Friday, April 28, 2006

My First Belgian Hospital Experience - Chapter Deux: The Waiting Room

Having finally found the entrance to the emergency room, I signed in at the intake desk. The clerk, who spoke excellent English (thank you, Jesus), asked for my residency card and my passport. Producing the passport was no problem, as I had the good sense to throw it in my purse before I left the apartment (what head injury?). Providing a residency card proved a bit more challenging, since, technically, I don't have one. Yes, that's right. I'm an illegal alien. (Six months later and my paperwork is still being processed!)

Fortunately, the clerk was content with only my passport, or, maybe she just had better things to do than to narc me out to immigration. As a consolation, I offered her my Belgian insurance card. Granted, it's not a lifetime supply of rice-a-roni or turtle wax, but it would show that I am not a drain on the Belgian public welfare system. She was not interested in it in the least, which, frankly, surprised me. Can you imagine, in your wildest, absinthe-induced dreams, a hospital in the US telling you, "no, we don't need your medical insurance information."?

After the clerk entered me into the system, she told me to go wait in the room around the corner. As I was trudging toward the waiting room, I had a brief glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, the blow to my head somehow dislodged the "freak magnet". It was not to be the case.

The waiting room was small and rectangular-shaped, with chairs lining the two side walls and the rear wall, like a giant "U". There was a young girl seated in the first chair to my right, along the side wall. She was holding her hand, as if in dire pain. Since she probably spoke excellent English, I chose not to sit by her. I was not the least bit interested in how she hurt her arm, and she looked like the kind of person who would have no problem explaining to a complete stranger, i.e. me, the story of her life in great detail.

The chairs on the side wall, across from Injured Arm, were filled with Rachel, Monica and Phoebe. You know the type - trauma drama queens. Only one was sick (probably complications from a severe eating disorder), but all three had to come to the hospital. Enough said.

On the same side wall as Injured Arm, but at the end of the row, was The Family. The Father was seated in a hospital-provided wheelchair, although for what reason I do not know, since he clearly had no problems ambulating to the vending machine and to the outside entrance to smoke; The Mother was in one of the chairs, sitting next to twenty-something-year-old Daughter, both of whom looked bored out of their minds. Damian, the four-year-old devil-child, and I do mean that as the possessed spawn of Satan, was terrorizing the waiting room.

He had that shrill scream that grates on absolutely everyone's nerves, except, apparently, family members. He was climbing on chairs, under chairs, through chair arms. At one point, he took his jacket off and started swinging it over his head, barely missing R-M-P. He then found an empty wheelchair, which, up until then, had been parked safely in a corner, and started ramming it into things, including Injured Arm!

When he was not using the waiting room floor as his own personal slip-n-slide, he was eating Smarties (similar to M&M's, but not as tasty), off the floor. The FLOOR of a waiting room in the EMERGENCY department of a HOSPITAL! It was then that I realized that The Family was probably being seen for hearing problems, psychiatric counseling, IV antibiotics, or a combination of the three. (I came to this conclusion because sterilization is generally not treated on an emergency basis, although, if I were in the Belgian health system, I would seriously reconsider this option, having seen the carnage left by Damian).

As Damian made his way towards me, I realized that I had made a huge tactical error in my seating choice -- I had backed myself into a corner. Damn head injury! I quickly assessed my weapons - umbrella, purse and cowboy boots. Under normal circumstances, an impressive lot. When staring down the very face of evil pushing a wheelchair at you at break-neck speed, not so much. I'm not sure whether "diminished capacity" would be a defense to an assault on a child charge in Belgium, but I was willing to give it a go. I opted for the boots. It worked! Wheelchair's forward progress stopped. Damian pissed.

Before the little devil could back up and prepare for round two, the nurse called my name. I stood up, gave him my best, Mommie Dearest/Devil, I Command You to Come Out, stare. He returned it with his best "you've only made me stronger" smile.

Stay tuned for Chapter Trois: Oh God, Not That One!

© 2006 by Cindy Lane. All rights reserved.

2 Comments:

Blogger woman wandering said...

It's not about enjoying the misery that these 'incidents' inflict on you ... it's the pleasure of reading ... I promise.

Looking forward to reading the outcome ... based on the fact that you seem lucid and in fine form now. :)

8:25 PM  
Anonymous V-Grrrl said...

Just for the record. I am not laughing. Like wandering woman, I am not basking in your misery. But really, I can't believe you have me WISHING I had been there to see Rachel, Monica, and Phoebe, Arm, and Lil' Mister 666.

You were so sweet not to hurl on his darlin' lil' head or accidentally put the heel of your boot on his lil' piggies. "Wee, wee, wee, all the way home!"

An FYI for you and other expats: you can call the American Embassy, switchboard operator is always there, and they can refer you to English speaking doctors and medical services.

7:42 PM  

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