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Daniel Eran

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photo Generally Hospitalized
When you need fixing, the SFGH trauma center is where they take you. But the end of the month is the worst time to land at General Hospital. The downtrodden get their checks and end up in the ER as crack is bought and knives come out and general chaos ensues.
UCSF students staff much of General Hospital, and the City Health Network runs it. Most locals were born there, and it’s famous for starting a nationally acclaimed program for AIDS treatment. Apart from the famous car chase, the 1968 Steve McQueen flick Bullitt was largely filmed on its campus, although part of what was in the film was torn down to make way for the 1980’s Main Building, one of the most plain, ugly, boring buildings in the City.

In the 1990’s under the direction of Dr. Mitch Katz, SFGH began dismantling itself as a prominent, ambitious institute, and instead set its sights at becoming a scaled back welfare hospital. As with the bloom of Internet startups from the same period, a sustainable business plan wasn’t really part of the equation. The startups failed more spectacularly, but SFGH started its descent first, while the City was still flush with dot com cash. Now the hospital is struggling, starving for cash as drug costs head through the roof and support for healthcare is slashed.

Welcoming the downtrodden is a lofty goal, but sure makes for a scary lobby. Parts of the General are sketchier than the TL. If you ever want to feel better about your lot in life, ride the San Bruno bus to the brick bus stop shelter in front of the hospital on Potrero Avenue. Holy crap Batman! Literally; there’s crap, and it’s not from bats. The place deserves its own Emma Lazarus poem.

When I worked at the General, I took the underground tunnels between buildings to avoid all those huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Or actually, mostly yearning to score some spare change and bum a smoke. I never thought I’d end up at General needing treatment.

On arriving, I was brought into the trauma ward and put on a table. On the way in my phone was taken and put in my pants pocket. A doctor did a commentary observation of my damages into a recorder. My two shirts were cut off me, but my pants survived. Woot! I liked my pants.

Chest, pelvis and arm x-rays were taken. My first nurse, Lois, hooked me up with morphine. It works really fast but wears off in about fifteen minutes. The doc looked at the x-rays and told me my arm was broken. Additional arm shots were taken. More morphine. My hand and wrist and elbow were checked out, but there was no pain and no damage in the x-rays. It sounded like my arm would be set that night and I’d be sent home. If only.
photo The second set of x-rays showed my radius was broken, but not the ulna. That required a bone setting that could not be done without surgery. Bleah. I tried to hold my nurse to the prescribed 4 ml of morphine every fifteen minutes. They did okay with the morphine but needed reminders. I stayed on top of that.
My next nurse was John Stryker. The nearly porn star name didn't really match the soft spoken, lightly bearded and heavily tattooed young guy.
After an hour of laying around, I started entertaining myself by holding my breath and then hyperventilating to mess around with the monitor graphing my blood oxygen, heartbeat and breathing. After holding my breath too long, an alarm sounded. Embarrasing! It was 7 going on 8 PM.
photo John got a more seriously traumaed patient, and I got taken out of the x-ray room and put into the pediatric trauma room. While I was waiting for the plan, I entertained myself by pulling out my camera phone and taking photos: me, my arm, my IV, my clean underwear. I had been in dire need of doing laundry for some time, but then granted myself an extension by buying more boxers and socks. It felt good to be wearing clean new underwear in the ER.
I was told that I would be given a splint and sent home, and the bone would be set a week later. Bleah, I didn't like that plan. The next doc to come in said I could possibly be seen in the morning for surgery and sent home after a day of pain monitoring. It'd take a metal bracket and possibly a wrist pin. Additional hassle in airport security!

The plan was made and I was scheduled for early surgery on Saturday. Armed with a plan, I was taken out into the hall and a little girl was put in the pediatric trauma room behind me. She wasn't obviously injured. It sounded like she'd witnessed something really bad.

Out in the hall it was more exciting. A roughed up Haight Street hippie kid had been jacked up and given a beatdown that left his face all puffy and swollen and his jaw fractured. But he was more mad that his dog had been stolen and that he couldn't go out for a smoke. He didn't have anything to smoke, but figured he could bum a cig.

An older Mexican man had been found under a bridge wasted. He complained about itching, kept trying to walk off, and then dramatically pissed himself. He was given new clothes and his bed changed. He wasn't very cooperative.

A black dude behind me had been hit while riding in the back of a van and almost thrown thru the windshield. It was his birthday. I was going to ask how old he was, but he was wheeled off and replaced by a younger black man named Stephen Hawking. 'Like the scientist?' a nurse asked. 'Why do people keep asking me that?' he asked. I was going to ask if he'd ever watched the Simpsons, but it didn't seem that important after I got another shot of morphine.

It hurt badly whenever I ran short of morphine. I can’t recommend breaking your arm. It was good that at least it was a fairly minor bit of damages I suffered. My forearm was very broken, but at least it wasn't sticking out thru the skin. It was going on 9 PM. An frumpy looking Asian guy was mad he couldn't leave before the doctor returned with instructions and a release. He had some stitches on his forehead. He was being a total jerk.

A guy with, among other troubles, some sort of anal dysfunction suffered loudly on the other side of the curtain from me as he was fit with a catheter. Ouch. Poor guy.

A man with a mangled hand from a garage door incident was wheeled in. At the same time, a sheriff deputy brought in a very tore up looking woman in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs. Sharon Smith.

I was still sneaking photos, but only of myself. I had to dump lots of junk off my phone to make room for new photos. I took an illicit photo of the deputy and hallway spillover after an alarm went off and distracted everyone in the opposite direction. Then I asked the deputy to take my photo. He was worried that I might be trying to trick him into taking his photo rather than mine, but I already had a pic of him; I just wanted a photo of me and my IV / morphine delivery device. He took a photo but it wasn't very flattering. 10:30 PM.
Sharon the con kept jumping around and taking her clothes off. She made a mess peeing and later pulled her IV out. She was a 50 year old mess, playing a two year old girl. The deputy played the role of her threatening white trash mom. "Hey! Sit down or ill put your handcuffs on," over and over for two hours.

My plan changed. Since I was in stable condition, my HMO wanted me to be delivered across town to them. I wondered if they would fix me up that weekend or make me come back later to break it and reset it later. That would suck. I had no choice though, because without being schlepped over to Kaiser, I’d have to pay the bill. No thanks! It was going to be high. Just waiting around in an ER is a grand, and an ambulance ride around the block at night is going to run at least $1500. For any kind of surgery, I'd have to donate a kidney on the black market.

I was worried about getting fed. I’d had no dinner, and five hours of nothing but narcotics were making me loopy. I asked my nurse if I could go get food. He went to ask doctor's orders and came back with a foul microwaved burger bun with ham and cheese inside, and an orange juice. It was delicious, but painful to get in my mouth with a broken arm and all. Without the broken arm and the drugs and starvation and all, it would have been even more painful to get it in my mouth.
photo My drugs had worn off. He gave me a smaller dose of morphine and a couple Vicodin. I pulled out my Sour Skittles, which had been chillin in my pocket through the whole ordeal. Yeay! With friends like that, who needs M&M's?
My next nurse was a hot young guy named Ian. He needed pee from me. I was happy to help since I had been laying in bed for six hours now and wanted to do something, even if it wasn't too exciting of an adventure. He brought me big ass pants and a gown top, since I was still in only my boxers. He made an attempt to hold up the top for privacy as stood up to get the pants on, but I wasn't to worried about privacy, having been chillen in my shorts in the busy hallway for some time now. I got dressed and stumbled toward the potty.
photo There was already a guy in there, checking out a bloody head wound. I found another one. There is a large trauma ward at SFGH. It just kept going and going. I was pretty high though, so maybe it was just that. I carefully documented the trip on my camera phone.
As time went on, things got way ghetto. Sharon had left but was now back, demanding to be uncuffed from her bed while her guard demanded she lay down and go to sleep. Some crazy crackwhore was screaming on and off but was too far away to know what was up with her. A bloodied prisoner was brought in by a big bunch of cops. They struggled him past me and into poor Mr. Anal-trouble's old room, who was moved out into the hall in the space across from me.
photo Bloody jail guy started going off the hook and screaming profanity and flopping around. Suddenly Sharon seemed like a model prisoner. Then more story was revealed: apparently he was not from jail but on the way there, fresh from the TL. And something involving a knife. Much excitement - I was trying to get a photo.
photo Lots of commotion as they tried to take him to go pee. I was front row center, with bloody gold teeth on a big scary guy 12 inches from me. Then more details: big bloody Ron was getting charged with stabbing his girlfriend.

Ian came to tell me Kaiser's ambulance was 20 minutes away. I wanted a photo of bloody Ron. A good photo. It was hard with all the cops around. I figured they'd object to my journalistic inquiry. I managed to snap a few lame photos instead.
photo AMR arrived shortly after 1 AM to take me over to Kaiser. The ride was slow but very first class, minus the complementary cocktails; a shame since I had the IV plumbing all ready to go. The stretcher they put me on and all their gear was shiny and new. I said thanks and goodbye to Ian.
As he handed me off to Vince and Shalom and unplugged the IV bag from the catheter in my arm, I noticed a dribble of my juice back washing out into the tube. 'I must have high blood pressure' I joked. Ian said that, yes I did a little, for being twenty. Twenty? No one has guessed me for twenty in maybe five years. Hehe, it was like getting carded, and I never get carded.

The excitement of the General's urban jungle was to be replaced with the quiet peace of Kaiser's folksy little ER with the aura of a small midwest town. I was ready for it.

Further details of my crash, treatment and (hopefully) recovery:


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