Thursday, December 22, 2005

Midnight Run

At 2:00 am, we were awakened by the sound of Matt whimpering in pain in the bathroom. The sound of your own child in real pain is something that pierces right through you, and a sound that wakes you right up. He couldn't swallow, and was having difficulty breathing. A trip to the ER was pretty much a certainty.

By about 2:10, we were on our way to Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital. It always amazes me to think about the wonderful medical facilities available to residents of the St. Louis area.

I'll never forget the time, about 8 years ago, when my mom was visiting from out of town. She wasn't feeling well, and needed to see a doctor. Unfortunately, she did not have medical insurance. I remembered hearing how the old Alexian Brothers Hospital on South Jefferson would treat patients, regardless of their ability to pay.

It was Christmas day when we went down to Alexian Brothers. My mom had worked in hospitals in California, and was immediately impressed with the appearance of the facility. She did not believe me when I told her the care would be provided to her at no cost.

They took her in, gave her a private room, and treated her with dignity, kindness and repect. The doctor was wonderful, cracking jokes and flirting with her. When everything turned out okay, the staff all wished her a Merry Christmas, and sent us on our way. No charge. Mom was floored. She had never heard of anything like this happening in California.

6 months later, she received a note from the hospital, checking in with her, suggesting a donation if she could afford one, and that was it. No pressure. No demand for payment. Zilch; nada. It was another of those experiences we've filed away under "St. Louis Moments".

Alexian Brothers is no more, and at Children's, you have to pay. Fortunately, we have insurance. The place is wonderful, and was Matt's second trip there. His first was about 6 years ago on New Year's Eve. He had an accident, cutting open an inch gash in the top of his head. The ER doc stapled it closed and he was fine.

Children's is the same hospital where the kids washed away in last week's dam failure at Johnson's Shut-Ins were treated. We talked with the nurses about it, and they all said it was stories like those that make their work the best. Given the miraculous nature of it, we figured someday the story would be turned into a network TV event.

3:00 am in the ER is a nocturnal world of strange events. A lady was arguing with the desk nurse about urine test results on her ten-year old daughter. The test showed crack cocaine in her urine, but the mom insisted "there were two 'urines' on the counter" and that the hospital had switched the vials.

She looked over at Matt and me and warned us: "You better watch your urines!". Then she raised her voice, and announced that she was contacting her attorney. She flipped open her cell phone, and left a 3:00 am message on her lawyer's voice mail to file a complaint.

For some reason, the ten year old needed to be seen at another hospital. Even though they were all walking around normally, and appeared to be completely fine, an ambulance and ER team was on its way to drive her to her next hospital stop.

Meanwhile, we were waiting on Matt's test results. When the doctor came in, she told us he was suffering from a bad case of strep throat. A 10-day Rx for penicillin, and he should be fine.

We got back in the car and made the 10-minute ride home, passing the very strange site of seeing the Berra Park athletic fields on the Hill fully illuminated at 5:00 o'clock in the morning.

By this time, Matt was starting to feel better. Call it good luck or bad luck; his Christmas vacation starts today.

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