I didn’t post anything here last week because my dad, while walking, was hit by a car. (He is feeling better, thank you.)
When I arrived, my father occupied one of four beds in a resuscitation room. The other three beds were empty. It was still early in the morning and there were few people in the emergency department.
As the day wore on, other patients were wheeled into and out of the room. A pale yellow curtain with a floral motif enclosed the space around each patient. The patients and their visitors caught glimpses of each other whenever the ED staff pulled the curtains open.
While curtains provide visual privacy, they are not soundproof.
An inmate from the local jail came in with chest pain. He shared his entire medical history with his accompanying jail officer. After listening to the inmate’s monologue for about five minutes, the officer interjected, “I’m going to watch this TV show now.” The inmate, along with the rest of us, listened to what sounded like an action movie. The inmate sounded more disappointed than relieved when he learned that he did not need to stay in the hospital. He went back to jail.
A mother and father came in for reasons I never learned. Their young toddler with enormous eyes grasped the pale yellow curtain in her tiny fists as she explored both sides of the boundary. Their infant stopped wailing when the mother sang, her voice full and calm. When the family left, they took the laughter with them.
A woman with dark pink hair was wheeled in. Another car hit her while she was driving. Her voice was light and melodic as she expressed profuse thanks to the medics. Her voice cracked as she spoke to a friend on the phone: Was she ever going to get a break? Why did her friend hit her with the car? Why was this the third time in her life she was in a car crash? What if she never got sensation back in her leg? Why did she have so much bad luck? After she hung up the phone, she wept. She took her frustration out on the nurse. No one was at her bedside.
A slender man was wheeled in. He, too, was in a car crash. His answers to questions were short and quiet. The sadness on his face could have been new, though the wrinkles around his lips and eyes hinted that maybe he wore a sad face most days. He stared up at the ceiling. No one visited him.
My mother came into the room, too. My father recalled when he was last in an emergency department: His wife was short of breath and feeling exhausted. He remembered the week she spent in the hospital, all the questions, poking, and testing she had to endure, and how much she hated it.
“Now I understand why she didn’t like the hospital,” he murmured. The edge of the pale yellow curtain shifted, though no one was there.