This is the exciting conclusion to the “Our New Normal,” series. You can read the rest of the series here.
I write letters to Ellen DeGeneres. No particular reason. Just because I can.
With the baby off getting her cast, I decided to go to the cafeteria to get something to eat. Alas, the cafeteria was closed until lunch. Back to the Starbucks I went where I indulged in some overpriced fruit and cheese plates. Then I headed back to the parking garage to check on the car. So far nothing was flat and as far as I could tell, it looked like it was the front right tire that was low but it was hard to tell.
I took my food back to the hospital room and checked in with my husband, reminding him that our six year old had an after-school activity and needed to be picked up instead of being dropped off by the bus.
After a while the anesthesiologist came into the room to tell me that everything was fine and he waited in the operating room until her breathing tube was removed because he wanted to make sure she would breathe on her own before he left.
I thought that was fair. I mean, I brought her into this hospital breathing on her own. I expected she would leave in the same condition.
Then the surgeon’s team began filing into the room one after the other with different instructions. One of them told me that after she was released, the surgeon wanted me to take her across the street for x-rays after the procedure and then if there were any problems, there was a clinic across the hall from radiology that could adjust her cast. Which is good to know. Except that my daughter is 17 months old. She can’t talk. The only way I’m going to know if she’s uncomfortable is if she cries and I guarantee you that after fasting for well over 12 hours, being sedated, and having a cast placed around her torso, she’s going to cry. A lot. Did I mention that the hospital refused to admit her after the procedure? The doctor told me she’d be totally fine sitting in a car for two hours.
And that’s assuming I don’t get stuck in Atlanta’s notorious traffic on the way home.
Ninety minutes after the surgery, they wheeled Baby Girl back into the room.
They let her sleep for almost an hour before waking her up and sending us on our way to get a set of x-rays. And that’s when the fun began.
“The building across the street.” That’s what I was told. I was told to go to the building across the street. And away I went. To the building across the street. Except that I forgot what floor I was supposed to take her to and when I asked the discharge nurse, she didn’t even know I was supposed to go for x-rays let alone what floor I was supposed to go to. “Just look for the directory on the main floor,” she said.
Okay. Sure. That worked for me. And there I was. In the building across the street, staring at the directory.
Dear Hospital People,
I understand the importance of showing the world how technologically advanced you are by having every facet of your buildings stocked with fancy equipment. However, I would like to point out that a digital directory that either isn’t turned on or isn’t working does nothing to help your patients. It also doesn’t send the message that you are technologically advanced for that matter either.
I found myself staring at a black screen with no idea where to go. So I started asking people what floor the pediatric orthopedics office was on. No one knew. Lovely. Here I am, with my baby girl who’s fussing because she’s uncomfortable. I’m at the end of a very long, stressful day. I’m one set of x-rays away from finding out if there’s a flat tire on my car and I have no idea where to go.
A woman wearing scrubs got off the elevator. I stopped her. “Excuse me. I’m lost. I’m supposed to take my baby for x-rays and I was told to go to the pediatric orthopedics office.”
“You need to go to the hospital for x-rays.”
“No. I was told – at the hospital – to come to the building across the street for x-rays.” I explained to her that my baby just had a cast placed for scoliosis and that we were just released from the Day Surgery department.
“That doesn’t make any sense.” She pulled out her cell phone. “Let me make a call.”
So she’s talking on the phone. “That’s what I told her,” she said to the person on the other line. “Here.” She handed me the phone.
“Hello,” I said.”
“Hi. This is Stephanie. I’m so sorry. I can’t believe someone told you to go across the street. You need to come back to the hospital and register for x-rays on the first floor but there’s going to be a bit of a wait.”
“No. I was told to go across the street.”
Ellen, there was no way I misunderstood the directions to “go across the street.”
“Okay,” I continued, deciding to take a different approach. “Let me ask you this. If my daughter needed to get her cast adjusted, where would she go?” I knew, if nothing else, that wherever that office was, that’s where the baby needed to go to get x-rays.
“She’d need to go the Meridian Mark building. But that’s where you just were.”
“No. I was at the hospital.” I was so tired and frustrated. I knew what I was told. And while I clearly wasn’t in the right building, I also knew the hospital was not where I was supposed to go. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. The baby was crying and I was about two seconds away from going Shirley MacLaine on these people.
The lady on the phone, Stephanie, was being super nice. But it was clear I was going to have to stand my ground on this one. “Where, exactly, is the building that has the office where she can get her cast adjusted if she needs to?”
Stephanie gave me the street number and the floor.
Annie, the very kind lady who made the phone call, pointed me in the direction of the building. “See that parking garage? Take the elevator to the second floor and follow the yellow paw prints.”
“They’ll lead you through the parking garage and the building you need is on the other side.”
We returned to the parking garage. My minivan did not have a flat. Yet. So the only thing left to do was get air in my tire before embarking on a two hour drive home. I’ll share that adventure with you on Friday.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and my family has a lot to be thankful for. We’re thankful that despite the scoliosis, our baby girl is otherwise very healthy. I’m also very thankful to everyone who has reached out to me since I started writing about this chapter in my family’s life. Thank you for your words of encouragement and support!
And to Annie and Stephanie, the two women who helped me figure out where to go: Thank you!
And to you, Ellen, even though you’ve never written back to me, I’m so very grateful to have you as one of my imaginary friends.
From all of us at the Silver house, to all of you: