For about an hour, the ER was quiet after the previous load of patients who were waiting to be seen got called back. During this time, the nurse who invited me to the back quickly, but efficiently, takes me on a brief tour of "The Pit" (as he calls it). Maybe two or three of the 18 treatment rooms are occupied; most of the beds stay empty, waiting for whomever might come this way.
The nurse shows me the cabinets where equipment are stored, the heart monitors with their blank, black screens, the oxygen (and other) tubing, bandages. I see IV stands, some with bags, others empty. It is all very insteresting. I continue to take notes.
I go back outside to the waiting room. Total tour time: ten to fifteen minutes.
I notice the ER waiting room is filling up with people once again. The twin sisters (as well as Billy) are still here; they continue to stare at the television set, where local weather forecasters drone on about the storms that are marching in this general direction.
The storms themselves look rather foreboding: they are packed with baseball- to tennis ball- sized hail (possibly larger), winds up to 70 miles an hour (or greater), extremely heavy rainfall, and quite possibly, tornadoes. Some of the counties west of Tarrant (the county where we are) are already under tornado warnings.
These storms, I have learned, mean business.
The ER may very well be rocking later on, especially if something were to happen (God forbid!).
A little girl with long black hair sits in her father's lap, wheezing. Possibly asthma or maybe croup. The child's face is pale and soaked with sweat. It is obvious the child is in distress. She looks to be around six or seven at most. The father, a big, hulking man with swarthy skin, explains to me in halting, accented English that his daughter, Ameliana, has asthma (HA! I was right).
I pray she is seen soon: the sound of her strident breathing causes people to glance worridly in their direction. It isn't long before she is called back to be seen. Total wait time: four minutes. A lifetime, I'm sure, for the father.
An overweight woman sits in a wheelchair, her fat bubbling over the sides. She is the fattest woman I have ever seen. Her arms and legs remind me of tree trunks. She is hunched over, coughing heavily into a basin. I am dismayed to see that it is blood. The rims of the basin are stained with it. Her friend (daughter?) is at the sign-in desk, demanding for her friend to be seen as she is coughing and vomiting up blood. She sounds very alarmed. I don't blame her. I don't know what is going on, but whatever it is, it surely seems serious. She is finally called back. Wait time: fifteen minutes.
An adorable toddler, roughly around 20 months old, sits in his grandmother's lap; he plays with the rosary beads she holds in one gnarled hand. He is laughing and enjoying himself. I ask the grandmother the name of the child. Sebastian, she tells me. He is here because he got bitten on the leg by a spider.
About this time, the emergency doors blast open. A man is frantically calling for assistance: his wife is having her baby RIGHT NOW!!!! Two nurses and a doctor grab a wheelchair and go running out to assist.
The skies, I've noticed, are rapidly turning stormy. Black clouds are sweeping in from the west. Lightning stabs down in the distance; thunder mutters.
All of a sudden, on the overhead page: 'Code Grey.' I ask a nurse what that means. She explains it means severe storms are in the area. Stay away from windows.
The entire south wall of the ER waiting room is nothing but windows. God help us.
The doctor and nurses who ran out to assist the frantic man trundle their charge through the double doors into the ER. She is screaming in pain.
More people wander in. Many of them are talking about the storms that are approaching. Several of them say that towns to the west have already been hit by tornadoes.
The twin sisters and Billy look nervous. I hear one of the twins ask the other if the hospital has a basement. Billy tells them they don't. They do have a small area on the bottom floor that is partially underground. Maybe we should go there? I find myself thinking as I glance worridly at the turbulent skies outside.
~To be continued.~