This is the hospital visit that never ends, it will go on and on my friends…

Well THAT was an adventure. 

If you don’t have money and you need health care well… I would say, don’t do what we did, but really it’s actually the best option, which sucks. 

In September James had an excruciating pain develop rather suddenly in his lower left abdomen. It wasn’t, however, debilitatingly painful, and since we are poor people, and I was just getting the first swamping of the semester, we decided to wait and see what it would do. Well, it got better, mostly. 

Over the next couple months James ate better, and we got a car, both of which we hoped would alleviate the bit of pain that still lingered; the eating for obvious reasons, the car because, up to that point, James had been riding a bouncing bus 2 and a half hours twice a day for work which we figured may have contributed to aggravated abdominal parts.

We went through all of the holidays and, hey, the pain was still there, ever so subtly, three months after it initially appeared. Yesterday, since the holidays were over and James was free from work  and I had yet to start school, I convinced him that it would be a good day to try the emergency room at the LAC-USC (Los Angeles County- University of Southern California Hospital).

To explain, in California we have health coverage for low income people, but you have to go through the emergency room in order to get it. In some hospitals in California this means entering through the emergency room and getting sent from there to the low income clinic. At LAC-USC all they have is the emergency room, and it’s the only way in for the poor, so what they get is a completely flooded emergency room, complex triage, and  really uncomfortable and unhappy patients. 

James and I got there and got him checked in around 5 pm on January 3rd. We immediately got sent to the triage room so they could do the actual check in and determine how serious his case was. After being talked to a couple times, we waited there for about 20 minutes before the lady told us it could be up to 20 hours before we were seen, but if we wanted to stay we could go out to the other room and wait for James’s name to be called. So we did. We didn’t have anything else to do, this was our plans. 

James sent me home to get supplies and food for us to hunker down for awhile with. 

I should mention that part of our genius was to take the bus to the hospital since it was pretty close, and our bus went almost all the way there, so to get home I would be taking the same bus route, only later in the day than when we arrived. We realized that if this all actually took as long as we had been led to believe, our day passes would no longer be active… So I was also to get the car and park it somewhere nearby for the next days ride home. 

I left to get on the bus to go home at 5:23 pm. I got home at 7:00 pm. Good job metro. 

I collected all of my various gadgets and electronics, and all of their chargers and packed them up. I made rice; an accomplishment for me since I always burn it, though I was only able to do it through James’s instructions. I added movies to my flash drive. I checked facebook, I ate some rice… and then I got in the car and drove back to the hospital.

I arrived back at the hospital at 9:00 pm. This is 4 hours into the journey. James was seen right after I left by a nurse or someone of similar authority once  to check vitals. Just as James begins eating the rice I brought for him, he was called back for more vitals and to give him an estimate for time; “about 4 hours”. So, we waited. We played cards. We tried to get on the internet but all boredom alleviating websites were blocked by the hospitals network. He watched me play some Kings Quest I on my computer. Then the emergency room folks made all non patients move to the outer waiting room. Yeah. Why? Because they were short on space. 

I went to sit in the waiting room, and read a book. The outer waiting room, by the way, is home to a number of homeless sleepers over night, which is excellent for the homeless and I don’t begrudge them a warm place to sleep, but it is not so nice for the loved ones of those in the emergency room who are tired and cranky and just want their loved ones to be okay. 

Around 12:30-1:00 am ish, I brought the rest of the rice back to James and sat with him for awhile more. He was called in for vitals again so they could “make sure [he wasn’t] dying”. They also told us it could be another three hours before he was given a bed. Soon after that, non-patients were shooed back out to the homeless hotel. It really wouldn’t have been so bad except for all of the snoring. Oh! In that waiting room they were also playing the most muzac sounding meditation music I’ve ever heard. Sometimes it was nice, but most of the time it was just taunting. 

I read my book some more. Actually, I got really engrossed in my book; I was reading A Feast For Crows after all. I kind of lost track of time a little, and realized around 4:00 am that I hadn’t heard from James for awhile. I texted him. I waited a little bit. I texted him again. I waited a little bit. I texted him a third time… still no reply. I packed up my stuff and went to the patient waiting room. He wasn’t there. I went to information. “Has a James Bellows been admitted to a bed yet?” 

“Oh yes, just a little while ago. They wont allow you to see him until he has seen a doctor though; it may be a little while.”

“Do you have any idea how long that might be?”

“No, not really.”

“well… should I just check back periodically then?”

“That would probably be best.”

I went back to Homeless Hotel. I read some more. An hour went by. I went back and checked in. There was a different woman behind the information desk. When I inquired, she actually made a phone call to check, but no… he had not been seen yet. 

I went back to Homeless Hotel. I read. Another hour went by. I checked in again. They made another call. It was 5:00 am. YES! He had finally been seen! And they sent me with a nurse guy person who just happened to be headed in that direction. The nurse let me through a door and told me to go to room 4. These were less rooms, mind you, and more cubicles with curtains. James wasn’t there. 

No one would really speak directly to me, they just would say to each other “oh, she’s here to see the patient in 4.” 

“oh, do we know where he is?”

“actually no, we’ve kind of lost him.”

They told me to wait in one of the waiting chairs right there. I started to wonder if they had sent me to the right place; they hadn’t really waited for me to say James’s name when I was asking about him, and they had been too quick for my sleep deprived brain to really register where they had said he was, or who they thought I was asking about. 

“Oh, we found him, he’s in X-Ray.”

“Why is he in X-Ray, I didn’t think that order had been put in yet? Who sent him to X-Ray?”

“I don’t know, but he’s been in there for awhile it seems”

“well, the order has been put in now, he’s second in line”

Finally someone came over and asked if I was waiting for the patient in 4, and I responded “James Bellows?”, and she said “oh, yep”, and went on her way. She passed a little while later to let me know that James was in X-Ray and should be out soon. 

Finally he did come back (Yay!) we looked at the X-Ray, they took a blood sample for a hemoglobin test, and went to complete the discharge, referral to general practice, and prescription paperwork.

By 7:00 am we were out of there… and on to prescription filling and financial hoopla. We turned in the prescription slip, which we were told would be filled in four hours. We followed the signs to Trailer 17, which was the new location for Billing. There we were given a number and told to wait. Were were number 26. We waited 2 hours. We finally got in, only to find out that James didn’t have enough forms of ID, he needed at least two, and only had the one. So, we were given another number in good faith that we would come back before 3:30 pm with the required documents (for which, I should mention, there was no mention of before we were seen). 

We went to breakfast, got the car, went home, checked facebook, got the necessary documents together, got in the car, drove back to the hospital, and found our way back to Trailer 17, which by the way is hidden at the far back on a parking lot mostly hidden by trees, with no signs pointing to it, and a tiny sign on the side that read “trailer 17“. 

We waited for another 45 minutes. James was finally seen, and told he also needed proof of his income… lucky enough he happened to have a not-yet-deposited check (yay procrastination!) Thanks to this and a good heaping of honesty, James passed the poor person test with flying colors. We went back to collect the prescription and waited in line for probably another half hour… 24 hours later, we were finally free!

We went to the pet shop to buy some celebratory chickens, but they wont have any until next Friday. All they had were quails. 

Now we are home, I am writing (obviously!) James is recuperating, and soon we will be crashing for a good long deserved night of sleep.

May tomorrow bring us a less eventful (and shorter) day.

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