They sit for hours with needles, sleeping, watching TV, reading or staring into space. The machines that keep them going do their thing quietly, attendants and nurses keep an eye on things and all is serene. Until one of the patients loses consciousness, or has chest pain or vomits. Then, transport to the ER is needed, and depending on the severity of the patient’s condition, a private ambulance company or 911 is called. More times than not, when the call to 911 is made the situation is truly an emergency. Often, by the time we arrive, three or four firefighters and a rescue, the patient has recovered, and doesn’t want to go to the ER.
Their dialysis stops, they are unhooked form the machines their session incomplete. Three days a week they spend here, and they just want it over with. We lift them off the bed, put them on our stretcher at take them away. They are usually miserable, and rightly so.
“You boys are nice,” said the latest patient. “The last crew were assholes.”
“We can be assholes too,” I told him, smiling. “You just picked the right day to slip into unconsciousness.”
“Nah, you know what I mean. I know these calls are a pain in the ass for you guys. I’ve been down this road too many times.
Along with renal failure he is diabetic, and his blood glucose level sometimes drops during treatment, The dialysis center’s policy is to have unconscious patients evaluated at an emergency room-no exceptions. Even though he was up and at-em after some OJ when we arrived we still transported.
It was a quick ride to the ER. There, he would sit for hours, and have some tests, and nothing would be found, no new problems or things that could be fixed, and a private ambulance will be called to take him home.
I considered making excuses for the assholishness of the crews at times, but my reasoning sounded ridiculous before it escaped my mouth. A man who patiently endures the healthcare system, and three days a week of dialysis wouldn’t give two shits about long hours, relentless calls, 911 abuse, contract concessions, a city going broke and an uncertain retirement.
As I looked at him, sitting peacefully on the stretcher as we rode toward the ER I realized I could learn a lot from him.
Acceptance, graciousness and patience. I could use a little of that.