Back back back in the late 1950s there was an early television sitcom known as the Phil Silvers Show. It gets a lengthy report on Wikipedia, including mention of a memorable episode that my memory refocused on Friday night when I was involved in one of the craziest Cluster F*** I’ve ever walked into. I have to use that term because there is none better to describe what happened to me. BTW, Merriam Webster actually offers a definition for it: “a complex and utterly disordered and mismanaged situation.”
Well, getting back to Phil Silvers…on the show, he played Sgt. Ernest G. Bilko who headed of a group of haphazard soldiers in charge of an army base motor pool. I don’t ever remember seeing an actual automobile or jeep in any of the shows in the four years it ran. Instead, Bilko and his troop spent most of their time scheming up money-making scams, many of which were based on gambling. If you remember McHale’s Navy, this show was the army’s version, only years earlier.
The noteworthy episode took on the story in which Bilko and his men were assigned to overseeing army physicals for a bunch of recruits. One of Bilko’s men had a pet chimpanzee (nothing unusual there) and somehow the chimp wound up in line with the recruits. You guessed it…the chimp begins going through the army physical with all the human recruits and since all of Bilko’s men have their noses buried in their clipboards, no one ever looks up and spots the chimpanzee.
Early on in the assembly line procedure, each recruit has to give his name. When the chimp is asked his name, of course he does not answer. The examiner says to him, “Hurry, Speak Up.” The examiner’s assistant says “Got it” and proceeds to write down “Harry Speakup” and the chimp now has a name. And so the process continues–one hilarious moment after the other–until the chimp makes it all the way through and passes the physical and is issued a uniform. It is a classic example of a Cluster Fu**! This past Friday evening I became the chimpanzee and the only difference is that, eventually, I realized what was happening. Here’ my story…
I had to get a medical test as an outpatient at a nearby hospital. It was a simple test just to rule out a possible blood clot in my leg…very similar to a sonogram given to pregnant ladies whereby they rub a probe over the outside of the body and it gurgles out sound waves that show up as images of what’s happening inside.
For my test, they had only one appointment left before the weekend. I took it. It was scheduled for Friday evening at 5:30. The lady on the phone told me the usual out-patient admissions office closes at 5pm so I would have to register at the reception desk in the Emergency Room and then I’d be taken to wherever it was that I would be given my test. So that’s what I did and that’s when things began to take a wrong turn. I’ve been to this hospital’s emergency room several times for me or for others so I am familiar with its routine.
When I first arrived and was told to have a seat while they checked out my I.D. and insurance credentials, a blood pressure cuff was wrapped around my arm, my temp was taken and they pinched my finger with one of those finger-pinching thingies. Then I was pointed to a chair, told to sit down and wait for the nurse who would come fetch me. I should have had my alert system fired up by now. None of these things, except for the I.D. and insurance checks, happens when you register through the normal out-patent admissions desk.
So a nurse comes and ushers me back to one of those curtained rooms in the ER. I explain to her I am an out-patient who had to check in via the ER since the normal admissions office was closed and by the way, why do I have an extra wristband on. It’s red and says “allergy alert.” I don’t have any allergies. She doesn’t know either as she glanced at my admissions papers. Now she pulls out a hospital gown and tells me I just need to remove my pants since the test I am having begins in my groin and works it way down the leg. Okay, that makes sense. She leaves, I make the transfer from pants to gown and sat on the bed. And there I sat…and sat…and sat for an hour and a half. That’s normal for being in the ER….that’s not normal for being an out-patient in the other part of the building. It’s now that I realize something is amiss.
At the moment, the person with the little rolling computer cart stopped by to check my credentials—again. She had me sign the usual forms that nobody ever reads despite giving permission to some judge to put me in jail ten years to life if things go haywire with my insurance coverage.
Next, a doctor came in and asked me questions about my problem and said he had blood work ordered. I told him that would not be necessary, I was there just for the one test and I was having my blood work done elsewhere on Tuesday. He said it should be done now and I said it could wait until Tuesday and cost me a lot less since it wasn’t being done in the ER. He leaves a little testy that I was testy. I wonder for a moment why a doctor has stopped by to see me. That doesn’t happen when I’m waiting for a test as out-patient.
I wait some more and then it begins to hit me. Now I know what is happening. Everyone thinks I am there as an ER patient and I have some kind of emergency for which I have come to the hospital’s ER. I am being treated accordingly, including being visited by a doctor and other multiple people asking questions to being made to wait for long periods of time—all normal procedures in the ER. I’m the chimpanzee who came in the wrong door and got processed like everyone else who comes through that particular door.
I check the rear of my gown for modesty’s sake and wander outside. There are patients sitting in wheelchairs and on gurneys lining the corridor. Just a few feet away is the “hub” of the ER where mission control resides. It is staffed by a large number of people, all in scrubs. Some are busy doing paperwork or looking into computer monitors. Others are holding clipboards while others are on the phone. It is a beehive with things and people buzzing all about. I stand at the counter for a few minutes attempting to determine which bee I should approach. But from behind comes a “Can I help you?” I turn around. It’s a young male nurse and he has come to rescue me…or so I think.
I explain to him that I think I have been mistaken as an ER patient and I have been waiting almost two hours for a simple out-patience test. I further explained that I was told to enter the hospital via the ER and simply explain why I was there, but no one listened to what I said; they assumed I was just another ER patient. The young nurse said, “hmmmm” and instructed me to wait in my room and he would investigate. I get the distinct feeling that he thinks I am an elderly, disoriented patient who really doesn’t know who the President is or what year is. As I pessimistically return to my assigned sanctuary, a lady walks in (dressed in civilian clothes) and tells me she’s ready to give me the test I came for. We leave the ER and she takes me into the “other” part of the hospital where she administers the test. I explain my predicament. She agrees, I have been mishandled. The test lasts about five minutes, tops.
As she returns me to my ER cell, in comes the doctor telling me he called my doctor and confirmed I should have my blood work done. I told him not a chance. I explained that I have an appointment to have my blood work done on Tuesday at the lab where I always go and that there was no need to call my doctor on a Friday night and make him wonder why the hell I am in the ER for a routine out-patient test he ordered. The intentionally-good doctor still doesn’t get it. He asks me if I am indeed refusing the blood tests. I tell him yes, it will cost more if it is done in the hospital, not to mention I know it take another two hours, at least. I tell him I had the test I came for as an out-patient, not an ER patient, and now I was leaving. He says to wait because I have to sign a paper refusing the blood tests. I told him I’d wait just a few more minutes to do that. He looks at me as if I don’t know who the President is or what year it is. Ten minutes later I’m still sitting on the edge of the bed and staring at the exit door which, ironically, is about twenty feet from where I sit. I’ve been staring at to for hours. I transition back into my shorts and I decide time’s up. I leave.
I am sure this is only Part One of my story. I figure since I just spent several hours being treated as an ER patient, the hospital and the doctor will both be billing me…as an ER patient. I shall call the billing office and alert them to the situation and that both my insurance company and I should not be charged for an ER visit. I am sure it will run in the thousands. Somehow, I doubt my message will actually get through. This is gonna go on for months….just you wait and see. Part Two will probably be an even bigger…Cluster F***!