Thursday, August 19, 2010

Potholes and E.R.'s

I took a nasty tumble early last night--about 6PM--no broken bones or stitches, but my face took the brunt of the fall and I don't think a single part of my body escaped injury. I was dazed, confused and bleeding on a city street and luckily no cars were around me when it happened or things might have been worse. A young woman who works in a nearby clinic suggested I call 911 and I did. The ambulance arrived promptly and after refusing the board and collar--I get claustrophobic and I wouldn't have been able to keep it together long enough, if at all--they carted me off to Elmhurst Hospital. My son had been riding with me and luckily my wife arrived soon enough to take him home from the scene of the incident.

Elmhurst Hospital gets a bad rap for being a city hospital, but they do all right--once they get to you. One of the reasons I went to Elmhurst is that there have been so many hospital closings. I know St. John's on Queens Blvd. closed--I'd gone there for stitches nearly a decade ago--and the choices had been whittled down--I didn't want to go into Manhattan if I didn't have to. You know the country is in trouble when they look to cut the muscle and bone, like teachers, firehouses and hospitals. It was also closer to home and I wanted to be able to get home on my own if necessary--by bus or train, of course. Turns out my wife took me home and I was released between midnight and 1 AM, but not before acquiring some ER experiences.

My first interaction with hospital staff was when a friendly African-American woman asked me, "What country you from, dear?" Her question was understandable because I was probably one of the few people in that hospital that was born in this country. Queens County is almost certainly the most diverse county in the United States of America. I hesitated for a moment and responded, "The Bronx." Yes, I hail originally from the "Boogie-down Bronx!" You can take the boy out The Bronx, but you can't take The Bronx out of the boy! Shortly thereafter another stretcher came into the receiving area alongside me. The patient wasn't bleeding or anything, but he did seem out of it. He was surrounded by paramedics and what looked initially like police, but I soon noticed they were correction officers and the man was handcuffed to the stretcher--a prisoner, most likely from Riker's Island. It's easy to forget Riker's Island is there--it's out of sight and out of mind. However, Elmhurst is the closest place and it seemed that the prisoner was being treated decently and there was no danger that the correction officers were coddling him. I was then wheeled out into the middle of the ER proper.

They were still collecting info from me as this was going on--sign this, sign that--and it's really not a good time to be signing stuff. When I looked out behind me, I saw that the place was full of stretchers right out in the open--no place to them. Not a good sign I was getting seen anytime soon. There was an old lady next to me with labored breathing, and I couldn't help but feel for her. There was lots of activity, but generally the ER staff avoided eye contact with patients unless they were actually talking to them. Guess they were avoiding questions and requests. I finally got tired of waiting and said, "Hey guys I'm bleeding out of my face for a few hours and I haven't even got an icepack." Someone tended to me very shortly thereafter. Luckily, I was strong enough to seek them out. I also suspected my injuries were not so serious that I should occupy space at the place much longer.

The cause of all this was a pothole. This is especially irritating because that stretch of road--about a half mile of 37th Avenue--was so ridden with them! One expects such craters and depressions when mountain biking, but not road biking. I'd gotten past a number of them and this one got me. I was riding a women's 10-speed, so the family jewels were spared, but my hands slipped off the handlebars and I got tangled in my bike as I went down, so try as I could, I couldn't roll with it. All that stands out to me was hitting the pavement with my right cheek sliding on it some. I got me a bloody shiner. It sucks! Hurts too. It really ticks me off! Just like the hospitals, firehouses and teachers, some decent roads would be nice! Look out for potholes people!


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