I try not to be superstitious, but sometimes I can’t help but think there is an unusual pattern to the events of my life. Today I am labeling one such pattern, “The Thanksgiving Curse”. It feels as if we can’t get through Thanksgiving week without some degree of melodrama. One year we got to experience the baby’s severe egg allergy firsthand including an ambulance ride to the emergency room. Another year a family member lost his job just after Thanksgiving. This year, the curse struck our eight-year-old.
I’ll start off by admitting that I deserve the lion’s share of the blame for this one. While I was in another room, my child was sitting at my desk waiting his turn to play a video game. While waiting, he found an X-Acto knife. I recently misplaced the cap to the knife but thought that if I pushed the knife to the side of my desk, it would be safe until I found the cap. I was wrong. According to the various accounts that we have received, it seems that my child was experimenting with the knife by scraping it across his fingers. The experiment was short-lived as the knife sliced right through the tip of his index finger. Fortunately, he did not completely sever the digit, but once I saw all of the blood, I knew that we were headed to the hospital for stitches.
We arrived at the hospital at 8:30 PM. By brandishing a blood-soaked kitchen towel, I was certain that we would be immediately whisked back to a treatment room and get out of there in no time. I could not have been more wrong. We were quickly evaluated by the triage nurse who gave my frightened child a pain reliever and applied a numbing lotion to his hand. I knew that we would have to wait at least 30 minutes for the numbing lotion to kick in, but I never imagined that it would take THREE HOURS. At 11:30, we were finally escorted to a treatment room. There, we waited another hour before we saw a doctor. Finally, four hours after we arrived, the numbing and stitching commenced. As an educator, I understand the need for ‘teaching hospitals’, but as a mom, it is hard to be supportive of the student doctor who is torturing my son by constantly repeating her stitching despite my son’s cries that the numbing medicine never fully took hold. Deciding that it was easier to help him gut out the process than to jump up and down about the doctor’s apparent incompetence, I kept my mouth shut. I focused on my baby who was amazing me with his fortitude. I asked him about animals and the act of comparing and contrasting various species of sea animals really seemed to help take his mind off the pain. Finally, five hours after we arrived, we were released.
I’m thankful that we had insurance that afforded us the opportunity to get treatment for my son late at night. I’m disappointed by the care that we received and the manner in which the facility was run. While we waited for hours for treatment, we watched family after family grow weary and leave the hospital without seeing a doctor for their respective ailments. Was the hospital short-staffed? Did the hospital staff think that these cases were so insignificant that they hoped they would leave? From an operations management standpoint, I could tell that the bottleneck in the operation was occurring in the ‘back of the house’. That is, the triage nurses, receptionists and registration personnel were frequently caught up and most patients did not have to wait more than five minutes to go through the ‘intake’ procedure. We were all told that the wait related to needing beds to open up and that all cases were placed in order according to urgency. I hate to tell anyone how to do their job, but this led me to wonder. If it is true that many people frequent emergency rooms due to a lack of health insurance – knowing that emergency room personnel are required to provide some degree of care – then why not plan for that? That is, the hospital coded all cases according to a color chart: red, orange, yellow and green – with red being the most urgent cases and were seen immediately and green being the mildest with wait times of five hours or more. Since the triage nurses seemed to have time on their hands, why couldn’t they handle the green cases that really didn’t warrant a doctor’s care? Wouldn’t that save doctor time and give all patients better care in the long run? Couldn’t a nurse practitioner be available to care for the less-urgent cases? It’s just a thought. Healthcare poses so many questions and as smart as we are collectively, it seems that we still have so far to go.
I’m just happy that my baby is OK and will soon have full use of all of his digits. He promises not to play with knives again until he is 21 and I promise to be more careful with my things. Ahhh, Thanksgiving. What a wonderful time of year!