Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Adult emergency - 1.5 kilometres

The therapeutae of Asclepius were a recognized and designated association in antiquity that included the physicians, their attendants and support staff, in the larger temples of Asclepius. This association of therapeutae has continued through the ages and manifests itself in our modern world as the hospitable hospital.  In the third arrondissement of historic Winterpeg in Le Canada lays Les Ville des Invalides, also known as the HSC. It is home to many therapeutae who serve Manitoba, Northwest Ontario and Nunavut. It is a ville unto itself with a built in hotel, restaurants, underground tunnels, security forces, power plants, heating plants, vast kitchens, enormous parkades, a magnificent chapel, shops for purchasing every imaginable trinket under the sun, complete with thousands of patients and doctors and nurses and machines to diagnose and sometimes cure every ailment real and imagined known to man.

Due to a medical perplexity we, my wife and I, decide upon a weekend holiday to this Asclepius of Winterpeg. It takes our robustious challenged gal three hours to shower herself, find the right outfit, pack her enormous hand bag with tissues and powders and cookies and chocolate bars and who knows what was in there but it weighed a ton and did I mention the switch blade? We careen down the stairs of our Deathrock Apartments, leaving the slum to cross the street and infiltrate the camera infested halls of Les Ville and wander aimlessly (we did find her an abandoned wheely chair) tell we stumble upon a sign in the subterranean passages which says Adult Emergency - 1.5 kilometres.

We arrive at the security desk and are frisked and radiographed, luckily they miss the switch blade, and we amble on to a series of desks where we are ruthlessly interrogated regarding the purpose of this attempt to further strain the resources of Canada's venerable health care system. In their wisdom they herd us off, armband endowed, to the minor treatment department, the major treatment department being reserved for those unlikely to survive the ordeal with all of their body parts intact.

The movies are good there in the waiting room. We watch John Travolta as an angel, and Black Beauty, and John Candy on his summer vacation when suddenly our entertainment is interrupted by a kind nurse with blueish hair shaking my wife's sleeping shoulder and asking her to come along through the big doors to a little curtained cubicle with a lovely bed with levers and buttons to keep us further entertained for the next several hours.

Another kind nurse, this one is peroxide blonde, impinges upon our solitude amidst the cries and whimperings of distraught souls and she embarks on the scrutiny of blood pressure and temperature and finally pops the question “And what brings you here today?” My dear wife points at her leg which is swollen to three times it's normal size below the knee. The kind nurse winces and says “Oh deary, we'll have a doctor in to look at this right away.”

Those two words 'right' and 'away' in whatever order are not words which you want to hear in an Asclepeion. They obviously have a great variety of meanings in their concrete applications. However, luckily for us a doctor wanders in in a mere two hours, a chart in hand, and in no time flat after a few pokes and prods has ordered a blood test. He vanishes to leave us again to our disquieting solitude.

'Right away' deploys itself in less than fifteen minutes this time and a kind nurse with really red hair emerges through the curtains with a cart containing a huge assortment of vials and large needles with which she heedlessly proceeds a bloodletting procedure to fill an uncountable number of said vials. Although an ancient practice we wonder in our forthcoming solitude if this was an attempted remedy or if the transfusion department is running short on blood. This isolationistic confinement strategy of keeping hopefuls in little curtained cells gets the paranoid tendencies working very nicely.

Another hour and a half pass quickly by when to our surprise the doctor reemerges from the great halls of reparation, chart in hand, and advises us that the blood is of good quality and that he wishes for an ultrasound but since it is the middle of the night we will be dispatched from these great halls of Aesculapian wonderment to return at our pleasure as early as possible come morning. So we sneak a wheely chair from the next cell, since ours has disappeared sometime in the last six or eight hours, and abscond to the subterranean tunnels to follow the signage to our remote point of entry. The built in hotel is slightly beyond our means so we venture back across the street to the outlying slums of the third arrondissement beyond the vision of cameras and bold security forces. We stumble wearily into Deathrock Apartments to fall quickly asleep with our three elated cats.

We awaken at noon and fix a huge helping of bacon and scrambled eggs and half a loaf of toast to help us enjoy the next bout of our weekend adventure. Back to the subterranean tunnels we descend (we return with our 'borrowed' wheely chair) and knowing our way this time find the adult emergency in less than one hour. The radiograph again misses the switchblade and on revealing that we have an armband we are quickly ushered back into the minor treatment department to watch Transformers and Elmer Fudd.

Since my wife brought popcorn this time we are rather hurt when we are whisked off by a matron with a magic plastic pass which opens doors to corridors too long for anything but mirages to manifest in the distances. The ultrasound people are very efficient and in ten minutes we are awaiting the matron with the magic plastic pass who arrives forty five minutes later to whisk us back through the maze of corridors and elevators. We get to again watch John Travolta dancing up a storm while we finish the popcorn till we are ushered afresh through the big doors to another little curtained cubicle with a lovely bed with levers and buttons to give my dear wife an entertaining midway ride for the next hour and a half.

A new doctor peaks through the curtain to smilingly inform us that we are not pregnant and that he wishes more blood tests for the thickening chart. This time 'right away' is two minutes flat, they must have planned this to throw us off our complacency, and a kind nurse with environment friendly green hair emerges through the curtains with the cart containing the huge assortment of vials and large needles with which she heedlessly proceeds a bloodletting procedure to fill an uncountable number of said vials. We become more sure that the transfusion department is in dire need as 'right away' drags on for hours. I find I can actually bounce my wife in the air if I hit the buttons just so.

At long last the doctor reemerges. He seats himself on the foot of our bed and tells us the amazing tale of albumin which seems to be in short supply in my wife's vials. He is patient and kind and asks about her diet. Yes, we eat a well rounded diet with lots of protein, we assure him. He says her liver is good, her kidneys are good, and this leaves the possibility of digestive problems. He will subscribe a water pill, and we will follow up with our family physician with ongoing blood tests to see if this is an ongoing irregularity or a one time anomaly. We thank him dearly as we strain to contain our tears of having to end our weekend adventure so abruptly.

Prescription in hand we leave the big doors behind with our wheely chair. As we navigate the subterranean tunnels in our halfhearted departure contemplating the remainder of our spoiled weekend outing, we are chased down by no less than five burly security personnel in their clever and slightly overloaded electric armoured vehicle. They have this thing about some paperwork involving our cherished wheely chair. It seems that in the great halls of Asclepius wheely chairs require something they call a requisition, especially the ones which have HSC stamped all over them. A detainment for a requisition, we are overjoyed, we will not have to depart immediately for our Deathrock Apartments, but may continue our adventure in Les Ville des Invalides at the mercy of these blokes who luckily have no sense of humour and are willing to make the worst of our erroneous judgement.

It seems we have two options. We can give up our precious wheely chair no questions asked and remain stranded in this remote and isolated location, or my wife can remain seated with dignity while they transport us to the central detainment centre for wayward souls. My wife and I huddle in conference for several moments and decide being stranded may be our better option since we are quite used to this situation anyhow. Our wheely chair now with a new passenger in tow disappears around the long bend. They never look back.

Since we know this section of the underground well from our previous passages, we know there is a mechanical shop less than a quarter mile ahead. I leave my wife queeningly seated on the concrete and head off to return a half hour later with a creeper, missing one wheel, found in the dumpster outside the shops underground digs. We seat my blissful wife to impeccably balance on the remaining three wheels, and with a short rope I found uselessly holding something or other together we continue our journey. We are not bothered by any more electric armoured vehicles so it is apparent that creepers do not require requisitions.

We leave the third arrondissement of Winterpeg behind as we cross the street to a land much more comfortable and affordable and with more predictable enforcers of moral values, the gang guys. A creeper for two packs of smokes, you got it, man. Our cats are once more elated and curl up contentedly with us as we collapse on our bed.
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