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A visit to the emergency room

Like many , we intentionally avoided hospitals and healthcare providers and in fact many were closed to us in the beginning of the pandemic. All along , emergency care workers were there for those in need and hospital and medical office protocol became more clear and communicated. Those selfless and courageous frontline healthcare workers are recognized as heroes and have our gratitude for their dedication in these uncertain and evolving times.

Perhaps a stark , real and poignant example came for me with a trip to hospital emergency room recently. Not a real emergency , just a combination of months of symptoms , my primary care doctor in another state and the urging of my wife.

I called the nurse hotline first to get the lay of the land on the cleanliness , protocol and procedures. My particular symptoms needed an in person evaluation not a teledoc conversation. I was told they identify and separate Covid cases in the ER and you have more of a chance of running into a Covid case in the grocery store than the emergency room.

My purpose in putting this on paper is not to indict, but to educate as we come out of this. I interacted with many healthcare workers in my 2 1/2 hours and will talk more about process and observations here. The healthcare workers were friendly and compassionate.

And , since I venture to the grocery store , I thought I can do the ER.

Pulling into the entrance lot , this poor woman was experiencing pain and vomiting in the parking lot. By the time I parked in the ramp and entered the emergency room , I was behind this sick woman being helped in.

I chose to go early in the morning; there was an empty waiting room and the shift had recently changed. Someone was there telling me to sanitize hands as I walked in. The person greeting me asked for symptoms and information. Moved me quickly to another person ten feet away taking a few vitals , temperature etc. Another person walked me back to a small room , number 16 in the ER.

Another person walked with me and told me to prep for the doctor. The doctor came in 20 minutes later asking questions and recommending tests. Mine was not an emergency or life-threatening , so the tempo throttled back. Having some minor respiratory symptoms , we discussed Covid test. The confusion was around protocol after the test, and the doctor did not think I had Covid. The confusing protocol was to quarantine or self isolate , admittedly unclear from the CDC , particularly since I really had no symptoms

The nurse came later to take the blood and vitals. I said I wasn’t sure on the Covid test . She sent the doctor back 20 minutes later and ,while the doctor was ambivalent at first , she recommended the Covid test. The nurse came back 20 minutes later to administer the test which tickles the top of the sinus cavity ( I prefer that description rather than tickling your brain , as they tell you ) .

Now , my room was just outside the nurses station and separated by a curtain. This is the interesting part , where I really wanted to hear the dialogue and interaction, all the while thanking each of them for being there and what they do , asking them about their own protocol to stay safe.

I heard the nurse tell the doctor that I refused a Covid test , which was not the case, it was more mixed signals and lack of clarity in the departure protocol. I had asked the same nurse earlier where they put the Covid patients in the emergency room and she was honest and simply said , wherever they land. There is no separate area for those with Covid. So I guess this puts the ER on equal footing with the grocery store.

I also heard another doctor recording his patient findings and taking a call expressing frustration over another patient being unclear on symptoms and wishy-washy rather than a specific illness and therefore a more clear solution. He probably could’ve been talking about me , even though I know he wasn’t.

Not long after , I heard the nurse talking to a rehab center , as her own mother was just admitted yesterday , which I asked her about later.

My point , these are real people, with real families and ups and downs and challenges. So while they take care of us, life goes on for them too.

I met two more people called transporters, that rolled me into x-ray on a bed even though I could walk fine and interacted with a nice x-ray technician. I was waiting for two different transporters to take me back, but it was the same friendly ones who returned .

All the people had masks and were pleasant and they each had a little different protocol when they went home , and more disciplined and thorough than pre-Covid days.

There was a little confusion as one thought the other gave me one of the test prescribed , when they hadn’t. 2.5 hours into it I got antsy and the nurse asked me if I was ready to leave , to which I replied heck yes. Shortly after, I had heard her call the doctor and say “our friend“ in number 16 is ready to leave. Not sure , but I might have overstayed my welcome. I apologized for wasting their time and fortunately all the tests came back fine.

So , this is a fluid process managed by caring , real people doing their best with fuzzy protocol in some cases, perhaps reduced staff , limited resources and less than ideal hospital facilities.

I don’t believe healthcare will really ever be the same; there will be more video doctors, fewer bricks and mortar , complemented by many other providers of healthcare through pharmacies, clinics , local alternatives and self administered .

My heart aches for those that have experienced Covid and their families and hopefully we emerge with better resources , solutions and protocol for this health crisis and our overall well - being .

Stay safe !

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