Saturday, October 10, 2015

Blasting The University Medical Center

It is Saturday afternoon, and I am about to put my sweater on and walk up to the Rite Aid with the prescriptions in hand that I was given at about 2 AM, as I was discharged from the University Medical Center, after having been there for 13 hours, missing a night of busking (which could have at least paid for the antibiotics).
A Beautiful New Facility If You Have Insurance
People have often asked me; sometimes those who sit down next to me at the Lilly Pad; wanting to know the story of how a guy who seems "so intelligent" wound up playing music on the street; "What are you going to do if you ever get sick?"

The intuitive answer was always that, in living such a low stress life, doing something so creative and life affirming; channeling positive energy, I just don't get sick. I might even quote Bob Dylan: "An artist never stumbles, because she has no place to fall..."
It was always my theory that, while homeless and sleeping outdoors, my senses were heightened and I was extra responsive to my instincts, in tune with nature (to include my body) and had a healthy dose of adrenaline in my veins, ready to snap me awake at the sound of a twig breaking nearby, and keeping my muscles toned and my eyesight sharp for purposes of survival.
It is also my theory (only a theory at this point) that apartment living has dulled those senses and allowed me to atrophy, lowered my resistance and taken my out of my element.
It could just coincidence, or the fact that I am aging, that in recent months I have been battling flare ups of the eczema that I once thought that I had concurred through diet and exercise and (apropos to this article) stress reduction; in the form of waking up cozy and dry and warm with the birds chirping in place of an alarm and the sun in place of the clock and my body telling me whether to roll back over and sleep some more, or to get up and do whatever I feel like. And that, the past week, I have developed an abscessed tooth on both sides of my mouth. The fact that they are on both sides makes me think that it is a systemic thing.


At the hospital, during my 10th hour there, a dentist drained, or rather half drained, it seems, the abscessed areas. It seems like, in squeezing them to try to get the fluid out through a tiny needle and into a syringe, he squeezed some in the other direction, into my jaw, as now there is some swelling under my chin where there wasn't before.

I am sure that, when I get to the Rite Aid with $1.65 in my pocket in a little while, I will be told that the prescriptions will be more than $1.65 to fill.

But the hospiThis will insulate the hospital from any repercussions related to any half assed treatment that I might have received there. We prescribed him medications, and if he couldn't afford them, well that's not our problem.

There is a notice posted right in the emergency waiting room stating that by law, anyone with a medical emergency cannot be refused treatment.

It doesn't say that they must be seen any time soon, nor that answering the question of "Do you have any insurance?" in the negative will not push your case to the bottom of the pile.
I had the sense to bring A: a sweater and B: my laptop, loaded with e-books to read and a word processor to write yesterday's blog post with.
I had left the place after "registering" to run errands for almost two hours.
Returning there and learning that my name had not yet been called for "triage," told me that this time had been a wise use of time.
Since I was then told: "but it won't be long" I sat and spent another hour and a half writing yesterdays blog post, still in as positive a mood (as can be gleaned by the tone of it) as could be expected of one whose jaws were swollen like a squirrel with its cheeks full of nuts and was in pain that I would describe to them as "5 on a scale of 1 to 10," when asked.
I was called into triage, then sent out to wait "not very long unless someone with a more critical condition arrives and is put in front of you." I was agreeable to this, remembering the time that I went to an emergency room, bleeding from a leg wound and was almost immediately given a bandage for it (and wound up being "in and out" of the place in 11 hours).
Trapped
I was then fitted with an "I.V." out of which tubes, several vials of blood were drawn.
I was then told that I must wait in a certain room for them to come and take me somewhere where a C.A.T. scan would be done to determine the extent of the abscessed areas.
I began to wait in this area, amusing myself however I could between my laptop and the TV on the wall, when it was not showing laughable garbage.
There was some kind of drama on it for about an hour, which had actors and dialogue that were almost a parody of the show called "The Shield," which had actors and dialogue and situations that were almost a parody of those C.S.I shows.
There was one point in the show where one character, who was some kind of federal agent who looked like a fashion model and was an expert in martial arts, asked another character something like: "Why would he do something like that?" And it seemed so natural, that I almost expected the other character to answer: "That's just how bad this script is, honey," and was almost surprised when he didn't.
Maybe that was the tooth pain talking, because it was increasing. I guess in a way I was glad that I had already come to the emergency room, or I would certainly would have been leaving my apartment for it by then.
I asked the nurse wearing light green for a couple of aspirins, and was told that they didn't want to give me anything before I had the C.A.T. scan that I had been waiting 2 hours for.
Finally I had the C.A.T. scan.
I returned to the same room and asked for a couple of aspirin again. It seemed like the iodine from the C.A.T. scan had sensitized the nerves around the abscess, and it was hurting enough to make it hard to enjoy the football game that I was watching on NFL.com.
"No, iodine won't do that," I was told by the nurse in light green, and, as if to punish me for thinking so, another hour and a half went by without any aspirin or Tylenol showing up.
At one point, I stuck my head out and the nurse in light green was not at her station. There was another employee in dark blue.
"Yes, I heard you ask her for something for pain, let me see..." she said as she went to a touch-screen and hit a few buttons.
"No, she hasn't put in for it yet."
At that point, it started to seem like a twisted game.
Did the nurse have me pegged for someone without insurance, who was going to have to apply for financial assistance ...if he was a solid citizen, he would have had dental checkups every 6 months and would never have an abscessed tooth; those are for skeezers; let him suffer...?
I felt trapped. I was told that if I left, I would have to restart the whole process (that I was now 8 hours into) all over again.
I started to wonder if the nurse in light green was, at her core, a sadistic person who chose her profession not out of a desire to help and heal, but to avail herself to the opportunity to torture certain segments of society. Perhaps she had had it up to her neck with hospital skeezers and tired of giving treatment to those who had no insurance nor any money; and I happened to fit the bill (excuse the pun).
I was finally ushered into a room with a bed and given a gown, etc. and told by the nurse in light green: "I'm going to give you something to address your pain issues."
She left, and another 20 minutes went by. I suppose they want to give me plenty of time to change into my gown, so as to not invade my privacy, I thought.
Stronger Than Morphine
Then, the nurse in dark blue came in and explained to me that I was going to (10 hours after my arrival at the hospital) be given something for pain which started with d-o-l (like Doloroxin).
"Have you ever had it before?" She seemed to be scrutinizing me.
She went on to say that it was VERY strong, "stronger than morphine" so strong that they had had to wait until I was lying on the bed and not in the room with the TV.
It seemed like she was trying to offer it in the way of reconciliation over the fact that it had been about 4 hours since my pain level had reached the point where I had actually bothered them for something.
I couldn't help thinking, especially as she seemed to be trying to read my face, that she was looking to see how excited I would become at the mention of the drug..."...stronger than morphine....
Do a lot of street people purposely make their teeth become abscessed just to get a hit of it?

All I had asked for, 4 hours earlier, were a couple of aspirin; and now she seemed to be testing me, seeing if I would become like the crack whore who, as she is spitting a stranger's semen into the sink is only thinking: "I'm gonna get high, I'm gonna get high!"
I just wanted the pain to go away and was encouraged by the implication that such a strong pain med might mean that they were going to do some serious oral surgery on me. Like just ripping that tooth right out of my head with a pair of pliers; give me the pliers, I'll do it myself.
"I'll Be Back In A Second"
"I'll be back with that in a second," said the nurse in dark blue.
Of course, after a second went by, I didn't expect the door to swing back open and her to reenter. After about 5 minutes, I began to think it about time for someone to be "back in a second."
My jaw began to throb as if the pain knew that it had only "a second" more to make an impression upon me.
After about 20 minutes of thinking that the pain was going to be knocked out shortly, when she hadn't returned, I just said aloud to the closed door: "You got me again!"
I was really harboring suspicions that the nurses were being sadistic.
I was going to open the door and say (to whichever nurse was there) in as nice a way as possible: "You know, if you think you might reasonably be back in a half hour, it would be nice if you wouldn't tell a patient: 'I'll be back in a second.'" or:  "You know, I could run down to The Big Easy Market and grab some Tylenol and probably be back here in time."
Nurse Chews Me Out Over Teeth
Then the nurse in light green came in and informed me that the results were back from the C.A.T scan and that I had a very large abscess of some kind, and then she chastised me for having let it go so long, and referred to the missed appointment back in February, which she had record of "You could have gotten it taken care of back then."
I told her that I had had too many questions, such as "How am I going to chew if they pulled those teeth out."
She told me that I could have asked all those questions then, and that I shouldn't have been a "no show." I almost asked her if that was why she made me suffer for 4 hours, but it didn't, as she was the one holding the scalpel.
She told me that I was going to be seen by a very nice oral surgeon, who liked to help patients, and who was going to give me the care I needed.
Then, she left, and another 15 minutes went by.
I can only think that there was some kind of change in their plan, because I was whisked off to another room, where another young man in dark blue finally gave me the pain medication in my I.V.
I got the impression that he enjoyed seeing patients reaction to whatever this new drug was which is stronger than morphine.
He let it drip into me and I slowly started to feel light-headed, not quite "faint" but close enough to annoy me, and not quite "high," and I could still feel pain around my tooth, though it was lessened.
It reminded me of the first time that I tried crack and wasn't overly impressed by it.
I reasoned that the fact that so many people become addicted to it is because so many people have been abused since birth and have led such miserable lives that they have never felt truly happy and cannot even amuse themselves with simple things.
The artificial happiness from the drug becomes like an epiphany to them; and they are feeling happy (or confident or powerful) for the first time in their miserable lives.
The young Asian guy in dark blue who had given me the drug asked: "On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you describe your pain.
I felt high, but not as high as I do in the middle of playing guitar and harmonica on a good night, but I could understand how some people could become addicted to heroin and its ilk, and felt sorry for them for their not being able to achieve the feeling naturally.
"I can still kind of feel the pain, but it's not so bad; I'm a little dizzy, but not quite faint," I said, in such a lackluster tone I guess, that he started to check the tubes on my arm to make sure that the wonder liquid had actually gone into me. He almost seemed disappointed as if he is used to people saying "Wow, I'm high as a kite! I like this hospital! Got any that I can take home?!? Yuck yuck yuck!"
Then, instead of the promised oral surgeon who really cared about her patients and who was going to give me the care I needed, in came a skinny white guy in light green, who introduced himself as a dentist and who reminded me of a guy whom I used to work with, delivering pizza.
I'm not sure that this guy might not make a better pizza deliveryman, because he worked on me, numbing the area(s) and supposedly "draining" the abscesses.
They released me after giving me 3 prescriptions which I haven't even looked into the cost of filling yet, and with a face that is still about half as swollen as it was before I went into the hospital.
There is barely any pain anymore, but there was barely any pain when my face had swollen up to this point on its way to the point where I sought medical attention.
I suppose that if I don't at least get the antibiotics then there is a danger that it will swell again.
I might have to busk for antibiotics tonight, with a half swollen jawbone.


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