28 May 2011

A&E and back to running

Yesterday at about 11 in the morning, standing at work, I was stuck. I had read and I needed to write, but couldn't. I decided I would walk over to the Kent's Hill church where they were having Mum and Tot's group that Yoko was attending. I showed up at the church and, as I sort of suspected might happen when a mysterious man shows up at an event like this, everyone looked at me suspiciously until I said, I'm Yoko's husband, I'm here to see Yoko. Yoko and the girls were in the kitchen where Yoko was holding Mei with a washcloth to Mei's face. Mei had, apparently, just before I arrived, run into a chair, and when they took the cloth off to show me the run, it was one of those cuts whereyou think, Yeah, we're probably going to have to do something about that, but you're not quite sure. It wasn't bleeding too bad. Was it okay?

One of the beautiful things about living in the UK is that this question of having it checked out at the hospital is only a question of need. Does she really need to go? Never, does she really need to go and (softly, guiltily) god, how much is this going to cost. No, in the UK you just go.

So we went to the A&E (which is British for 'ER') signed in and saw the triage nurse in about twenty minutes. Everyone was exceedingly kind and Mei fell asleep, a good sign that she wasn't in too much trouble. I felt a bit bad about going to the A&E with what I wasn't confident was a big enough problem for the hospital, but the triage nurse assured me that we had done the right thing. She brought us through to the children's waiting area and warned us that it would likely be an hour before we were seen. It was just about noon at this point, so I was thinking that, all things considered, this was going to be a good break from my work and I would be back at my desk by 1:30, easy, and ready to attend to my writing.

Yoko and Naomi went off to get some food and I held sleeping Mei, surveying the the waiting room to see how many people were in front of us. There was only a boy who had fallen and hit his head, at first, and then later, another older boy with a cut calf, so I assumed we would get through fine. Yoko and Naomi came back with the snacks, Mei woke up and it creeped around to 1 and then 1:15 and then 1:30, still without anyone going in. The girls played, and I suddenly had an urge to write, so I took some of the colouring paper and pen and started scribbling out my thoughts about genre and the vlog. Finally, after 1:30, the kid with the cut was taken in, and then the boy with the head problem, and finally around 1:50 we went in to see the doctor who looked at the cut on the eye and deduced that it need to be cleaned and possibly glued, but certainly no stitches. He filled out a form and circled something on the bottom, the last option which I could see was 'Died during care' or something to that effect and I thought, Shit, this is serious business, the hospital.

We were sent to sit on the blue chairs near the nurse station and told to wait again, which we did for about 10-15 minutes, for a nurse who finally put us on Bed B. I was to hold Mei's arms down while the nurse cleaned the cut, but Mei was pretty unimpressed and didn't really react, even as the nurse got all the dried blood off and down to the cut. After looking at it more carefully, the nurse said she needed another nurse to help with the gluing as it was so close to the eye, but when the second nurse came, they decided to just tape it. They praised Mei for being a good girl, Yoko gave her the Chupa-Chup she had been promised, and we just walked out of the hospital without doing anything else, at around 2:30. Three hours, all told: I was back at my desk before 3:00 and managed to bang out a couple good paragraphs before riding my bike home.
A couple of thoughts: A woman came in at the very beginning of our stay at the A&E, probably 20 years old, with her mother, and it was clear that she had gotten beat up pretty badly. She was wearing a Marks and Spencer's uniform and I realised that I was staring at her as she walked past with her mother, in the sad, judgemental way that evoked shame. I was curious, more than anything, but I looked longer than I needed to and the questions I had in my head were, I can imagine, clearly written on my face.

Second, the NHS has so far not ceased impressing me. Three hours is a long time, but in a private hospital in the States, it would have been as long, if not longer, and could be a crap shoot as far as the quality of care you get. Everyone at the Milton Keynes Hospital was professional, kind, cheerful, and helpful, if not as quick as I had hoped. Still, I had the sense, after the triage check, that Mei was lower on the list of people to be treated, given the nature of her injury, and I could accept that. No system is prefect, but why do I think that medical treatment for minor injuries is something for which I should have complete, immediate attention, especially if I am not willing to employ my own private medical team? It's a silly thing to expect. I am much, much happier to live in a country with a National Insurance tax taken from your pay and a democratised (for the most part) single-payer health system than whatever I would have in the US, even if what I had in the US was good. Japan is still probably the best in terms of my experience, but they essentially do a harder version of what they're trying to get down in the States, where there is a national insurance scheme subsidised by the government alongside private health coverage. You can choose which one you want, but you must carry one.

So now I can say I have written part of my thesis in the A&E waiting room. That has got to be a PhD merit badge, right?