Since spending a total of 4.5hours waiting in the waiting room of the ER in the last three days, I have had the great fortune to be exposed to all sorts of wonderful members of the Adelaide community with whom I might not otherwise have brushed elbows. Obviously these people were there owing to illness or injury or the illness or injury of a friend or relative and for those I do sympathise with them and would not wish them on anyone, but all the same, it made for a pretty interesting social observation!
The first day I went in was a Thursday afternoon and the place was rammed. I had to wait for 5minutes just to get to report to the Triage nurse (the first place you go to when you arrive, to describe what's wrong with you etc., then you have to check in with the clerical officer who checks your contact details and stuff, and might ask you things like "how did you get to the hospital today?" and "what is your religion"). I was pleased to hear from the Triage nurse that she had put me on the list for "Fast Track". I didn't actually know what that was, but it sounded like it might be a good list to be on.
I was lucky to get a seat next to a nice middle-aged lady, felt a bit sorry for the people that came after me that had to sit nervously next to either the slumped, smelly, snoring man in a baseball cap and the other dodge-o (also in a baseball cap), who had what looked like track-marks up his arms, a dirty bandage round his hand and was equally slumped in some sort of stupor.
I often forget that people come to the ER for heaps other reasons than being in DIRE NEED of URGENT medical attention. It's always fun to play the guess-the-ailment game with the inhabitants of the waiting room. The ones with blood-seeping bandages are easy, as are those that sit gripping a particular part of their anatomy presumably in an attempt to take away the pain (I must admit to removing my shoe to relieve the pressure on my foot and gripping it a couple of times myself.. coupled with my pronounced limp as I walked in, I would have been an easy one). Some were much more tricky.
One pair of women were sat together, obviously knew each other, with nothing outwardly wrong; another woman arrived, greeted them with kisses and sat down next to them without reporting to Triage.. it all became clear when a forth and fifth woman arrived and reported to the Triage nurse, when all the others of the clan jumped up and joined them and started yabbering together in Spanish (Italian?)..it was like a family reunion! A relief for me, to discover that there were less people actually waiting to go into the ER for treatment than it had appeared at first.
I was sat next to the window, to get light to read (although the people around me were far too interesting to concentrate on my book). Sat over to my right with their backs against the wall was a largely built man in what looked like pale blue pyjamas, with wild black hair and beard, handcuffed at the wrist to a policeman who sat in the chair next to him, bald-headed, gum-chewing and with a "hard as nails" face. I felt sorry for the policeman, to be here in this environment, so thick with germs you could practically smell them, sitting cuffed at the wrist to an undesirable, I'm sure he got a worse deal than the convict!
That brings me to the germs, oh the germs. There is always a brief period in any place such as a hospital/doctors waiting room, where I spend a few minutes with my hand close up under my nose, trying to breathe THROUGH my fingers, as if that will somehow filter all the little bodies out of the air. I'm sure others do the same, like breathing through the cuff of your jumper when in a lift with a cougher or sat beside a sneezer on the bus.. surreptitious, trying not to have anyone notice what you're doing, but unable to ignore that vision in your head of germs jumping out of other people's phlegm and being carried in a woosh up your nasal passages *shudder*.
Not long after sitting down I noticed with dismay an electronic rolling display hung from the celing, which informed me in big red and green letters that "The current waiting time for non-urgent presentations is 3-4Hours". I got bored enough waiting for 2hours, but thankfully it was only that long and not the threatened four. When I went back to the ER the following morning at 9am, to sit in an entirely empty waiting room and watch the korean news channel on silent, the display STILL said "3-4Hours" so I thought perhaps they just keep it at that, so that people expect a super-long wait, are prepared for it and are then pleasantly surprised and thus feel well-disposed towards the Australian Healthcare System when they are seen after two..?
On the second morning (when I still had to wait for an hour), I had only three waiting room companions, two of which were unremarkable, aside one lady whose husband told the triage nurse loudly "She has a kidney stone, she is very constipated", who then walked over to a seat EXACTLY as if she was very constipated (I could almost feel her pain) and the third whom was the cherry on the icing of my exposure-to-Adelaide-lovelies cake.
His name was Nick. He was about 6'6" and lanky, dressed in combats and a hoody and, yup you guessed it, a baseball cap (do not wear a baseball cap to the ER.. you run the risk of being lumped in with a category of people with whom you might not want to be associated). He completely bypassed the Triage nurse and slumped down in a seat directly opposite me and in spite of my appearing to be very engrossed in the Korean News, proceeded to give me the story of exactly why he was there.
He was a bogan! ( http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=bogan) He spoke in a kind of drawl that reminded me of the deep-south American hick-accent, you know, I expected him from his voice to have a hat with corks on and to be chewing on a peice of straw. He talked as if there was a golf ball in his mouth, very round and drawn-out vowels. He had a very small head on top of his lanky body and big staring pale-blue eyes. So he told me this tale about being in a club last night and this bloke, right, was doing something or other, and it all kicked off and he phoned his mates and was like "get down here boys" and pht! They won't make that mistake again, only this one bloke tried to hit him over his head with a broken bottle, he put his hand up to his head and the glass cut his wrist, went right in, right. He wrapped his white singlet around his hand and the blood was seeping through, (said hand was now wrapped in a bandage). His mate dropped him off at the hospital but he couldn't stay so he just needed to see someone to get it sorted out.
I was like "mm-hm" and thankfully he got up and went over to the Triage nurse, started trying to tell HER this whole long story, but she cut him off and asked him the necessary stuff only. He was hilarious! He just talked and talked and talked regardless of whether anyone was listening. He was a comedy-sketch on legs, and had me pmsl inside... Durrrrrrrrrrr.!
He came into the Fast Track while I was there (which turned out to mean minor-stuff that could be sorted out quite quickly like cuts and burns and whatnot, and not as I had hoped some sort of fastlane express service into the ER) and was yabbering away to the Fast Track nurses, who were completely ignoring him and having none of it! One of them told him to pipe down in the end, to the relief of everyone within earshot.
After being informed on the Thursday that only a cast and crutches would do for the healing of my fractured foot (and having to sign a paper to say I had refused to be casted in order to leave without it), on Friday when I went in expecting to get a cast, they said a moonboot would be quite sufficient, so that is what I have! The moonboot is a soft boot that goes up to my knee. It has hard splints up either side and a hard sole which is like a rocker so that when I walk, my foot rocks from heel to toe without having to bend it. The idea is that it immobilises my foot, It's really soft and quite toasty (thank god it's not 42C). So much rest is the prescription that matters, I have more or less stopped work and am quite looking forward to a few weeks of tv/internet in bed, who wouldn't?