Puerto Rico; Vacation ends before it starts.

We arrived at the hospital’s emergency room and we were quickly ushered into a waiting room. The room had a long narrow sitting area and  at the end of this long corridor there was a larger square waiting area.  We were now close to midnight on a Monday night and the ER had a large number of patients waiting to be seen.  As with the clinic this place was equally uninviting and cold.  Some of us had summer clothes on and I was freezing, not only from the cold but from the shock of a broken arm. Patients were sitting with IV’s in their arms and some with IV’s in their abdomens, some were moaning with pain and a few couples  were cuddled up to each other for body heat. So we sat and waited  and waited. No one came to ask any information.  One patient who had brought her own blanket offered it to me. She told us that when you come to the hospital you need to bring all your own supplies they do not provide a thing for you.  Off our guys went to our Villa and brought back some warm clothes. Tina and I looked for the nearest bathroom to change and when we walked it, we were in disbelief.   The floor was dirty with toilet paper strewn around and none left on the role. There was no soap to wash up and no paper towels to wipe off our germ filled hands.  It was so absurd that all we could do was laugh. As we went back to our seats,  one of the patients, who we noticed had been watching us for some time told us we needed to go to a computer on the wall and put in my information and then we would be called. Sure enough, shortly after, we were called; but just to give more information to a Spanish-speaking receptionist.  We all had moments  of frustration in trying to interpret her questions and her our answers. Afterwards it was back to our seats and more waiting.

Finally after hours of this craziness, Tina and I said we are going to find out what was  going on..We marched into the office where some staff were gathered and said in rather bold voices,  how long does a person with a broken arm and in severe pain have to sit in this place before being seen?  Finally everyone jumped into action. Soon we had a doctor looking at the x-ray and his words to me were,”Kathleen, you will stay with me tonight.”  I asked if I would have a hospital room.  No, was the answer, we are full.  “But,” he said, ” you will have a bed in the hall, I will make it up myself.”

That’s where Tina and I tried to sleep that  night, in the hall with patients lining the hall with us. I had a bed, Tina had a chair.  We each were given one thin sheet.  Tina gave me her sheet for more warmth and the guys went in search of a nearby store for blankets.

The patients in the hall were suffering from a variety of illnesses.  One patient was waiting for a biopsy on his pancreas. His wife was bilingual and translated medical terms and conversations with the staff for us.  Another man looked like he was very near death and his wife was on a round the clock vigil.  Some of the patients we had seen the night before in the long hallway were still there waiting to see a doctor. It was very sad and it reminded me of the trauma hospitals years ago when the indigent were ignored and left for long periods of time before they received care, or died first.   In our experience the patients and their families were our saving grace, trying to be of help at every turn.

Finally in the afternoon an Orthopedic doctor made his entry.  He had looked at my x-ray and concluded there was two ways to fix the break; open up my arm from the shoulder to my elbow and insert a plate, or surgically insert a rod and some screws to stabilize the break…..Or his last option was to go home within the next few days and see a doctor in the states.

We were on the plane the next day, had an appointment the following day and my doctor fixed me up with a clam shell and a sling.

Two more weeks and I’m good to go.


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