Monday, June 8, 2015

Montalvo Dances with the Grim Reaper

“6:30,” I told him, since my phone had told me it was Montalvo, and he tends to dislike formalities.

“No,” he replied.

A twenty-two year old refusing dinner?

“I’m having surgery! They’re transferring me to Centro Médico right now.”

So I went back home to take a shower, and to inquire if Mr. Fernández, my fellow parent, wanted to accompany me to Centro Médico. This he declined to do, citing the urgent necessity of getting a haircut.

Right, so it was only I stuck between the completely disparate worlds of extended and extreme adolescence and what was, at times, healthcare in name only.

“I cut my fuckin’ hand opening a goddamn bottle of wine at 10:30 this morning,” explained Montalvo to me via his brother in Spain, who had called to wish him well.

“And was there a corkscrew in the house?” I asked

There are times I sound just like my father.

Montalvo peered intently at the television, and completely disregarded me.

There are times he acts just like me.

So there I was with the two of them, since Montalvo’s roommate Alexis—a somewhat bland gay pre-med student, currently more interested in marijuana than school—were both sitting / lying around wondering if the ambulance would show up to take them from one hospital to Centro Médico. Both stared happily at me….

“Who’s your nurse?”

“How the fuck should I know! Shiiit, they sent so many damn people in here, I don’t know nothin’ from nobody! Damn.”

He’s in pain, but he also in a teaching moment, so I point out to him—learning someone’s name and being nice can get you places, such as Centro Médico in an ambulance.     

“That’s their JOB, man!”

Right—so now it’s my job to go find the nurse, identify her and call her “Ivette,” and learn that the ambulance is en camino, or “on the way.”

“From where, Mayagüez?”

That was Montalvo, and Mayagüez is on the other side of the island.

So the ambulance arrives, and we go the place I had been dreading: Emergencia, alias The Anteroom to Hell. Remember that famous Russian Medicine? Well, we do it worse.

It started with the nurse, who successfully did an intake on the patient without actually seeing him: The nurse was at his desk, shouting questions at Montalvo, lying on the stretcher. Then we got the doctor, who spent even less time, but who did drop the news that nothing could be done today—Saturday—but perhaps Saturday? Or maybe, Monday—who knows?

“Motherfuhhh—that dude just blew in and dropped that shit on me and blew out? Fuhhhh!”

“Listen, Montalvo, it’s Saturday afternoon, and in a couple of hours the gun shot wounds and the stabbings are going to start rolling in, and do you think anybody wants to have an operating room being filled with a kid who cut his thumb?”

“Man, I sliced my tendons! You could see ‘em wiggling around in there, when they cleaned it up!” Actually, everybody could see them, since Montalvo had taken a video on his cell phone, and was sharing it in person as well as social-medially.

Right, so we went to “overflow 4,” since there were no curtained-off areas in the ER available, so that meant that Montalvo was lying in a cart in the hall. Actually, it wasn’t a bad place to be, since it was a bit like being in a really bad reality show: A woman was sobbing at the nurse’s station, the nurses were completely oblivious to anything going around them though they were vigorously chatting, the doctors were walking through the unit with unseeing eyes. There was, however, one gentleman interacting with patients, whom I had noticed while filling in the intake questionnaire with Montalvo.

“Religion,” I asked him.

He gave me a long look.

“Look, why the hell does that even matter? Dammit—just leave that question blank! I mean, how is that gonna help heal my thumb?”

So I returned to the “business office,” which featured a worker as spectacularly indifferent as she was inefficient—though not so inefficient that she refused to admit Montalvo into the system, since she didn’t have his insurance information, located on a card located in the pocket located in the wallet located…

…at Montalvo’s house.

“Well, he can’t be here,” she told me.

“Yes, he can, and where is he going to go? Are you going to put him out on the curb?”

“I need the insurance card.”

Right, so I call Alexis, who is sounding vaguer than ever and has sought relief—I begin to suspect—with the help of a substance perfectly legal in Colorado. But he has the wallet, and would be perfectly happy to bring it to the hospital, if only Montalvo hadn’t smashed up and wrecked his car, some three months ago.

“Look, can I just give you the numbers and stuff?” I ask the lady.

“I have to examine the card myself….”

So we go down a road that ends up in a place called Compromise, which is that Alexis will photograph the card, front and back, and send me the photo by text message. Which he does, and which, of course, arrives as a thumbnail which I have no idea how to magnify or open. So I hand the phone over to the woman—so young that it was her grandmother who taught her modern telephony, and she pinches and expands the photo—success!

So I had passed the only interactive person on the Emergency Unit, and then I had noticed that he had had his thumb on the patient’s forehead. OK, as I was chatting with Montalvo, I monitored the man’s progress through the unit—and whatever he was doing, he was doing a lot of it. At last he was at “Overflow 3.”

En el nombre del padre, hijo, y espírito santo…

Could it be?

Well, he came, announced himself as the chaplain, and then placed his thumb—anointed with sacred oil!—smack dab on Montalvo’ forehead, and started to give him, as he had the rest of the Emergency Room…

…Last Rites!

At least, that’s what I presume he did, comprehension being difficult, since his mouth hosted only one tooth.

“Listen, Montalvo, are you good with this?” I asked, in Half Rite. Montalvo, however, believes in good energy, however toothlessly delivered, so he closed his eyes and nodded.

So then it was time to get some food into Montalvo, since yes—there is a cafeteria, and presumably even a meal coming on a tray, but the reviews coming  from Nico, Lady’s husband and visitant after her operation in the same hospital two months ago, were hardly stellar.

“The cafeteria is down this long, dark corridor in the basement. It’s on the left, on the right is the morgue…”

“I won’t be eating that,” said Montalvo, who anyway is a vegetarian. But fortunately, the problem is instantly solved, since there is also a food court, and absolutely all of the health care personnel—since it had now turned five—were carrying little sacks of Burger King and KFC and super-sized drinks, some of which were in super-sized containers, some of which had settled onto the thighs and bellies of their occupants. Oh, and did I mention that virtually all of them were smoking cigarettes as they made their way to the fast food?

Well, he got lucky, my son, and was transferred to a room in the middle of the night. Then the pain got bad, so he got on his call light, and guess what?

“Those bitches were takin’ care of the guy in the next room all night, and did they ever take care of me?”

So his solution?

“I started makin’ these crazy-ass noises…”

He produced something like an Indian war whoop produced by an amplified Canada Goose, and did that attract attention? Certainly, in the form of Security.

“So the security guard says I can’t be makin’ all this noise, and I’m goin’ well, what else am I gonna do it they don’t bring me my pills! So he says I can’t make noise, and I tell him to get some pills, ‘cause the pain is really intense, and that’s when the doctor arrives and tells me the surgery is today, and tells the nurse to get the pills.”

Well, he had his surgery in one corner of the operating room, since the other corner was with a guy who had been in a bar the night before and had been hit in the right eye by a ricocheting bullet.

“So the doctor is telling him, ‘I gotta remove your eye,’ and the guy just loses it and starting wailin’ and all…”

So I’m glad it worked out, though I was well-prepared for any outcome, since what was being advertised on those many signs peppering the campus of Centro Médico?