Chilling in the ER waiting room


I found two adjacent seats in the emergency department waiting room. I placed my backpack on the one chair and I sat in the other. I took a deep breath. I was greeted by the faint odor of poop, vomit, and antiseptic. This was not foreign to me. It was the smell of a paycheck.

I looked around the room. The place was almost completely full. Some people were obviously still waiting to be seen and some, like myself, were waiting on patients.

Angus came in through the doors and searched for me. I gave him a wave and hoisted my backpack off the chair beside me and motioned for him to join me.

“This seems like a popular place to be on a Friday night!” Angus said as he appraised the full room with a look of unbridled enthusiasm.

“Oh it usually is! Especially on the weekends.” I smiled as we both took in a disheveled, likely drunk, gentleman passed out, drooling and snoring, in one chair, an exhausted looking mother bouncing her crying child on her knee in another, a woman with a makeshift tea towel bandage wrapped around her hand in the far corner, and a young couple with a sleepy feverish baby beside us.

In my work at the hospital I often floated down to the emergency room and helped to triage patients. It was a tough job trying to determine who needed to be attended to most urgently versus who could wait. I remembered being verbally accosted by a patient’s husband when I took a head trauma patient back to be seen before his whaling wife. They had been waiting for over an hour at that point and were losing their patience as they watched several patients being attended to as they continued to sit and wait. Unfortunately her chronic back pain was not life threatening but this, of course, was not what they wanted to hear.

“Doesn’t anybody care?” The husband yelled at me. Doing triage and being yelled were never highlights of my job. 

A nurse came out from behind the double doors and called out “Amber”. The young couple with the baby got up and entered the patient care area as the nurse held the doors open for them.

“Where’s Ted?” Angus asked as we watched the little family disappear.

“Dr. Holmes took him back. I think they were going to give him some pain medicine and do an ultrasound to see if it really is appendicitis.” Angus nodded.

We could hear the sound of sirens in the distance. Angus and I slowly turned to look at each other and I raised a weary eyebrow. The sound was getting louder and louder and then it came to a stop as the sliding glass doors opened. The lady with the tea towel bandage groaned as a doctor and a couple of nurses rushed out from the patient care area to meet the ambulance. It wasn’t too many minutes before an older man was rolled in. A paramedic was straddling the patient’s hips in the gurney as he did chest compressions. The doctor and nurses wheeled the gurney along the hall and through the double doors. I looked at Angus, reached over to him and tapped his gaping lower jaw closed.

“Holy smokes!” Angus whispered.

“Yup. A typical night in the ER. This might take awhile Angus. Did you bring something to read?”

Angus turned, focused his gaze on me as he then opened his backpack. He pulled out a paperback copy of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” with a bookmark about one third of the way into it. He held it in front of my face.

“Hey girl! This is not my first rodeo!” Angus smacked the book.

Well played Angus. Well played. 

A light read!

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