Well, I had a semi quiet weekend here in Las Vegas. At least I think it was. Last week I was building a new bed for E – what? you say, building a bed? Well, E had her fifth birthday last week, and B went up to Portland to visit and spend some time with this granddaughter that we don’t get to see enough of since they moved from Las Vegas to Portland. B brought back lots of pictures, which I now have to sort through and post, and had a good time. E and her mom come down here once in a while and visit us, and up until now E has been sleeping in the crib we got back when she was really small. But now that she is five we figured she would rather have a real bed than get stuck in the crib again.
B couldn’t find a bed she liked, so I volunteered to build one. Just a simple twin sized platform bed with drawers underneath, shouldn’t be too hard. Well, when I was putting together the bottom piece last Tuesday somehow the nail gun shot a nail into my finger. It stung, but I jerked away and there wasn’t much bleeding, and I continued on with the construction efforts. Wednesday B came back from Portland, and my finger was a little sore but nothing exciting. On Thursday the finger had swollen up quite a bit. I attempted to phone my regular doctor and over a four hour period either got a busy signal or transferred to a different office than where my doctor was. Giving up on her, we went to a local quick care office, figuring I’d get an antibiotic shot or pills or something.
After a short wait a doctor looked at my finger, said he wanted x-rays to see if there was a bone chip or something, and he would phone a hand doctor for advice. He came back with a doctor’s name and said to go to the UMC hospital emergency room, and the hand guy would look at me there. This was new for me, never having been in a quick care place or an emergency room for myself, off I went.
The waiting room at UMC was interesting. This is close to, how is the polite way to say this, an area of town close to downtown that is not a desirable area to live in. Consequently the emergency room is used by many people as their only medical care location, since by law emergency rooms have to treat anyone that comes in, whether or not they have insurance or can afford to pay, which is a big reason why UMC, our public institution, is close to bankruptcy. (UMC = University Medical Center, part of the University of Nevada) So the clientele in the waiting room is rather interesting, with a lot of people that you don’t look in the eye. After not a very long wait I was called back to a quick look triage room, and then passed on to the regular emergency room.
Where I sat for another two hours, then the hand doctor that was called showed up. The quick care center I had been to was also run by UMC, so their call list is composed of doctors from the medical school. This doctor was the head of plastic surgery, and also a hand expert. He showed up with an entourage of five or six residents, looked at my hand and said it wasn’t bad enough to require work in an operating room, they could open it up to clean out the infection there in the ER, and he and his group departed. I was hooked up to an IV with antibiotics and sat for another two hours. I phoned B who was still in the waiting room and suggested she go home, as there was probably another long wait ahead. A new doctor showed up, and he made a cut on my finger to clean it out. One of the entourage also came by to take notes, and he said something along the lines of how honored I should be that the big doctor came himself to look at my hand, speaking in awe of the big doctor. (That’s big in a mental sense, he really wasn’t very tall or big) So some shots in my finger to numb it (the shots hurt worse than anything) and a small incision was made. Then a mention of staying to get more antibiotics, and the doctors left. After a while the ER nurse said they were finding a bed for me upstairs, the first mention that this was going to be rather serious. Another three hour wait and finally a wheelchair to take me upstairs. Evidently it is forbidden for anyone to walk anywhere, you have to be pushed.
The ER was interesting. There was a woman in the bed next to mine (behind a curtain) that had stepped on a rusty nail, which went through her shoe and foot. She went home after a tetanus shot. Across the way was a guy in a bed with two police officers sitting with him. I wasn’t watching when he left. Someone else came in via ambulance with two other police officers. An ambulance brought in a woman with a broken leg who was either very drunk or on some fun drugs, who was quite loud in calling for assistance. There were lots of activities on a Thursday evening. I was in the ER area from 6pm until 1am the next morning. Then up to a bed in a double room. The hospital seemed to be all double rooms, no more of those open wards you see in some movies.
Into a gown and down in bed, and more antibiotic drips into my arm. I didn’t talk to the gentleman in the bed behind the curtain next to me, but he seemed to be having lots of problems, and all I was there for was a swollen finger. The entourage showed up the next day without the big doctor, looked at my finger, and discussed how I might lose my finger or whole hand, and better get a lot of antibiotics. The antibiotic doctor came by and looked at my finger and discussed cultures and lying quietly.
I ended up being there for two days. All for a finishing nail going into my finger about a centimeter. I felt bad, taking up a bed for just a swollen finger. I was on semi constant IV drip with antibiotics, and taken (via wheelchair) down to the burn ward (the place that changes bandages in this hospital) for cleaning and whirlpool treatment.
Other than that I lay in bed. The nurse came by periodically to change the IV bag. Another person came by to take my blood pressure. Food showed up at meal times. And I lay on my back, my right hand held up in the air to elevate the wound, and the IV in my left arm, so I really couldn’t use my arms much. They released my one hand at meals, and when I called for help so I could walk to the bathroom. Fortunately they let me do that and not a bedpan. This was my first time as a patient in a hospital. At least I was semi OK, and could pay attention to everything, and not lay in pain like the guy in the other bed. Saturday morning the surgery guys said the finger looked better and I could leave, but the antibiotic doctor was listed as my attending physician, and he had to sign me out. He didn’t show up for another six hours. I finally got out of there around four in the afternoon. I have to go back in for hydrotherapy and wound cleaning for another few days, and have ten days of two big antibiotic pills twice a day, which are really chewing up my stomach.
UMC is under financial pressure from the city, and has had a lot of staff reductions. Talking to one of my wheelchair pushers I found there were layoffs on Friday as well. There was one nurse on duty for thirty rooms, about sixty patients. That seems to be quite a workload. Other areas had fewer workers as well. Not getting reimbursement for so many patients does seem to result in a negative cash flow.
Mentioning that, here I am without a job or insurance, wondering what this experience will be costing me. Since I do have a house I will be one of the people they can tap to pay for my stay, elevated to cover the costs of those that can’t pay. And wondering how I will pay for this, not having an income, and Las Vegas having the second highest unemployment rate in the country, up around an official 14.7% (which includes me). All for what will end up being the most expensive bed we ever will have. I’ll post a picture as soon as B is finished painting it.
So that’s how I spent my weekend. In addition to the three hours of waiting each day to get my bandage changed because of the lack of nurses in the burn area as well. Hope you all had fun.