(Our continuing adventures at the Prince of Wales Hospital)
I am no stranger to hospitals having inhabited several of them myself, on one occasion it was for a period of two months. At one time or another I have broken both legs, crushed my right foot in a motorcycle accident, broken fingers, most of my toes and my nose, three times. Therefore, I am no stranger to pain, distress and blood, both my own and that of others.
In the late 90s I worked part time as a Dive Master and as such had to undergo Medic First Aid training; at one time I was even a MFA instructor. It was while I was working as a Dive Master that one of the novices under my care managed to hit himself over the head with a scuba tank. It was quite fascinating and it all happened so fast I am unsure, to this day, how he actually did it. At the time I was tempted to ask him to do it again so that I could see how it had happened, but I didn’t think he would appreciate the request. Fortunately it was a minor scalp wound but like all scalp wounds it bled profusely. Since then I have assisted accident victims on numerous occasions without any squeamishness or trouble on my part. It is therefore a problem for me when I become completely unglued when dealing with the staff at the Prince of Wales Hospital.
My readers will know from my previous work that my wife, Quirina, is a dialysis patient. A few weeks ago 'Rina phoned me from the hospital to say that she was unwell and asked if I would pick her up after her dialysis exchange. I duly did so and took her home where, she told me that she was going to have an early night. It was the following morning that 'Rina complained of chest pains and I immediately took her to the hospital. This is where things started to go wrong and I have come to realise that there is some mystical, perhaps esoteric juxtaposition in the relationship between 'Rina, myself and the Prince of Wales Hospital.
The journey from our home to the hospital is one that we have made countless times. We found a taxi outside the village and I gave the driver the location in Cantonese. “Wai yee see”, (The Prince of Wales Hospital) and “yat lao”. Yat lao technically translates as 1st floor but where hospitals are concerned is a euphemism for Accident & Emergency (which are always on the ground floor so that ambulances can offload patients quickly and efficiently). It never occurred to me that this driver didn’t know that and on arrival at the hospital he took us up the vehicular ramp to the 1st floor. I then had to virtually carry 'Rina through the lift lobby down to A & E where I sat her down on a chair at the triage station and then went to complete the admission procedure. There was only one reception window open and before me was an ambulance attendant who was registering on behalf of an accident victim he has just brought in. Apparently the poor victim was unconscious and therefore unable to assist with any of the usual questions. All the attendant had was the fellow’s identity card; there was no proof of address and no contact details for the next of kin, all vital information to the procedure. Meanwhile there was 'Rina sitting in the triage station clutching her chest.
Finally it was my turn. Having been through this so many times I knew exactly what was required. I presented 'Rina’s identity card and $100, the admission fee for local residents. Nothing more was required because they already had her records in their computer. Just to be on the safe side, however, the clerk asked me the usual questions about address and telephone.
Now you have to remember that here we were in the Accident & Emergency area of a hospital, my wife was at the triage station in full view of the admission desk, obviously in distress, and I was hopping from one foot to the other waiting for something to be done. It was at that point in time that the clerk asked me, “Do you want to see a doctor?”
I was silent for a moment, unable to be sure that I had actually heard the question. Several responses came to mind, for example: no, I’d like a pint of beer and a packet of crisps, or, no, I’d like a Big Mac and French Fries. Eventually however, my response came in the form of a question that was aphoristic in nature and I will leave the reader to imagine what it might have been. The clerk turned pale and handed me the paperwork.
'Rina went through triage in record time. As soon as they found that she was suffering chest pains they pulled out all the stops and she was seen within moments by the house doctor. She was X rayed, had an ECG, blood samples were taken and she was warded within less that 30 minutes. 'Rina was good hands. I, on the other hand, was a blithering wreck.