The Journey to: ‘Be Well.’
Finally, I was packed and ready to go. I’d chosen to take the bus to the ER. Many have asked me why. My answer was not at first easy to give, but later when talking with my Niece In-Law Michelle, I realized it was the need to feel empowered, in control of something and in charge of my destiny. For so long I’d felt as if I’d been tossed into a large washing machine and left on the spin cycle. I had to allow myself to make all the right choices because I knew I’d already allowed myself to make all the wrong ones that had led me here.
Campbell and I caught the bus at 3:30 that afternoon. I had Campbell’s food, his bowl, and one of his small blankets from home. 4 days worth of clothes, my computer, and National Library For the Blind Digital Player. I had no idea what they’d let me use and what they wouldn’t, but I for sure knew I’d be in the ER a while so I wanted my things with me even if I had to surrender them at the Crisis Stabilization Unit later.
After transferring buses once, it was around 4-pm and we were finally at the ER. The driver on duty was concerned for me, and so he walked up to the door with me and made sure I got in alright. I have told you all before just how awesome the KATS drivers are, but if that doesn’t show you nothing will. He took a risk that day with his very job because he was more concerned about my well being than his own self.
I went inside with Campbell leading the way and wagging his tail as if to assure me. We walked up to the counter and I said to the clerk.
“My name is Patricia Fletcher, and I need to be evaluated by a crisis worker, and placed in the CSU before I hurt myself. I’m not there yet but if someone doesn’t help me, I will be.”
Their assistance began immediately.
By 4:45-pm I was signed in and ready to be seen by the nurse. When she came out to get me, I encountered a problem right away. When she called me she stood where she was, I had no idea which way to go or what to do. A kind man there in the waiting room directed me. Campbell and I walked up to her.
“Come on darling,” she said in a sing-song voice.
And then immediately took my arm, and of course this is, unfortunately, the way of it most of the time. She did not ask first how she could help. This told me she like many other medical professionals were not educated. For whatever reason this, along with the way she spoke to me – like some small frightened two-year-old child – infuriated me. Maybe it was my emotional state, maybe it was the fact that I’m sick of encountering people who are professionals in the 21st century who are still not educated correctly, and maybe it was both. I don’t know, but I shook her hand from my arm.
“Ma’am! Please? Number one, do not ever touch someone working a Guide Dog or any other service animal without asking, and number two, please? Do not make the mistake that just because I am blind I need to be babied,” I said.
She took one heck of an attitude with me.
“You will not speak to me like that. I do not like being told what to do.” She was completely defensive and used an army sergeant nurse like voice – which, by the way, did nothing to intimidate, but only served to further piss me off.
“You will not touch me without asking, because you are interfering with my dog’s work, and invading my personal space. Furthermore, it is you Ma’am who will not speak to me in that manner. I’m a grown woman, and, you are a professional who works amongst the public and you damned well should know better.”
To say that we did not get off to a good start at all would be an understatement.
She walked me back allowing Campbell and I to follow her and you could more than tell she had her nose out of joint.
At that very moment, it wouldn’t have bothered me one bit if the sprinkler system had activated and drowned her! However, once I got settled down and began to speak with her a bit more, we both calmed down, and after both of us had gathered ourselves, and apologized to one another, things began to smooth out.
Once I was registered and they had my vitals and all my insurance info I was sent back out to the waiting room to wait. It was a little after 5-pm in the evening then, and I was already feeling extremely exhausted, starting to have second thoughts, and almost ready to walk out. Just then my text alert went off, and it was Bobby asking me if I’d gotten there ok and if I were alright. I texted him back and told him how I was feeling and he quickly called me to encourage me along.
He said to me, “Baby, you have to be seen, and you have to get help. There’s no shame in it.”
I nearly cried. I remembered all the times I’d been sick and Donnie my ex-boyfriend had mocked me, belittled me, and refused to be a part of any of my treatment plan before, during, or after my hospital stays.
After talking with him a while, I felt better. He spent some time just chatting with me, telling me funny stories about when he was a teenage boy and trying to keep my spirits up. Soon he had me laughing in spite of my situation. I loved his voice, always smiling and happy. Even when he scolded me, it had a firm and gentle quality to it that endured him to me in a very special way.
As we finished up, I was somehow strengthened,
And by the time they called me back at 5:45-pm I was calmer and able to continue onward.
As I lie there mulling all this over, I couldn’t think what on earth could have been wrong with me earlier.
“You’re just so used to everyone rejecting you, you’ve got it in your head, Bobby’s too good to be true.”
So I shut down the worry factory and picked up the flow of bliss. Even though I was in the ER and waiting to go to the CSU, I was going to be ok, and I had this way cool friend who so far was walking that extra mile with not one bit of prodding from me.
He was informed, and there of his own free will. I simply didn’t have the capability of saying how awesome that truly was for me.
I’d never ever had anyone who felt that real. Never!
I was still frightened, and feeling very out of sorts, but knowing that Bobby was not about to leave me because I’d fallen ill with an episode went a long way toward helping me do what I knew I must do.
Finally, Campbell and I were settled in an examination room, and a nurse was asking me a ton of questions. After a while, a doctor came in to talk with me. By this time it was going on 6:30 in the evening and I let them know I’d soon need to feed Campbell and take him out. They were more than happy to help. First I got out his bowl, and food, fed him and gave him time to digest a bit while I gave them the blood and urine samples they’d requested. Then I got one of the security guards to take him out since by this time I’d been admitted as a patient intended for a crisis evaluation and really did not need to leave the building. Even though they said they’d make an exception I decided to simply let them take him. I explained about telling him ‘Park Time! Campbell!’ and gave them a pickup bag and sent him out.
“It’s ok Bug, Mommy will be right here when you get back.” After a little hesitation and a bit more coaxing from the guard and me he went willingly with him. Soon they were back, Campbell was wagging his tail, and I could tell he not only felt better for having gotten to use the bathroom but that he understood more about what was going on.
Once I got him resettled beside me one of the techs came in and asked me if I’d eaten. I sat for a moment thinking about it and then said,
“You know? I don’t think I’ve eaten since yesterday.”
She said, “I’ll order you a tray. Do you have any diet restrictions?”
I laughed in spite of my situation and said,
“Only that I should not eat so much.”
We both laughed, and it was nice to have some humor in what was becoming a very stressful situation.
It was after 7-pm and I was worrying about Campbell. He seemed to be tiring some and he was more than a bit anxious about all the activity around us. I’d taken off his harness and put down a blanket for him, but still I worried. I was having second thoughts about having him with me and was considering calling Aaron, my nephew to come and get him when Campbell himself let me know just exactly where he wanted to be. Just as I was reaching for my phone to call, one of the nurses stuck her head in to check on us. Campbell stood from where he’d been curled on his blanket, and came to stand beside me. When the nurse walked away, he put his mouth around my arm and began to chew gently on it, dribbling slobber down my arm. I asked,
“You want to stay don’t you?”
He began to wag his tail furiously round and round, and that put an end to my doubts. I realized Campbell and I were a team and we would get through this together, as we’d done with so many other situations before.
I settled him down again on his blanket, adjusted the tie-out link, and lay back to try and relax.
After a while, the nurse came back with my food, and I was happy to see it was actually a real meal. What with the lateness of the hour I figured it would be a sandwich from a machine, and while I’d have been glad to get it I was more than a little glad to see real, hot food on a plate. Then the nurse asked me what I’d like to drink.
I asked timidly, “Could I maybe have a cup of coffee?”
She was more than happy to get it for me. She asked me how I took it, and was soon back with a large hot cup of strong, wonderful coffee. It too was real, and I could not help but smile as the food and coffee began to work their magik. I knew, however that while the food and coffee were strengthening me, and making me feel better physically and somewhat mentally that the feelings of stability would be short lived, and decided to continue to wait to be seen.
After I was finished eating a tech stepped in and asked if he could take away the trash left from my meal. I said he could, and he asked if I’d like more coffee, and I thanked him and said I would.
He came back quickly enough with a fresh cup and more creamer. He also showed me where the sink was, and helped me become more familiar with the layout of the room Campbell and I were staying in. It was spacious and had a half way comfortable exam bed in it. There was plenty of room for Campbell and there were curtains all round. There was a toilet as well.
The only problem I’d actually faced thus far were the patients on either side. One was someone who’d come in roaring drunk to the point that he’d passed out and wasn’t quite sure who or where he was, and from what I could tell the guy had some other ongoing health issues as well. Then there were the couple on the other side of me. Those two, I wanted to smack just for general principle.
First off I named them Mr. Sad and Mrs. Reason for being so. They started out bringing in Mr. Sad, and he was in crisis like me, only once Mrs. reason for sad came in I understood why. Hell, no one could’ve stood that. I listened in amazement and hoped they’d admit her as well. Then after the doctors and nurses left and they finished their argument with him apologizing and her bitching more, they began to make up, and I am not talking about apologetic hugging or a gentle, loving kiss followed by a snuggly hug. I’m talking about making out. They also had their TV on loud. Now by this time it was after 9 in the evening and I was hoping for some rest. I decided to wait them out. I’d been told the crisis worker would see me next, and I was hopeful they’d get us transferred soon.
I knew if they did not I was going to have to try and improve the sleeping conditions for Campbell. If he was to help me, he needed sleep. Regardless of whether I got any or not. I knew the noise wouldn’t bother him. Hell, he lived with me and my weird hours at home, but I had to see to his comfort a bit more.
Around 10 or so the crisis worker came in and we began to talk. She spent quite a bit of time with me, and I thought that as far as evaluations went hers was a pretty darned good one and, in fact, was a bit impressed.
She assured me she did not believe there would be a problem getting me into the CSU (Crisis Stabilization Unit), but she wanted to phone them. She told me she was not the only worker on duty and that someone may have admitted someone there from another area. I asked her how many they had on that night, and she said they had one per shift per county.
I have been told since then that was false by one mental health worker, and yet others tell me it is so. Who knows what to believe? Anyhow, soon she was gone with her paperwork and still we waited.
Finally around 11:30 when she still had not returned I hit my call button and one of the guards came in. He asked what he could do for me and I told him I needed to find out if they were going to accept me into the CSU and if we’d be transferred out. He promised to check.
As he started out, I added, “I’m also going to have to see to my dog’s comfort a bit more if we’re to be here much longer. He needs his rest if he is to work for me when we are ready to go.”
I was starting to be concerned. While Campbell never complains, he has tells that let me know when he is flagging, and they were starting to make themselves known. The biggest one? Restlessness. He was showing signs of that in a big way. He was, Up and down at every noise and every time someone came in or by the room.
After a while, I checked my phone again for the time and was more than a little annoyed to see it was now after midnight and that no one had yet come back. Mr. and Mrs. Sad and reason for being so were playing their TV loudly as if they were at home, chatting companionably as if they were snuggled on their couch. Oh! How I wanted to pick them up by their collars, and put them out!
Then there was Mr. Too Drunk to Know Where the Hell He Was, and who showed up naked. I simply shook my head.
He was chatting happily with one of the staff from there in the ER, and I was truly starting to be a bit more than impatient. Up until now, I’d done everything asked, not complained at all, and gotten reasonably good care, but now it was late, my dog was tired and needing to sleep and quite honestly so was I.
Finally, the guard came back; he informed me that I had been accepted to the CSU but that it would be in the morning before we could be moved. There was no one on duty at that time who could come and pick me up. To say I was feeling a bit upset would’ve been not quite an accurate statement.
I took a deep breath and said, “Well, let’s see what we can do about making Campbell a more suitable bed.” The guard was more than helpful. He went and got some of the largest pillows I ever saw, a large fitted sheet, and made a great big soft bed for him.
Then he took him out for me, walked him a bit allowing him to go park time, and stretch his legs.
Soon he was back, and I was tucking him in for the night. I gave him gentle kisses and petted him a while. Stroking his fur ever so softly.
“Bug, Mommy is so very proud of you. You have been ever so good. I promise when we go home, you are getting a big treat, diet or not.” He let out a content sigh and began to drift toward sleep.
Soon my boy was settled down, we’d turned down the lights and he was snoozing as if he were in his bed at home. Finally, I thought I could relax, and try to sleep myself. First though I needed to do something about the giggling couple watching stupid adult cartoons in the room next door, and Mr. chatty drunk bragging about how many DUI convictions he currently had and what he was awaiting next as far as charges went.
I’d accidentally let the very helpful tech, and the splendid dog bed maker security guard get away, and now needed to get some help. Mr. DUI 101 was bragging to the lady staff member, whom I found out later was the ER Secretary although I’m not sure how much longer that lasted after what happened next.
After I had got Campbell settled and sleeping, I spent some time on my computer. Writing I thought would indeed, be the best release of stress. As usual I was right. I, in fact, wrote a funnier version of what I am telling you now, with much more sarcasm tossed in.
Once that was done however, it was nearing 2-am, and I knew sleep was needed for me too.
I turned everything off, settling down in my bed, trying to sleep, but Mr. Drunk Driving 101 was still chatting and Mr. and Mrs. Sad and reason for sad were still giggling and watching what I’d learned was Adult Swim. While I liked that, I did not want it at 2-am, while in the damned ER.
Finally I could stand none of this any longer, and hit my call button.
Now folks, the reaction I got, was not what I expected.
What do you think I expected?
I expected said staff member chatting it up with Mr. Drunk Driving 101 to stop and come to see why I’d pushed my call button. She was standing just a few feet away it was beeping and blinking, but she made no move. I waited, and still nothing. I waited again, but still the two continued to chat.
I was livid. I picked up my cell and determined if I lived to tell of this Bobby Donald would be appropriately rewarded for his generous gift of this phone.
I asked Siri to dial the front desk of the hospital, gave the name and the phone did just that. Soon the operator for the switchboard had answered.
“Please? Connect me to your ER?” I said calmly.
She did with no question. Of course, why would she? When the ER picked up.
“Hello,” I said, “My name is Patricia Fletcher. I am a patient in your hospital and I’m in the ER and I pressed my call button several minutes ago, there is a staff member in the room directly next door to me and yet my light continues to blink and beep.”
“Ma’am, are you in the hospital?” The lady asked.
“Yes, very observant of you. Now, can you answer my question?” I said, in a sarcastic tone of voice
“Why are you calling?” she asked.
“Oh? Now, you’ve gone and disappointed me. I thought you were observant but I see you are no smarter or able to see or hear than your coworker.” I said, in an overly disappointed voice.
“You’re calling from an exam room here in the ER?”
“Yes, how splendid of you to connect the dots? I want someone back here now!”
Soon there were not one but two staff members in my room, one being the charge nurse. Miraculously the staff member in the adjoining room disappeared with another seemingly official lady who was speaking with her in not so friendly tones about the situation at hand as they walked away.
The charge nurse asked me for details. First I explained why I’d called in the first place. Told of the noise from both sides. She took care of Mr. and Mrs. Sad and reason for being so and asked the Drunk Driving instructor on the other side to settle it down as well.
“What’s a guy got to do to get a drink around here?” He responded
I don’t even want to know what her face looked like. Her voice told me all I needed to know.
“Sir! Go! To! Sleep! Or! At! Least! Be! Silent! So! Others! Can!” She thundered back.
Campbell had raised his head up by this time to say, “Good God y’all shut the hell up!” and snorted as much, giving a yawn and a sigh, he lay back down.
Now all was quiet but the roaring in my head. I didn’t know whether I’d sleep or not. It was 2:30 in the morning and although things weren’t busy they were active, and I was more than a bit nervous about what lie ahead.
As I drifted in and out of sleep thoughts went swirling and whirling through my mind. Pieces and snatches of voices from different characters in the play I called life.
Drew’s constantly encouraging me, “Come on Lady, take a chance, there’s a fifty percent chance you’ll be right.”
Sick of me writing that? Guess what? I’m sick of hearing it. Want to know why it won’t stop? Cause every time you take one damned chance, whether it is right or wrong, if you are like Mr. Gibbon and thank Goddess me, you are going to take another one, because you want to see just how much of that fifty percent you can get. “Damn! You! Drew!” I thought as sleep finally took me all the way under a little round 3 that Wednesday morning.