Half a Century, part 1

Last year when I returned from my trip to Connecticut I decided it would be a good thing for me to slice my finger wide open with one of my power tools.

Okay, I didn’t really “decide” anything. It was a dumb move, and I was fortunate that I didn’t do more damage. In the ensuing drama to get the finger stitched up, I went first to the local urgent care clinic, which is entirely a misnomer as there was nothing urgent about it, to see if they could stitch up my finger. They weighed me, took my blood pressure, and decided that I needed to see a hand surgeon. They also advised me I had high blood pressure.

“Of course I do,” I said. “I just sliced my finger open and it hurts!”

They were concerned enough about my pressure to consider not letting me drive home, but I convinced them that I not only lived around the corner, but that I would call a friend to come drive me to the hospital with an actual emergency room and hand surgeons on staff. I also told them if they weren’t going to let me drive home, I’d just walk. After going home and changing out of my “work” clothes, cleaning up my wound while waiting on my ride, we headed up to the next town where a LA county hospital treated those without insurance. Already 4 hours into my wounding, we arrive at the emergency room at 6pm.

Of course it’s everything you’ve read about emergency rooms that are used at a substitute for an actual, functioning health care system. A room filled with drug addicts, the mentally disturbed, the homeless, foreign visitors, and me. But, they did have queue management to rival Disneyworld. For the first 3 hours, I treated it like a research assignment. Extreme people-watching, if you will. There were the regulars obviously in the throes of pain med withdrawal and suffering supposedly unimaginable pain, all on a first name basis with the medical staff. There were homeless people there for their weekly checkup of their various wounds and oozing infections, and my favorites, the 3 generational family gatherings making a whole night of it with food, drink and pajamas.

I waited in one line and then two lines, then back to the waiting area. Off to nursing stations for weigh-ins and blood pressure readings and back again to the waiting room. Then to a physician’s assistant inspection onto a hand surgeon’s professional inspection culminating right back into the waiting room. Over to pregnancy testing (whatever) so x-rays can be taken and then into a whole new waiting room. Waiting, waiting and more waiting. Around 1:30 in the morning, they finally take me into the room where the doctor will suture my finger.

But first, more blood pressure readings. Again it’s high, as it had been all night. Only now it was scary high, higher than it had been all night.

“Are you feeling okay? Any headache, signs of tingling in the extremities?” the doctor asks me. “No, other than being tired and a slice in my finger, I feel fine.”

“Do you have any history of high blood pressure?” I have no idea, as I hadn’t been to a doctor in almost a decade! It was fine then though.

“I’m really concerned about your blood pressure” she tells me.

“Doc,” I say, “It’s been 12 hours since I’ve cut my finger, 15 since I’ve eaten, 18 since I’ve slept. I’ve been sitting with an open wound, surrounded by people with every disease known to man. Of course my blood pressure is high!”

“Please,” I beg her. “Just stitch me up, let me go home and I promise to take care of my high blood pressure issue the next day.”

She stitched me up, prescribed an antibiotic for my hand and a water pill for my high blood pressure.

Who ever said that 50 is the new 30 is full of shit.

[continued tomorrow]

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