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On the SecondDay of Christmas, the universe gave to me ...

Medical emergencies might be God’s way of taking cuts in line. They come unbidden, the forbidden unhidden; nobody knows they’re coming, a universal multiple choice test. The proper response involves immediately dropping every plan in favor of the unanticipated, and this cannot be simple, especially if insurance gets involved.

On The SecondDay, the renter in the basement showed up sick. Sore tooth transformed into chipmunk cheek, discomfort spawning agony. First, of course, he needed to produce a magic number or two. An eight hundred number to connect him to a call center in Indiana (of all places) and a policy number for whomever answers the phone to key into a clacky keyboard ten ways to Sunday. Better queue up that birthdate, too, everyone you meet for the next twelve hours will be fascinated to know your birthdate.

Agony suspended through the frantic texting with the visiting scholar coordinator to learn if there was insurance involved and then translating, tougher than any between foreign languages, we finally find a number and call to learn that he was covered, but only for emergency pain abatement, nothing cosmetic. Google proposes a list of dentists. I select the closest one and call. She has an opening for an emergency at noon. I wrap an ice pack to help cool his jaw ’til then.

Three hours later, we arrive at the Dentist’s office, his agony escalating; face now about twice the size it was earlier, agony still gaining altitude. We receive an eight page sheaf of paperwork and I realize that we left that freshly-discovered insurance card back in his room. Later, I handed him that fateful printout. “Never, ever go anywhere without this paper,” I counseled. “You will have no identity without it.”

Translating medical terms via pantomime, we manage in under an hour to arrive at the final signature page, though we entered much of the information on the wrong line of the form, in ink. The dentist provided quite loud jazz music to inhibit concentration, perhaps to distract from pain, certainly to prevent conversation or even solitary reading. This was, after all, a waiting room.

He was finally seen by the dentist, who decided against treatment other than writing two prescriptions and promising to follow-up later. CVS is Latin for one of the inner circles of Hell. We stood, him in even greater agony holding his hand over his still inflating face. We waited beside the sunglass display, and I saw him checking himself out in the mirror there. “You’re starting to look like my Uncle Bob,” I prompted. He attempted a smile, though it more closely resembled a smashed pumpkin.

Out of the pharmacy in about an hour, an hour smothered in piped-in seasonal music just loud enough to short-circuit all thought of thinking, the perfect accompaniment to pain. He took three pills and crashed for a while, while the visiting family and I slipped out for our long-delayed provisioning tour.

Later that afternoon, the dentist called to check up on her ward. He was worse. Much worse. The dentist suggested that I take him to an emergency room.

The insurance company was responsive. He was approved before we arrived and swept into a back room before the paperwork was even completed. I was invited back a short while later to help translate and text for prescription information. Then I returned to the waiting room, this one featuring a blaring HUGE screen TV, tuned to Fox, which nobody was watching but everyone was equally assaulted by, families arriving and departing while a middle aged man snored uncomfortably. A couple or three, or was it four hours later, he emerged from the backroom clutching two prescriptions. Back to CVS, Christmas Very Special, where he dropped off the prescriptions and I plead for immediate fulfillment. I ran him back at the house, then returned to the store to wait out last call at the pharmacy counter.

The Muse heated some broth, which he’d first refused than gratefully accepted. I ate my supper warmed over, around ten.

I stepped down to check on our patient near midnight and was surprised to find his door open and light on, but he was out, sitting crookedly on his couch. He started awake when I cleared my throat. He promised to go to bed, insisting that he wash out that broth mug first. I roughly wretched away that mug and told him to sleep well. Tomorrow, the paperwork said, he should return to the ER for further evaluation.

And to all, a good night.

©2013 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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