The ER

I’d never been that way before.

Today was the day of my annual checkup at the House Ear Clinic. It’s the best in the world, they invented the operations, and they’re open to all, they take insurance, if you’re wondering about a loss, if you need hearing aids, House is the place.

But it’s a bear getting an appointment.

I go once a year, but this time, because of my shoulder surgery, I delayed it. But, as stated above, today was the day.

But Felice was doubled-over in pain.

It started on Sunday. She had to lie down. She complained of a pain in her back, on the lower right side.

Kidney stone, I was sure of it, I’d had too many.

But then the pain passed.

This is how it usually goes. The pain waxes and wanes. And then, holy bejesus, you’re freaking out!

My mother believed it was illegal to be sick. So I didn’t go to the emergency room the first time, the second time I drove there on a Sunday night and turned around a block shy, convinced that I was okay, and then there was the time I was all the way in and they wouldn’t see me right away and I puked all over the bathroom and I ended up having surgery to remove the stone…

I’m an expert.

But if you’ve never had one before…it’s scary.

So for me to wake up before nine a.m. is anathema. Castigate me all you want, but the truth is I love the hours after 9, into the next day, nobody is looking for me, I can relax, that’s when all the good ideas come, then again, it screws up my schedule royally and Dr. Brackmann only sees patients in the a.m., he operates in the p.m., so I went to bed earlier than usual and told Felice to wake me up at 8:45 but when the curtains parted and the light streamed in…it was before that.

She wasn’t saying much, but she obviously wanted to talk.

And ultimately, she complained of the pain, it was severe.

I told her to call the internist. The internist said to go to the emergency room, but was I gonna punt my appointment at the House Clinic?

Last night I listened to a Radiolab podcast wherein the protagonist was allergic to meat. Yes, it can happen, that’s what the podcast was all about, you react to the alpha-gal in the tissue. And when this woman was having her attack she implored her mother to drive her to the hospital but her mom said she had to take a shower first. She ended up going by ambulance. And I thought of how stupid this was, that you’re supposed to go NOW, and suddenly, the very next morning, I was confronted with the exact same question. I knew it was a kidney stone, but maybe not. For all Felice knew she was dying. But if I ran out without shaving and showering…how would the doctor treat me at House, assuming I even got there? And I felt I should go. After all, after dropping Felice at the ER she’d be in good hands, what else was I supposed to do?

Oh, be a good boyfriend and stay you’d say.

But then I wouldn’t be able to see Brackmann until the new year, when I hadn’t satisfied my deductible, and I needed to hear what he had to say.

But Felice had no idea where to go. She’d been living in her abode in Sherman Oaks for a decade but had never been to the ER. I know St. John’s in Santa Monica, that’s where I go, where to go in the Valley?

I started Googling. And I knew I needed more than urgent care. I came up with Sherman Oaks Hospital, but I wasn’t quite sure, I needed to call, no one picked up, I dialed again, eventually got to someone who could answer, could they see someone for kidney stones?

They said yes, far from emphatically, and my decision was made.

Felice was by the throne, puking… I told her to give me five minutes, I’d shower and insert my contacts just that fast, and I did.

But she didn’t think she was gonna make it. I’m spewing nonsense on the way over, trying to distract her, telling her about my various kidney stones, and reassuring her that no one ever died of a kidney stone, but she didn’t want to hear it.

And then she wanted to puke again. So I pull over on Van Nuys Boulevard, do I have to put money in the meter or do I have a good excuse, and Felice is hanging on to the door, half in and half out, and I implore her to get back inside, we’re only blocks away.

And then we were there.

It was strangely calm. There was not another soul in the waiting room. Not even a nurse. Which scared me a bit, was this place together?

But ultimately someone showed up and I filled out the form and then I was confronted with the “Harry Met Sally” question… How long do I have to sit here before I can leave?

I’m checking Google Maps. I seem to have time to make it downtown to House. But if I go my usual way, it’s gonna be tight. Google is telling me to take the 5 instead of the 101, which is like taking the elbow instead of the hypotenuse, I’ve got to be on my way.

So I fire up the map app, and I can hear it, because I’m not playing the radio, because I don’t want anything to affect my hearing, and traffic is horrendous but then I segue onto the 134 and I’m breezing along, way out of my way, and then I get on the 5 and the woman inside the phone tells me to get off at the 2.

But I know the 2 only goes a mile or so. But the map app is never wrong, so I obey.

And I ultimately merge onto a drag by the reservoir and I’m stunned that I got here from there. That’s the amazing thing about Los Angeles, it’s so spread out. When I first moved here I investigated every neighborhood, now traffic is so bad I go almost nowhere. But suddenly, the city all made sense.

And then she told me to bear right on Alvarado.

It never occurred to me this was the street the House Clinic was on, I always came the other way, my reference street was Third.

And as I’m cruising down Alvarado it looks nothing like West L.A. It’s closer to Caracas than Los Angeles. I’m thinking about all the people who live here. Is it families, transients? How can you live in L.A., and be so far from the beach? Like Silver Lake and Echo Park, the hipster neighborhoods, if I came from thousands of miles away, I’d want to be closer to the Pacific, but that’s just me.

But I made it to the House Clinic on time. But I was uptight I was failing the hearing test, the part where they ask you to repeat words. As for the sounds before that, the beeps, I’m constantly raising my arm, I’m the king of false positives, but I’ve got to get the comprehension right. And at first the volume isn’t loud enough and there’s no white noise in the other ear and then I can’t repeat the words and I believe I’m failing, I ask for a retest, which shocked the technician who admitted there was a screw-up at first, but this is oh-so-important to me.

And then Dr. Brackmann saw me almost on time, which is a miracle at House. 45 minutes late is on time, sometimes you can wait an extra two hours. And my hearing hadn’t changed and I got an education on loud music, which I’ll save for another day, and when I got through so was Felice. I’d felt guilty telling her to Uber home, but what’s Uber for?

They gave her morphine. She had two stones.

So I drove back to Sherman Oaks and this time the waiting room at the hospital ER was full. And they wouldn’t let me in so I said I’d been there before and I got a pass and a doctor told me where to go, which I never would have found myself, and there was Felice.

Now the problem is if you’ve never had a kidney stone you think you’re down for the count, gonna be under for weeks. But I know if you drink a ton of fluid, chances are you’ll pass it in a day or two. Not always, you can hold the e-mail telling me I’m wrong, but I bet I’ve had more stones than you have.

So we go to CVS for four medications and Felice cancels her board meeting and now…

I’m a bit too discombobulated to get back in the groove.

But the funny thing is I so enjoyed being out of my groove. Yes, I wish Felice didn’t have two stones, one at the top of her ureter, the other not quite there, but by screwing up my day I had all kinds of new experiences, dealt with different people, evaluated what life was about.

And I’d hate being one of those technicians stuck behind the counter all day at CVS.

And I wonder what kind of degree you need to give a hearing test at House.

And Brackmann is over 70, not that you’d know, but how much longer will he practice, when you’ve got the right guy you don’t want to switch.

And I know that anything can happen. You can wake up thinking your day is going one way, but then your plan changes.

But as I was cruising down Alvarado, seeing another entrance to the 101 that would be a better way home, noting the El Pollo Loco I ate at before that show at the Echoplex, I felt a resident of the city, part of a giant continuum, I belonged, and it felt so good.

Comments are closed