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Wouldn't it be great if these stories were true? Unfortunately (or fortunately) they're not; they are just the product of my overworked mind. All characters and events are fictitious and if you think you recognize yourself or somebody you know in these stories, it was not my purpose and it is purely unintentional. In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy reading this blog. Feel free to link this blog wherever else you hang out on the Internet and to post comments below. I enjoy hearing from you.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hospital Diaries IV: The Gurney Hall

This is part of a series. You can begin at Part I and follow the link at the end of each installment to read the next.

A hospital is a strange world filled with machines and enigmatic people speaking unintelligible languages. For example, after only a few hours at the hospital, my vital signs had already been checked several times (I guess to make sure I was still alive), I had been incubated and rolled away on a stretcher through a maze of hallways to a “gurney hall.”

The gurney hall was actually a large square room of the emergency ward where patients waited either for a diagnosis or for a bed to become available. Along the outer walls, about 20 cubicles could accommodate two gurneys each, separated by a thin curtain. In addition, five glassed-in rooms were used to isolate contagious patients and the dying.

My cubicle neighbour was an unfortunate victim of a sporting accident, a 42 year-old woman who broke her back hitting a mogul while tobogganing with her children.

Natives, Indians, toboggan, winter sports, outdoors, transportation
A toboggan is a runnerless sled used to travel over snow in Canada. It was designed by Natives to haul supplies and young children. Nowadays tobogganing is popular among Canadian children and their parents who have forgotten they are not as flexible as in their youth. Illustration: Dog-sledges of the Mandans by Johann Carl Bodmer. Source: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, public domain
A nurse showed up at my bedside bringing with her the usual equipment for taking blood pressure and temperature as well as a clipboard to scribble notes.

“Good morning sir, my name is Florence and I will be your nurse today. Are you in pain? Can you give me an estimate of your pain?”

Maybe I was confused because of my sufferings but I didn’t understand the question: for a moment I thought I was supposed to estimate my pain in Canadian or US dollars.

“On a scale from 0 to 10 could you rate your pain?” explained the nurse.

“It hurts a lot,” I muttered.

“Very well. Let’s describe your pain as an 8 then. I will bring you some painkillers. If you need anything, just ring,” she said showing me an alarm button tied by its wire to my gurney’s railing. She then disappeared with her machines.

The pain was excruciating. With every move I made I moaned. Soon my cries were joined by my neighbour’s whimpers and the wailings of other patients in the gurney hall, cascading into a tormented concerto accentuated by the bells and alarms of monitoring machines.

After an hour of waiting for the painkillers that Florence promised me, I remembered I had some ibuprofen in my shoulder bag. I swallowed two capsules and drifted into a restless sleep.

“Wake up sir! I brought your medicine!”

It was Florence who was handing me two caplets of acetaminophen and a glass of water.

As I was about to take the pills from my nurse, she noticed the bottle of ibuprofen on my bed.

“What’s that? Who gave you this medication?” she enquired as she picked up the muscle relaxant.

“Nobody, I answered, it’s the medicine I was taking at home to ease the pain and the swelling.”

“Did your doctor prescribe this?”

“Not at all, it’s available over the counter in any drugstore and it provides me with some relief,” I replied.

“Sir, you are not to take medication that is not prescribed by a doctor. I must report this right away.”

And she left taking with her my valuable remedy and the painkillers she was supposed to give me.

Stunned to see my medication confiscated, I uneasily managed to doze off.

When I woke up, a smiling bearded little man who looked like a leprechaun was sitting at the foot of my stretcher, tapping on my leg.

“Good day, how are you today?” he said.

Still in a daze, I felt like I had magically awakened in Middle-earth and that anytime Gandalf the Grey and Frodo Baggins would come to take me on some outlandish journey.

“Not very well, but who are you?” I replied.

“My name is doctor Ogham and I am a neurologist. Please tell me how you ended up in my hospital.”

One more time I explained the unbelievable story of a gout attack that turned into a sprained knee degenerating into overall paralysis. While I was talking, the practitioner was feeling my knees, my wrists and my hands, taking notes in the process and asking me to flex my limbs.

“I see, I see,” said the doctor. “But I could see better with a CAT-scan, an MRI, an EMG, some X-Rays... I’ll make the necessary arrangements.”

He then left as I was struggling to make sense of what he had just said.

One hour later, an orderly came to wheel my gurney to the nuclear medicine department to be irradiated with a scanner.

CT-Scan, CAT-Scan, nuclear medicine, bagel, X-rays, hospital, health, diagnosis
CAT-scans are 3-D images of the inside of a human body produced with an X-ray machine that looks like a giant bagel. In the last 25 years, medical imagery has become so common that the number of people exposed to radiation has been on the rise. This could explain the colour of the skin of the patient in the above photograph.
Several times in the next few hours I was to be rolled in and out of the gurney hall for tests.

Finally, I was taken to a room where Doctor Ogham hooked me up to an electromyograph, or EMG, that sent electric shocks to my nerves to see if my muscles would react.

Laying down as the neurologist was poking me with needles, I felt like a voodoo doll being subjected to some arcane ritual.

Voodoo, New Orleans, witchcraft, spell, religion, folklore
Voodoo is a complex religion which origins can be traced to the African slave trade. The voodoo doll, an amulet used to cast spells, became well known following the release of the 1932 Hollywood movie White Zombie. Fortunately, modern neurologists have little in common with voodoo witch doctors.
“This is strange, very strange,” said the good doctor, “Your muscles are reacting perfectly well. This does not look like a neurological problem, everything is working normally.”

Back to the gurney hall, I became acquainted with my neighbour who told me she was waiting for a brace to be made in order to stabilize her spine so she could sit up and move without risking any further injuries.

“Anyway, she said, they can’t keep me more than 48 hours in the emergency ward.”

“Why is that?” I enquired.

“That’s the maximum time allowed by the Ministry of Health. The hospital will be heavily fined if it goes over it. They better find me a bed quickly.”

Night had come. Lying shivering on my stretcher, I could feel the pain creeping back to my joints. How I wished the nurse had not stolen my ibuprofen!

I achingly reached for the alarm tied to my gurney’s railing. Bells were ringing and patients were crying in the gurney hall. Exhausted, I fell into a restless sleep waiting for a nurse to bring me drugs to ease away my pain.

To be continued in Hospital Diaries V: The Seagull

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