house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Hospital Halloween

Summary: we spent Halloween weekend between health care institutions in Northern Portugal.
Epilogue: two tricked, one treated.

The longer version: Friday night. I'm beyond tired and look forward to CSI Miami and sleep, in whatever order. But before we settle down, one little thing: Nikita says his eye is sore, it certainly is red and swollen. I look , see nothing, but we're going to the Health Center because I know something you don't: Nikita will only mention, in passing, that his eye is sore when others in the same situation would be writhing on the floor in intense agony crying 'I'm blind, sweet Jesus I'm blind!' This is not a stray eyelash or a crumb of pizza. We're getting it seen to.

The Health Center is real quiet tonight. People must be too tired to find a trip to the ER (a favourite national pastime) attractive. We are shaking the doctor's hand within two minutes, having successfully negotiated the lady at the counter, her computer and the triage nurse (and witnessed a fast food delivery for the entire night shift). The doctor is slim and grey-haired but has the energy of a boy on holiday. He takes Nikita into the treatment room and is within seconds poking around The eye with a needle. Nikita is truly impressed with the steady hand and unfaltering smile-and-chatter displayed.

It's over: 'I can see IT, but I can't take it out (we still don't know what IT is). You need to go to Viana. Do you have a car?' What? Could he be suggesting a trip to a Big Hospital (the second-favoured national pastime)? Before I phrase the question, I'm out in the rain clutching a letter to the ophthalmologist. We stop at home to take the dog and a flask of coffee, then we're off to Viana. The kids are happy because this implies a stay at a hotel.

Viana, it turns out, doesn't have an ophthalmologist until Tuesday ('and your doctor should have known it'). I express a hope that the ER doctor can sort everything out... (isn't this what watching 13 series of ER taught us?...) and the receptionist shakes her head even as she says, cryptically, 'he will SEE you'.

Then we step inside and it's another world. The kind of situation – like being parachuted in the desert, or left bobbing in the ocean with sharks – where you suddenly know you'll need all your strength plus a generous pinch of luck. A short walk along these corridors will make you pray more fervently for a massive coronary, when the time comes... There are two kinds of people here: the Ashen-Faced, hunched on benches or lying on gurneys along corridors; and the White Coats, sweeping by at intervals without a glance to the others. The former wait in silence and eventually vanish under weak neon lights. Before long, we sit on a bench outside the Minor Surgery ward which appears deserted. In front of us, a young woman lies on a gurney, on her belly. I spend half of the time wondering what is wrong with her, then I figure it out and spend the rest of the time trying to forget it. Please don't make me tell, it's too awful. All I will say is that she walked home happy, after being SEEN (which is also too horrible to imagine). Every now and again people shuffle by and sit down with sighs or grimaces. A door marked Xray opens and a young White Coat shouts their names as if they were actually sat two football fields away. We all jolt upright, then they drag themselves in and we continue our wait.

A grizzled doctor appears and says, without venturing beyond Nikita's eye patch, that there's nothing he can do, we need an ophthalmologist and we can either wait until Tuesday or go to Braga in the morning. It's past midnight, Kira is asleep in my lap, Nikita sways gently in the neon haze and I want to murder the Xray guy.

Cue for the doctor to turn around and march down the corridor, stethoscope thumping in rhythm against his chest. But no, when I look up he's still there. 'Do you have anywhere to stay?' he seems to be asking. 'Oh, a hotel....' I wave vaguely towards the town that glitters between raindrops. He does march off now, but before we've gathered ourselves, he's back, followed by a tiny nurse.

'You can stay here' he announces. How touching, how terrifying. I try to decline but I seem to have forgotten how. My dry squeak is promptly drowned by the Xray guy calling another customer. Next thing we know, we're marching behind the tiny nurse to the Pediatric Ward, where beds were found for us. There we spend the night. Lights are being turned on and off constantly as new people are admitted: a crying baby; a kid with a gastric complaint; their loud relatives. When the baby doesn't wake up for another cry, the gastric complaint needs another trip to the loo, dragging a whole IV stand with him, turning lights on and asking the mother to bring his Teddy along. The TV is on the whole time, showing soap operas at midnight, horror films at 3am and not-so-soft porn at five. Kira wakes up at six and shouts: 'Where are we?' She distracts the Gastric Complaint from his porn induction. 'Shhh. At the hospital, baby. It's OK, go back to sleep.' 'I don't like it here!' she announces and immediately gets the Gastric Complaint's undivided attention. He's a sweet kid.

Two hours later it's his turn to have Kira's undivided attention; by now we're all awake and the nurse is inserting a suppository into his bum while the entire ward pretends not to watch. Kira is fascinated. There's a running commentary and lively discussion about how long he should / could wait before he goes to the loo. The discussion continues long after he's dragged his IV to the loo and breakfast's been served.

The little nurse goes off duty, but not before stopping at every bedside to offer her best wishes to patients and parents. The next nurse is just as friendly. Hey, once someone's put a brick through the TV, this place would be almost bearable. In the circumstances, I don't remember ever waking up Happier: because we're leaving, filing behind the Most-Handsome(-and-He-Knows-It) Ambulance Driver in Portugal.

I am to follow the Most Handsome in my car, along the motorway (first time ever on a motorway, yeeey) in the kind of driving rain that is known to have drowned herds of wildebeest standing. Double yeeey. He assures me he'll go slow and easy. I assure him that's how I like it.

Slow and easy, it turns out, is 120 km per hour. It's got two advantages: we get to Braga really fast. And I get the rare feeling that there's NOTHING I cannot do.

We find the ophthalmologist in about two minutes, and it takes her less that that to sort out Nikita's eye, including jokes, prescription writing and specialist-gear demonstration for Kira.

Back outside, we find out why the Most Handsome was in such a hurry: he was dying for a smoke.

We wave goodbye and go trick-or-treating for real. Niki's disguise: one red eye covered by yellow cream covered by eye patch. My disguise: two red eyes covered by bad hair (truly scary!) Kira's disguise: oops, needs one, must go shopping. Oh-oh.

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At 3 November 2010 at 20:22 , Blogger Magnus said...

I haven't laughed so much all year - at such a calamity as well. My bad. Your good. This is SO GOOD. Need the next chapter. It ends in Braga... What happens next? Where's his eye? did he get a glass one? A bionic one? Did you share a smoke with Mr Handsome? Did Kira charm her way into the ambulance?
A fan.

At 3 November 2010 at 20:45 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is pretty funny and also so familiar!

At 4 November 2010 at 09:37 , Anonymous Rupert Wolfe Murray said...

I agree with the above and am eagerly awaiting next chapter...did Mr Handsome turn out to be a bastard? Did Gastric Boy and Kira fall in love?

At 4 November 2010 at 21:54 , Blogger emwolfem said...

Haha - as if I could share a smoke with anyone in front of the Censors! The three-eyed Wolfe-Mafia! The next part was really nice (roast chestnuts and wine) and the drive back a joy!
Rupert: Gastric Boy only got K's attention when he dropped his pants down (as the suppository loomed closer...) This is worrying, but medically justified - and Kira adored the horror factor.


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