Kyle has the shingles…
…I once had the shingles.
Do you know how rare it is to contract a case of shingles while under the age of 50? Very rare indeed. The odds that both Kyle and I would have them (I got them when I was just 18) are unreal. They’re not contagious, either, so it’s not like I gave them to him. He just woke up one day and bam! Shingles!
As soon as his doctor diagnosed the problem, he immediately put orange drops of something in Kyle’s right eye, to make sure the virus wasn’t spreading (which could cause blindness). It hadn’t spread. Good news.
Last night, however, Kyle felt a swelling and stinging on his right temple, and his eyes looked really bloodshot (like pink eye, which is a symptom of the shingles), and I was sure he was going more blind by the minute. He straightaway phoned his mom, who is our resident pre-doctor contact. She tells us if what we have is serious enough to warrant calling the doctor. (She qualifies for this role by–aside from raising four healthy children–having attended one year of nursing school back when she was 19. She may as well be our primary caretaker.)
The doctor wasn’t home. We phoned Kyle’s mom again. She said to go to the Emergency Room.
Now, going to the Emergency Room where I grew up (in America) is a big deal. If it’s the weekend and the doctor’s office is closed, we go to the Urgent Care (which is similar to the Emergency Room, but different). If the Urgent Care is closed, we bust out the Doctor’s Book of Home Remedies and try every–every–suggestion. But we don’t go to the Emergency Room. The Emergency Room costs a lot of money. You have to be almost dead to make it worth your while–in America. In Canada, though? Free.
So though I hesitated agreeing to the Emergency Room because of the “big huge deal” implications, I also didn’t want my husband to go blind.
I gotta say, I was not expecting it to be so…pokey. I know I live in a thriving town of 2,500 people, but I always assumed that since we are big enough for a hospital, there would be…I dunno…people there. The doors to the ER were locked, first of all. We had to ring a buzzer once, twice, three times, before the one and only nurse roused herself enough to let us in. Here Kyle was becoming more blind every second, and the one and only nurse would not let us in! I was just grateful it wasn’t a heart attack or something. He’d have died, freezing on the hospital steps. There’s irony for ya.
Next, Miss One and Only asked Kyle for his Alberta Health Card, which he’d misplaced years ago. I suppose free health care does come with its costs. In Canada, it’s not just a matter of copying an insurance card or looking him up in their system. Never mind that he was born in that very building. Never mind that health care is free in Canada–to all Canadians. She was bound and determined that Kyle needed to have his card.
“You wouldn’t go to the bank without your bank card, would you,” she asked smugly, as if she’d been waiting all night to use that line.
“Well, actually,” he replied, matching her smugness tone-for-tone, “I would if I didn’t have my card. They would just look up my account…in their system.” [Later I reminded Kyle that one can catch more bees with honey, and it would serve him well to be a bit…sweeter…when he’s asking favours of people.]
“One and Only” finally found Kyle in the system: “Sure enough! You are a Canadian! And you really were born in this hospital…”
About that time, doctor meandered around the counter from the break room, dressed in jeans and a leather jacket, and sipping a steaming cup of something.
“This had better be good,” he mumbled, “because I’m on my way home.” My goodness. The doctor’s leaving?? What’s the point of an Emergency Room if there’s not always going to be someone to fix your emergency?
The good doctor was a bit annoyed that we came in *just* for the shingles–when we’d already seen a doctor about them. Evidently if the shingles are going to attack one’s ocular nerves and make that person go blind, it will happen straightaway. No dilly-dallying.
“Well,” I told him, “we aren’t really hypochondriacs. I tried my best to research this before we came here [to this joke of a hospital], but Wikipedia told me that pink eyes could be the first sign of vision loss…”
He muttered something about how computers and their accompanying technology are making every person an expert, and why did he even bother with medical school if people just used Wikipedia to diagnose their various “emergencies.”
I had no idea we would be so unwelcome at the ER. And the part that really gets me? There wasn’t even anyone else there to be helped! Why were we such a bother?
I don’t know, but let this be a lesson to you all…