It takes a special kind of person to watch people scream and bleed for 12 hours at a time. I'm not sure if hospitals are good at finding those people, or if working at a hospital turns you into one. But you don't really understand these people until you're there, in pain and at their mercy.
I found this out recently, when my girlfriend's appendix exploded. We live together, so it's not one of those cases where I could just send some flowers and wait for her to let me know she was back home. We share everything -- same house, same vehicle, same bills, and when one of us gets sick, same hospital room (for those of you who care, she's doing fine now).
Except now, everything she sees is Prince.
But during the hospital stay, we encountered members of the staff who had each advanced to some different stage of total apathy. Also, they were all named Lori. I'm convinced that they're all named that, all over the world. It might be spelled differently from Lori to Laurie, but each of them are in your hospital right now, fucking something up.
If you've been to the hospital recently, see if you recognize ...
We met this one at registration. We had been in the emergency room for about an hour when she walked in with a rolling computer cart that I immediately recognized would be a perfect World of Warcraft mobile command center. Just wheel that shit right into the bathroom and punch hotkeys from the shower. I made a mental note to steal it later.
Anyway, my girlfriend, who we'll call Emily for the purposes of this account, was so out of breath from screaming and crying that she couldn't speak for herself. So I would have to speak for her.
I told Lori that over the last 10 minutes or so, Emily's pain had grown tenfold, that it seemed like an appendix situation or maybe a tiny elf she swallowed was now trying to shoot his way out. So you know, we could really use someone down here right away to at least try to get that pain under control. Lori looked at me in a way that made me think she was going to reply in Russian, and said instead, "I'm just here to get some registration information."
"We'll be with you as soon as you scream your information to Lori."
I focused all of my frustration into a very violent sigh and said, "Sure, I understand. However, she should have been on the road to the hospital an hour before we finally did. It's a 35 minute drive. Then once we got here, she's been laying in this bed, unseen by anyone at all for over an hour. If you can't get someone in here yourself, at least point me in the right direction so I can."
She then promptly ignored everything I just said and started asking Emily about her address and insurance information.
Yes, Lori, we'll gladly give you the information you need. We'll give you so much goddamned information, your computer will need a new hard drive. You'll be able to ghost write Emily's fucking biography and option the film rights. Just ask for it while in the presence of a nurse who is pushing the plunger on a syringe full of morphine. Fuck, at that point, we would have settled for crack. But I go around asking the people in the waiting room for crack and suddenly I'm the unreasonable one.
Via Wikimedia Commons
Is there some great reason why pain medication can't be administered while waiting for the doctor to get free? Maybe. Probably, even. But if so, that information wouldn't be coming from Lori. Not her job.
Don't misunderstand my point here; I know that Lori sees dozens upon dozens of people every day who think they're the experts. And I know she gets worried family members barking orders at her, and she's learned to just let that roll off of her back. But ... doesn't the pain still count for something? In a hospital? Isn't there some kind of primal sympathy that kicks in at the sight of another member of the species writhing and screaming in pain? I try to think about how much screaming you have to hear before you become completely numb to it.
I'm guessing a long, long time.
This is my first hint of just how much it sucks to stand on either side of Lori's computer cart.
It turns out the appendix did in fact rupture.
Luckily for us, it held together until surgery, so it was easier to control the disaster than if it had happened an hour earlier. That was what kept Emily from having to spend a week in the hospital fighting off infection. The downside is that once the surgery was over, we were stuck with our second Lori.
Or maybe this one was spelled Lorrie. Either way, she was the one administering the pain medication, and the way she explained it was that the I.V. stuff was the most powerful and would kick the pain's ass. Or there was a pill that didn't do quite as much. So Emily chose the more powerful of the two. That's one of those non-choices -- like choosing between cold pills or "Maximum Strength" cold pills that are the same price. Why the shit would anyone want less relief? So for a full day, that's what they kept her on.
We paid her an extra 20 to slip a little vodka in there.
They had told us that she would most likely be released the following morning, so when that time came around, Lori entered and told us that we had to stay a second night. Wait, what? Why? Because we chose the I.V.
Lori told us that before Emily went home, she had to be on the pill form of the meds, and had to walk a whole bunch up and down the hall. Oh. Well, thanks for fucking letting us know that now instead of 24 hours ago, Lori. Is there any other treatment we should guess for ourselves? Are you going to come back tomorrow and tell us that we have to stay another night because Emily forgot to write the required goodbye speech that you never told us about?
Leaving is kind of a big deal there.
We asked her to bring us the pills. "OK, I'll be back in about five minutes." She came back two hours later with a pillow for the woman in the next bed. We asked about the pills, and she said, "OH! I'm sorry, I'll be right back with those!" Thirty minutes later, Emily was hitting the "Call Nurse" button like a coked-up spider monkey playing Contra.
Lori heeded that call 15 minutes later, and when she walked in, she asked in a pleasant voice, "Did you need something?" By this point, Emily was nearly immobile. Even sitting up in bed caused so much pain, it brought her to tears. It suddenly came to the nurse that there was something she was supposed to be doing here, now what was that?
"Oh, my gosh, I am so sorry! I'll get those pills to you right now."
"But first ..."
From the time we asked for them until the time they went into my girlfriend's face hole, four hours had passed. Again, I understand that Lori is busy. We live in a small town, so we don't have an enormous hospital with an abundant staff. But goddammit, one of her main jobs is to keep up with her patients' medications. So barring the switch to the pills, it would have at least been time for some sort of medication in that four hour time-frame. Right?
The next time Emily's meds were an hour past due, I tracked her down behind the front desk, spreading gossip about how shitty someone's birthday party was. That's when I realized that the Lori situation was actually worse than I thought. To us, this is a major life crisis. To the Loris, we're just white noise -- a background buzz that occasionally complains. When we leave, some other crying, complaining couple will take our place.
It turns out that our lunch person was another Lori, I think this one was Laurie, or maybe Lauree. On the first day, she brought Emily a menu and asked her to fill it out. We did, and The Lunchmaster disappeared in a pillar of flames. Thirty minutes later, she reappeared with another menu. We explained that we had filled one out already, and she said that one was for lunch, but this one was for the evening. Oh. We felt stupid and filled that one out, too. She praised Satan, unfolded her wings and flew off down the hall -- a trail of fluttering bats in her wake.
So Emily's lunch arrived, and just like clockwork, The Lunchmaster Lori appeared with yet another menu. We asked what that one was for, and she said, "Tomorrow's lunch." OK, well, there's always a chance that we might have to stay another day from some unforeseen complication. We filled it out. Then Emily looked down at her lunch and noticed it was the exact opposite of what she ordered.
"Wait, this isn't what I wrote down on my menu."
"Oh," The Lunchmaster said in a rumbling, demonic voice. "I never got a menu from you, so we just sent up the regular stuff."
What? We handed you the menu, personally. We don't expect you to remember every single patient in the hospital, but you made a special trip up here, and we put the fucking thing in your hand. You didn't have a giant pile of them. It was the only menu in your possession.
"I made it myself. You should eat it while I watch."
Regardless, Emily just ate the meatloaf because we were pretty sure that whatever she brought up would also be meatloaf. There's a point in Lori's life where, fuck it, everybody gets meatloaf.