Wednesday night in the Emergency Room is bustling. It’s pouring rain outside. I think that explains some of the craziness in the waiting room. All sorts of ailments surround me, some visible, some not. For a few minutes, I sit next to Sandra De La Rosa, who barely speaks English. One of the male nurses keeps repeating to her in Spanish, “Are you sure who have no ID?” She nods. “Nothin’? You got nothin’?” She nods again. He leaves. Sandra starts to silently cry. When I finally notice, without thinking twice about it, I reach over and rub her back a little. I don’t know her at all. She looks at me and says with such heart-felt earnestness, “Gracias.” She makes me want to cry.
I look around me: one guy was hit by a bus, a older lady cries out from the pain in her leg, and a father raises his voice to the nurse station in very poor English and a thick accent, annoyed that his son hasn’t been seen yet. Even with all the yelling in the world, the only thing we can do is sit and wait. A small barely functional speaker periodically chokes out names: Jorge Rodriguez, Ana Vasquez, Carlos Gonzales, Cecilia Vargas, Juan Morales, etc.
It must be long, exhausting days for the staff. The nurses look strung out. I wonder if they are on the tail end of their shift? When I get inside, I’m asked to take a seat and wait. Again. A nurse and Dr. Leslie stand in front of me deciding my fate: will the doctor take me on as her last patient since her shift ends at 10pm. At this stage it’s 9:40pm.
I meet Nurse Alicia, “I don’t know what it is with Monday’s, Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s but it’s just a mad house around here. But then again weekends are too.” She takes blood samples, prepares me for x-rays but most important, gives me painkillers in liquid form to take the edge off. I like Alicia. It’s a little odd to be called “Mami” by a fellow female but she pulls it off well. Alicia is born and raised in New York but her parents are from El Salvador. Her looks suggest that she’s not from here, since she doesn’t have the typical New York Latina look. She lets her rich, red, curly hair hang freely.
When I’m finally ready to be wheeled to the x-ray room, I see Dr. Leslie who explains to me what will happen to me from here on out. I thank her and check the clock behind her, it reads: 10:45pm. So much for getting out of the office on time.
The Emergency Room gives off the impression that you’ll never be seen, that you’ll be ignored and/on forgotten, that you’ll wait forever, that you’ll be given second-hand treatment, and on and on. But walking out at 3:30am, I realize, these guys know what they’re doing. They’ll do the best they can do. It’ll just be on their own time.
And that’s OK. That’s absolutely OK.