah, that’s what happened to me. I spent over five hours in a bed next to the staff base.

I had brought a book to read, but I took a few breaks and got to know my surroundings. On the wall next to me was a Monet print, but someone had taped up on it a poster of the original Shortland Street cast with “Staff of 83” written on it, and name tags of staff members stuck next to the cast photos.

Across from my bed was a little alcove where a resuscitation trolley was kept. I could tell this because there was a sign above the trolley that said “Resus Trolly (Do not block access to trolley)”. There was a big bag of pillows that had been dumped in front of the trolley. I was a bit concerned at this, but while people came up and took pillows from the bag, no one ever used the resus trolley.

At the end of my bed was a series of boxes of disposable rubber gloves mounted in dispenser racks. I noticed that the small sized gloves were marked as being unscented, but that it was possible to get them in either mint or bubblegum flavour. I tried to think what use there would be for bubblegum scented rubber gloves. I’m still not sure, although perhaps they are used in the children’s hospital.

I also noticed that while everyone called it the Emergency Department, all official references were to the Department of Emergency. That makes it sound like a strange government department where everyone runs around freaking out.

It was a Friday night and it was getting late so it was not surprising when a drunk guy came in. He’d apparently fallen over and bumped his head, but I think his main problem was he was a drunken fool. He was a total stereotype. Here’s some of what he got up to:

  • Sang the first few lines of “Buffalo Soldier” over and over.
  • Yelled out “I need a pill. Giz a fucking pill. Got any Valiums?”
  • Asked the woman in the next bed where he was. Claimed he didn’t know where Auckland was.
  • Yelled, “where’s a doctor? I want to see a fucking doctor!” then passed out/fell asleep.
  • Said, “I wanna chunder. I’m gonna chuck a chunder,” but failed to vomit.

The nurses mostly ignored him. They’re probably totally used to drunken fools who’ve fallen over coming into the emergency department every weekend. The standard procedure is probably to give them a place to lie down, ignore them and let them sober up, then send them on their way. The one nurse who did speak to him (after one of his Valium requests) said, “you need to sober up a bit first.”

I went home that night and came back the next morning to get the ultrasound done. While I was waited for several hours for the results to be analysed, I was entertained by the woman in the bed next to me. She spent a lot of time making out with her boyfriend behind the curtain. She also didn’t want to stay the night in hospital and really didn’t like having the drip in her arm – simultaneously complaining that it wasn’t working because she was still thirsty, and that she really needed to go to the toilet.

She refused to go to the toilet with the drip and tried to take it out but couldn’t manage to do it. A nurse came along and told her to stop being so silly and soon she was off to the toilet with the drip on its wheelie stand.

But the best thing that came out of her cubical was this following conversation:

Doctor: Is this your partner?
Boyfriend: Ummm…
Doctor: I ask because there was one woman and her boyfriend visited her sometimes and her husband visited her other times.
Woman: Oh!

Eventually a doctor who didn’t seem to know why I was there came and told me that I didn’t have a blood clot, “just a sore leg”, and administered the expert medical advice that I shouldn’t read any Jeffrey Archer novels.

Finally a nurse came over, put a pressure bandage on my leg and sent me on my way.

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