“Just wait a few minutes. Maybe ten. Then you can go in to see him,” says the pleasant young man, wearing a dark blue shirt that says Security.
“Okay,” I think. “That’s the way it usually is. When someone arrives in an ambulance, the person who is with him is made to hang around outside the ER until the hospital personnel are finished getting the patient into the hospital gown and performing all the other initial checks.”
It’s 12:30 AM and I dutifully sit and gaze about an almost completely empty waiting room. It’s the first time I’ve been in the Norwalk Hospital when the sitting area hasn’t been packed with the injured or sick and their worried families. I take a deep breath, worrying about my father who fell after Easter dinner.
There are only two people, one in a special wheelchair and the other slumped in a seat, deeply asleep. They seem as if they might be homeless. The strong smell of unwashed clothing and flesh assaults my nose and I sit on the other side of the room.
I walk back to the security desk.”It’s been more than ten minutes,” I say, after checking my watch. “I should be able to see my father.”
“Is there someone with him now?” a new man, sitting beside the security official in the blue shirt asks. He’s wearing a white shirt and has curly red hair.
“Yes, his caregiver, Florence. She rode with him in the ambulance.”
“I’ll have to check to see if you can go in if there’s already someone there,” he says.
“The sign here says that there can be two people,” I say. I know I probably sound annoyed.
“There can only be one but maybe you can go in,” he says. “I’ll check with the nurse.” He enters the well guarded door.
“Is he security too?” I ask the man in the blue shirt.
“He’s a supervisor,” he answers.
“He’s a jerk and a little dictator that needs to learn some manners,” I mutter to myself. Evidently my words are heard by the woman checking in patients and the security man in the blue shirt. They both smile in a way that lets me know they agree with me.
He returns and triumphantly announces that I can enter. He escorts me into the emergency room and points out Room #9, where my father is. I say nothing in response. I want to tell him what I think of his behavior, but don’t. I’m worried about my father and my irritation with the curly haired security supervisor is only secondary.
Florence and I are thankful that pressure in his head is better. The CT scan result is normal. We all sigh with relief. The doctor and nurses are caring and relatively efficient but even so, it’s 4:30 AM before we are told he can be released.
While waiting, I notice others enter the emergency room. One man, secured to the gurney by at least five straps is wheeled past my father’s curtained cubicle. Maybe he was agitated when they put him on the stretcher or they were afraid he’d roll off. He’s dirty and his dark hair, with a few threads of silver, is matted as if it hasn’t been washed in months. I think he must be homeless to be so unwashed. Most of his teeth are missing, except two on the top. I see this as he raises his head and smiles at me. Perhaps he is mentally ill. But his eyes seem clear and intelligent. He seem to be no older than forty and I wonder how it happened that he became the way he appears and why he’s in the hospital emergency room.
I overhear a nurse talking to someone in another stall. “You have pneumonia and a urinary tract infection,” she says. I wonder if it’s the man with the missing teeth who smiled at me.
I’m relieved that my father is now able to return home and that the dizziness that caused the two falls after Easter dinner was probably a side effect of a too powerful antibiotic.
But I still think about the man with missing teeth, wondering where he is now.