Friday, October 21, 2005

chained melody: a night in the ER

by Charlotte Deaver

This is supposed to be a blog about music. But sometimes life intervenes. I haven't posted in the past few days, and I missed Tim and Tara of Antietam play last night because I've been, lets say, pre-occu-pied.

My mom never goes to hospitals. (Don't worry. This is not a photo of my mom.) She complains a LOT, but never about her health. She'll complain about the state of health care in America, and about how doctors mis-diagnose or want to cut you up right away. She'll complain about how inadequate, smarmy, and rich doctors can be. She will, at times, hail the benefits of cabbage, honey, and sea air. But that's about as close to medical attention as she'll get.

Until Wednesday night.

My mom spent sixteen hours on the floor of her apartment before four handsome, strapping firemen and two of the sweetest EMS guys (Mario and Jimmy) broke into her apartment and got her onto a gurney.

She still didn't want to go to the hospital (and, I should note, she hadn't wanted me to call 911, either!). But off we went, my poor, exhausted, crumpled mother, Mario, Jimmy, and I, to the local Emergency Room.

In time, I'm pretty sure my mom will be okay. She's in the hospital now and will need a lot of physical therapy so that she can get strong enough to walk again without pain. Hopefully. But we spent nine hours in the ER that night before they admitted her. Nine hours! It was crazy and scary, but also fascinating. Every "bed" has a story, several of which I heard as I waited. The man in the photo (which I had to take surreptitiously and without flash), who is cuffed on both wrists AND ankles, intrigued me the most.

When I wasn't with mom, who often slept in between tests, I spent most of my time with the cops. They were very friendly and liked to talk. Apparently, this chained delinquent was so violent that the police had to bag him with a blanket and keep him wrapped in it until they could cuff his arms and legs. He had completely destroyed someone's apartment and beat up on a guy, but had also been beaten up himself. As he lay there in a hallway--all night--he would continually pull on his handcuffs and try to get up, but his eyes never opened and he never actually said anything.

There was something about his bound, bare feet, his tattoo (Betty Boop), and the way he was so "caught" that I was drawn to. I tried to get a picture, just of his feet, but his police escort was too close and too attentive. An ER is by definition a place where the weak and the strong collide, where uniforms -- the firemen, the EMS guys, the cops, the doctors, all heroic types -- do their best to rescue people like my diminished mother, the depressive who had stopped taking his medication, the drunk who snored, and the lady who wanted to sleep with her cane. But our criminal friend was clearly strong and physically able, weakened only by drugs and in bed only because of three pairs of handcuffs.

My mom, on the other hand, might be in the hospital and/or rehab for weeks, and might not be able to walk for a long time. I hesitate to call attention to the chain metaphor, but in one way, it's apt. I just hope it's not too apt, because I have a lot of music to go to and write about! Oh -- yeah, and a dissertation to finish.


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