What is it about Haubs, holidays, and hospitals…
Last year on Christmas day, my dad and brother-in-law drove Doug and me to the emergency room where we spent seven hours with what felt like half of Los Angeles. I was nine months pregnant and sick with the flu, and when we walked in the attendents mistakingly rushed to my side with a wheelchair. But it was Doug who needed emergency care that night, and so we waited for hours in an overcrowded waiting room filled with very sick people of all ages, and some of the hardest chairs I have ever felt (especially for an enormous pregnant woman). It was a very miserable night for all us, most of all for my poor sick husband.
Last night, after a delightful day and marvelous feast, we put the kiddos to bed. Doug tromped through the mud and cold to bring in some firewood, and we looked forward to another relaxing evening in front of a crackling fire. But it was not to be. A little before 10pm, we heard Mercy crying through the monitor so Doug hurried upstairs to comfort his little girl. It didn’t take him very long to become a little alarmed at how disoriented she seemed, and how she was utterly inconsolable. He tried bringing her in to the bathroom with some hot steam (we have all been sick with terrible head colds since our arrival in Spokane) but she would not calm down.
By the time I came upstairs to see what was going on she was crying uncontrollably. We brought her downstairs hoping that she would reorient and maybe fully wake up and snap out of whatever was going on, and she did seem to get her bearings a bit–enough to request her Pooh movie. We put it in, and it was then that she told us that her ear hurt. We had already given her a full dosage of Tylenol before bed so there wasn’t much we could do for her. But after twenty minutes of constant crying and complaining about her ear, I called our doctor’s office to see what we should do. “She probably has an ear infection. Give her some Motrin and take her to get checked out first thing in the morning,” they said.
Doug left right away to go buy some Motrin, but of course being Thanksgiving, all the stores were closed. You can only give a child so much Tylenol, so we were basically stuck. We did our best to soothe her and calm her, with valiant performances by all members of Doug’s family. But when 2am rolled around and she could still not stand to lie down, and when her crying persisted with pleas for “Help, mommy,” Doug and I quickly decided a trip to the ER was our best bet.
Mercy was a champ. She didn’t cry once as they weighed her, took her temp, examined her ears, and finally gave her the medicine that would ease her pain. “Oh, wow. I’m sorry,” were the doctor’s gentle words as he peered inside her right ear and saw how badly infected it was. It was 4am when Doug and I pulled into the driveway of his dad’s house. Mercy was sleeping soundly by then (thank you Tylenol with Codeine) and Doug was seeing his 24th hour of being awake as Mercy had woken him up early that morning and he had not slept since. We got her into bed and she slept at last, though not without needing her Daddy to come crawl into bed with her soon after. They are both sleeping soundly now.
It was astounding to me the difference in care we received last night. If you ever need to make an ER visit, St. Vincent’s in Portland, Oregon is where you want to go. In L.A., the prospect of going to an ER is enough to MAKE a person sick. There are simply too many people in that city without access to normal health care that the ER has essentially become the doctor’s office for the poor. Last night as we sat in a spacious, carpeted room on cushioned chairs, I marvelled at how fortunate we were to be there and not in the waiting room at Huntington (and that is the NICE hospital outside of the city).
As nice as the facilities were, and as short as the wait was, it was the humanity of the place that amazed us. Living where we live in L.A., you simply begin to accept a certain level of inhumanity in how people are treated. So to walk up to the ER reception and be met with immediate empathy and kindness (and Bob the Builder stickers in abundance) caught me completely off guard. And I almost choked when the woman who was responsible for completing our registration and handling the billing came to our exam room (in L.A. you can’t get past the waiting room until you have completed this step) and, after asking Mercy if she liked sheep, handed her a precious little stuffed lamb to take home. It was definitely one of those moments where you remember what being human is supposed to feel like.