QED

Man vs Car. Car Wins

I am recovering from my first impact with a car. It won and I spent a very long evening and into the early morning in hospital at the end of last week while they checked my vital signs and such like. Anyway, I seem to have escaped with only a few bruises, aches and stiffness. Though, I detected it had affected my state of mind which I put down dramatically to PTSD. On second thoughts, I hadn’t been in the trenches or weaving past roadside IEDs so perhaps that was hyperbole kicking in.

I am obviously tougher than I look. All the same, I thanked God for protecting me, while dismissing any ungrateful thoughts about why He allowed the car to hit me in the first place. And, let me say, to clear the air, I had not been drinking and was, in fact, on my way home from a session at the gym. Why I didn’t see the car nor the driver me I don’t know, though it was dark and drizzly.

The driver seemed concerned so, as I lay prone on the road, I told him not to worry, and that accidents happen; while concerned bystanders, who later told me I had flown two metres through the air, urged me not to try to get up until the ambulance arrived. After this, getting COVID-19, unless I have already gotten it and not noticed, will be a bagatelle.

A millisecond before the car hit, when the realisation hit, I felt calm. At least that’s what I recall. It’s as though fate had taken charge and relieved me of the never-ending burden of determining what to do next. I debated whether to be ferried to hospital but was persuaded by a numbness in one leg, a sharp pain in my chest, and the urging of a very attentive paramedic.

My hospital experience on admission was so efficient, friendly and hi-tech that I apologised for not be injured more severely to justify the attention. X-rays were taken of my chest which involved me being propped up in bed and manoeuvred into position. Then something curious happened. I was wheeled into another part of the hospital to have a CAT scan. At once, and this was the curious part, I was assumed to have potentially suffered a neck injury.

My head was steadied with leaden weights either side. I was slipped onto a sold board by three nurses and from there onto the stretcher adjoined to the scanner. After the procedure finished, I was positioned back onto my bed using the same procedure. And thereafter was told I had to remain still and not move my head. But, I thought to myself, if my neck had been injured, why weren’t any precautions taken ahead of the CAT scan?

It was at this point that my hospital admission took a turn into ennui. I was wheeled into what seemed like a holding ward with beds curtained off. Very little was said, I was told to lie still and my light was turned off. And there I lay and lay and lay. No-one told me what was happening. After about an hour I began to take note of my surroundings – everything could be heard.

A girl next door on my left had got drunk and broken her nose. I think it was her mother with her. Nothing much to be done, the doctor said. Don’t blow your nose and wait until it has healed before deciding whether any cosmetic surgery needs to be done.

Diagonally opposite was a diabetic lady being urged to wait another two hours or so until her blood pressure had stabilised. She wanted to go home.

Directly opposite an elderly woman with little English was being talked to by a counsellor. I got the impression she had self-harmed. She lived alone and had been feeling sad, I heard. An awful distressed wailing then began somewhere to my right. A lady, who was obviously disturbed, didn’t want to do what the nurses wanted her to do. How troubled life can be.

I waited another two hours, until about 1 am, before beginning to complain. I pulled myself up. I wanted to go to the loo, wanted a drink and wanted to go home, I made this known at various stages to anyone passing my bed. I pulled off the wires taped to my body and got out of bed. They (two nurses?) relented, having checked with someone in the know that my neck was not near broken. One guided me to a loo; the other provided me a drink of water. My first drink since the accident at about 7.20 pm.

I started getting dressed. Couldn’t find my shoes. Asked a passing nurse whether they took patients’ shoes away to prevent them escaping. Apparently not, they were in a secret place inside the bed. Damn, I still had an IV stuck in my arm.

While debating whether to pull it out, a young doctor at last came around – a “trainee specialist” of, I don’t know, Malaysian appearance. After overcoming his surprise at me being up and dressed, he told me that the CAT scan had shown no serious impairment. Mind you, he wanted me to stay for observation because of a haematoma in my right buttock which he told me might worsen, cause an infection, and get into my hip. Stuff to scare children, I told him and said I was leaving.

We’ll need to write up your report he said. How long will that take, I asked. Obviously, eons of time, if it were left to the emergency staff. However, he said he would do it personally, because I was a “nice man” – if I could wait just another 15 to 20 minutes. How considerate was that, considering I hadn’t been too docile in the latter stages of my enforced stay.

A nurse removed my IV and I walked to a taxi at about 2 am.

Three things. One, look right, look left, and then right again, before crossing a road.

Two, hospitals need to marry their efficient, hi-tech care and attention when admitting people for emergency reasons with a little more after-care. Just being told what is happening would help and why I was denied a drink. My GP told me today that it was probably a precaution in case they needed to operate. Obvious, I suppose, in retrospect. But I didn’t know and wasn’t told.

Three, keep out of hospitals for fear of being left to stew.

7 comments
  • DG

    I guess we’ll all wheel out our hospital stories. I had a similar to Peter’s, except it was a minor MVA. I had neck pain (this was my third MVA involving whiplash). Off to the doctor place, neck collar, etc. CT scan. Opps. I had had a broken neck, but 30 years previously. The imaging then hadn’t picked it up. Well, that explained that pain all those years ago.
    Next admit to emergency was due to extreme pain in my canulated arm during chemo. Wow. The red carpet came out. I didn’t know that AE could be so bleedin’ fast. I had a little card from the chemo people that told them what to do with me and to do it darn fast. They did.

  • T B LYNCH

    You are no longer a trauma virgin. You may have a tear in your diaphragm. Years later bowel may prolapse through this tear and strangulate. In any future illness you should tell the doctor about your pedestrian traffic accident.

  • Stephen Due

    Peter I see you are unaccustomed to the Emergency Department (ED) system. A newbie. Be assured you have inadvertently got off to a good start by arriving in an ambulance rather than any sort of self-propulsion, thus avoiding the dreaded ED waiting area. Also you evidently by some miracle have avoided the screaming, abusive and not infrequently violent drug addict who is normally in the next cubicle.
    As a not infrequent visitor to EDs in company with an assortment of family members in various stages of disintegration, my advice is to take a book, your phone, and a snack. ED staff tend to be busy, preoccupied, and brusque. They will walk past you repeatedly as if you were a lamp post. That is because they are operating according to a hidden schedule, like a bus with no discernable timetable.
    Three qualities are to be admired in ED staff: their expertise, their efficiency and their compassion. It takes a special person to do this job. As for the attendee, if sick or injured, follow directions and try to get some rest; if accompanying the sick or injured, console the patient, sit quietly by the bedside, try to keep out of the way of ED staff, and whatever happens don’t forget the book, phone and snack.
    Attending the ED is a useful exercise in patience, rather (one imagines) like attending the police station after being flung to the ground, arrested, handcuffed and transported for processing by the police on a charge of exposing the public to danger by exhaling in a park or on a beach.

  • Peter Smith

    Thanks, TBL. Now, being somewhat of a mild hypochondriac, this might play on my mind whenever I feel unwell.

  • Ian MacDougall

    Peter: As we commonly say up here in the bush: Coulda been worse. Glad you are still with us.

  • Elizabeth Beare

    Co-miserations, Peter. Now you know. Emergency Departments are one of life’s must have experiences. I’ve had a few over the years and often accompanying others, nothing too serious. And look on the bright side, Dr. Jeanette Young, MBBS, MBA, the rather underqualified for the job epidemiological controller of Queensland’s fate, once worked in Emergency but gave it away due to a self-described ‘inability to focus’. She moved into hospital administration. In an ER this lady was certainly a bullet to be missed so Peter, it could have been worse.

    Eight weeks ago, during my most recent foray into those sterile fields, I was shunted quick-smart to Emergency holding from my GP a ticket-to-ride past the waiting room and straight in for treatment due to a fractured foot which had ‘provoked’, as the medicos put it, a Deep Vein Thrombosis in my calf muscle. This is considered life-threatening should a clot break away and get stuck in the pulmonary artery or whatever, so I got the full rigmarole of medical investigation, which they do for legal reasons as much as medical ones, as they have to be careful about what might be missed and sued for later. Sadly, my ticket straight through allowing avoidance of the usual three-hour wait was wasted, for in these Covid careful times, the Emergency Room was empty when we arrived. The numerous unbusy admin staff did though stop their various confabs quickly enough to get me fully recorded and decorated with a plastic bracelet lacking charm but practical enough before ushering me through to a bevy of attendants. Soon, a few other patients joined me in the bedside area and like you I enjoyed listening immobile and unattended through the cubicle curtains to their tales of the insertion of a foreign body (thankfully, to the ear only) and how to fall off a ladder deciding on the way down which body part was the most dispensable.

  • pgang

    Phew, close call Peter. Not your time yet.
    I used to be in an out of emergency quite a bit as a young man – motorbikes and footy. It started feeling a bit odd if a few months passed and I wasn’t getting sewn back together or having some body part moved back into its correct position. All in all I’d have to say that emergency wards are very well managed. There is often a bit of waiting, but you never seem to slip through the cracks.
    It’s the out-patients ritual that I loathe. In the past I’ve had to wait 3 hours for an appointment. The daily appointment over-runs are a continual source of astonishment and angst to my engineering brain. So unnecessary. A simple time-and-motion study would tell department managers how to improve their service efficiency, but in a hundred years apparently nobody has thought of it.

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