Monday, June 10, 2024

E.R. Again

This is how my day ended.  It had been a good day, but when I went to see my mother, she was not doing so well.  I sat with her awhile before she said, "I think I need to go to the E.R.  The pain in my back won't stop.  I couldn't sleep at all last night, and I'm anxious and can't settle down."

"O.K." I said.  I could tell she was not doing well.  

The E.R. on a Sunday night.  This one was newly renovated with a large, airy waiting room.  I was surprised.  There were only a few people there.  Within a few minutes, a nurse called my mother's name and we went into a room where she took my mother's vitals.  It was only minutes before my mother was wheeled into a examination room, and not long after, a doctor came in and began asking her questions.  It all went pretty quickly.  

But my mother isn't good at giving answers.  She has been that way her whole life.  It is frustrating.  Maybe it is the hillbilly in her, but she won't give a straight answer.  Rather, she'll launch into some long, seemingly unrelated story which may or may not contain the detail you were seeking.  My mother has been retired for almost thirty years.  She does not dwell in a professional workplace.  There is no rush.  Everything moves slow.  Now that she is losing her hearing, everything has to be said twice.  I sat slightly behind her looking at the floor.  Occasionally I would speak up to answer for her.  

The doctor was a friendly sort, but I could see that he was not going to do much.  Walking through the hallways, I saw that most of the rooms were filled with the elderly, people in their eighties and nineties.  We all know the old saw: aging is not for sissies.  They say that you just have to do the best you can and go on.  Walking through the ER on a Sunday night, however, you might think differently.  There is nothing heroic or gallant there.  There is only fear and suffering and one wonders why we are determined to keep going.  That is what the doctor's patronizing smile told me as he nodded and typed things into the electronic chart.  

"We'll get some X-Rays and see what's going on," he said as he left the room.  The nurse made sure my mother was comfortable and shut the door on her way out.  

And we waited.  The room was cold.  Machines beeped.  We talked for a bit at first, then fell silent.  We waited some more.  

In a bit, a fellow came in and wheeled my mother away.  They left the door open for me so I could watch the people passing.  It would have been a jail sentence had they not.  Nurses wheeled carts with computers and monitors by.  Some walked in twos, softly giggling.  White coats for doctors, blue uniforms for everybody else.  It was comforting.  Patients, by contrast, looked disheveled and piteous. 

My mother was wheeled back into the room.  

"Would you like the door open or closed?"

"Open," said my mother.  Good.  

We talked for a bit, then again fell silent.  We waited.  I looked at my phone.  Two and a half hours had passed.  I hadn't eaten.  I was in a t-shirt and shorts and shivering.  

The doctor came back.  

"Let's have a look at the X-Rays," he said.  He turned the computer screen toward us.  He pointed his pen to where my mother said she hurt.  

"You have some moderate arthritis, nothing unexpected."

He didn't have to say, "for someone your age" but it was heard.  

"I don't see anything broken, so that's good news."  He turned the screen away.  "I'm going to prescribe you some lidocaine patches to help with the pain."

My mother spoke up.  

"Last night, I couldn't sleep.  I was anxious.  I couldn't settle.  Can you give me something for that?"

I was fairly shocked.  It wasn't like my mother. 

"Sure. . . I can give you something to help."

I was certain it would be Xanax, but I was wrong.  

"I'm going to send in a prescription for Atarax," he said.  I can give you one here to help.  

When he left the room, I Googled Atarax.  It is Hydroxyzine, an antihistamine used to counter itching and motion sickness.  

Researchers don’t know exactly how hydroxyzine works to treat anxiety. But most healthcare providers agree that it affects two main chemicals in the body: histamine and serotonin.

It works much like Benadryl.  

A nurse came in with a lidocaine patch and put it on my mother's back.  Then she gave her a dose of Atarax.  

"Since this is your first time taking the drug, I'm going to have you wait fifteen minutes before you're discharged to make sure you don't have a reaction."

When she left the room I laughed.  "Three hours to get you a lidocaine patch and an antihistamine," I said, but then, "well, it's all good news.  Nothing broken, no surgeries or anything."

When we left the hospital, the late sun was still shining, the air still supernaturally warm.  But it felt good.  

When I got home, I made a drink, lit a cheroot, and went out to the deck.  There was a cat waiting to be fed.  Seven-thirty.  My phone had been silent all day, no calls, no texts.  I'd make something to eat, a salad with garlic and plum tomatoes and garbanzo beans and tuna.  I'd watch t.v.  

At nine, I called my mother to see how she was doing.  She sounded fucked up, slurring her words.  

"I was asleep.  I thought it was morning."

"You need to go to bed.  I guess that pill is working."

I felt guilty.  I'm going to need to give up what life I have left, I think.  I need to move in to take care of my mother.  I've seen this movie.  You've seen this movie.  "The Sacrifice."  

I have a busy week, not a fun one.  My problem, not yours.  Fuck it.  What is it they say again?  Where the hell is my Beckett?

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