Symphony hospital is in lovely suburban Symphonia, a second ring suburb with lots of new houses and malls, offices and clinics, all painted a shade of beige. The great thing is that unlike hospitals I have heard of, there is plenty of parking at Symphony hospital. Plenty of parking. Acres of handicapped spots, which we have the sticker and the crutches to use.
People are wearing scrubs and stethoscopes, and there are fountains and art. Just like a real hospital. I start to feel better, and regret calling them Legs R Us in an email to my sister. We get up to the Orthopaedia Clinic and really can’t find a place to sit where there is room for Ramon’s extended leg (it doesn’t bend at the knee). Ramon stands for a while and I rig up a chair in front of a chair so he can sit. He does so gingerly, clearly in much pain. He is starting to sweat profusely.
We talk. I talk. I try to keep his mind busy so he doesn’t think about his pain. It isn’t working that well because he starts to sweat actual bullets. They clink to the floor and the other patients wrinkle their noses in disgust. This annoys me. I didn’t want to watch the woman with one butt-cheek much bigger than the other limp into the office, but I wouldn’t wrinkle my nose at her.
I notice that Symphonia has a fountain instead of an aquarium in the Orthopaedics clinic. It’s a verdigris sculpture of lily-pads at varying heights, facing different directions. The water runs off one lily-pad and onto another, then another, then to the pond. It’s much louder than an aquarium. But pretty classy, except for one unnerving detail. Twisty-tied to a number of the pads are those little styrofoam birds. You know the ones with the wire legs and real feathers glued on?
I know this is superficial, but the twisty-tied-styrofoam-feathered birds and their nests make me feel sort of panicky. Like I know they’re tiny, tacky little harbingers of doom. But I kept talking.
We went were finally called back into the office. The assistant, whose beautiful chestnut hair, freckled tan and frost-pink eye shadow and liner leave me entirely ambivalent. She’s so darned cute that even when she calls Ramon a goof-ball (the man is wincing and sweating every step of the way), I can’t decide if I hate her or not.
They bring Ramon down for the x-ray and bring him back up. We wait for another long, long time, but now no one is watching us suffer. I open the door so they don’t forget us. Outside the door are two life-sized, full-body x-rays. If you look close, can see the shadow of the people, except their genitals, which appear to have been discreetly covered with little lead cut-outs.
While Ramon sweats and breaths, and the office staff joke about whether call Applebees or the Indian place, I look at the x-rays. I realize that I can’t see the genitals, but I can clearly see the name of the patients. One man and one woman. Out in the hall, fully lit are Marion and Jeff’s bones. Jeff’s got some sort of leg deal, pins or something. I can’t tell what’s wrong with Marion. But not for lack of trying.
The assistant comes in and asks him to get on the table. This is easier said than done. He asks her if she can look at the machine on his leg because it’s beeping, it’s been beeping since last night. “Oh! Is that you?” She checks it out, pushing buttons and furrowing her brow. “Well, something’s not working right, maybe the batteries are low?” Yeah, maybe.
When the doctor comes in he says, “The machine isn’t working, Ramon. This is one of the risks of the operation. Remember, I tried to talk you out of the operation? The infection and this possibility are two of the reasons for that?” Ramon remembers. Except that when I ask him if he understands the phrase, “talk you out of” he says, “Yes, it means he explain me.” I translate” talk you out of” as “convince you not to do” he nods slowly. I wonder how much he thinks he understood in this whole process.
The doctor says, “Well, we’re onto plan B. That means we put the manual struts on and you turn them by hand. If that doesn’t work, we can do the surgery again and try to cut the bone better. I think this will work, though.” He leaves and returns a couple times throwing things that look like auto parts onto the counter.
He and another surgeon go to work on reinstalling the struts, they take about 5 minutes to do it. I offer to hold Ramon’s leg up because his face is contorted from the position they have him in. That would be great. Ramon relaxes. They go out for some other pieces and I hear the two doctors talk about how two of the struts are actually installed upside-down. The second doctor asks if it matters. “MMM Nah, I don’t think it does.” They decide to leave them upside down.
All this really means as far as I can tell is that instead of having the turning dials at the top of the bolt, it’s at the bottom. It still works just fine. All the same, it contributes to my growing unease.
They never so much as moved a bandage to look at his infection, I never saw them take his temperature, they certainly didn’t clean anything. They did give us a prescription for a heavy-duty antibiotic.
All in all we spent from 11am to 1:30pm at the outpatient clinic of Symphony Hospital.
That night Ramon was admitted to the hospital through the E.R. He stayed 3 days while they tried to get his rapidly spreading staph infection beaten down and control his pain.
Next entry I will tell you why Patrick and I are partly responsible for this hospital visit.