Dave was rushed to the Mackerel Valley Emergency room.
He’d been walking across the bridge on his way to work when he was mugged, brutally beaten, and tossed over the railing. If that wasn’t bad enough, some idiot left a wood chipper parked under the bridge. As Dave fell toward the open funnel, he instinctively peddled his legs in the air as if doing so would propel him upward. So he landed with his left leg extended below him and his right leg bent up behind.
Luckily (though I suppose luck is relative in this case), the wood chipper jammed before it could consume Dave above the knee, and his right leg was spared entirely. A kindly road worker managed to pull him out, tie a tourniquet around the bleeding stump, and drop him off at the hospital waiting room.
He hopped over to the triage desk and signed himself in. The receptionist told him to have a seat and that she would call for him shortly.
He was a terrifying sight, dripping blood, covered in bruises, and one eye swollen shut completely. He tried to ignore the anxious glances of the people waiting around him. They were mostly hacking plague victims, though there was one kid zipping across the room unhindered by his broken foot.
“David Jones?” Called the receptionist. Three hours had passed since Dave had taken his seat. He hopped eagerly back to the triage desk.
The receptionist handed him a clipboard and asked him to fill in his medical history and insurance information. By this time, he was a bit woozy from blood loss, so he’d trouble recalling all the details. To make matters worse, his attacker stole his wallet leaving him without his insurance card.
“You understand if we can’t file with your insurance, you will be responsible for the cost of your own treatment?” The receptionist explained when she handed back the clipboard.
Dave was slightly distracted by the agonizing pain shooting up from his leg stump and throbbing through his head, so he just nodded.
He returned to his seat and waited a second eternity until, at last, a nurse with a wheelchair entered the waiting area and called his name.
“Hi, I’m Carrie,” she introduced cheerily as she helped him into the chair. “I’ll be taking care of you today.”
“Could I get something for the pain?” Dave asked.
“Of course,” she replied. “Just as soon as the doctor admits you.”
She wheeled him through a labyrinth of hallways and parked him in a treatment room. Actually, it was more like a nook than a room. It had three white walls and a curtain where the fourth wall and door should have been.
She tossed him a clipboard full of paperwork and asked him to fill it out.
“I already filled this out at the front,” Dave explained.
“Oh, reception doesn’t share that information with us,” Carrie replied. “You’ll have to fill in this one for me and then reiterate everything verbally when I come back in.”
“But!” Dave began.
Carrie disappeared behind the curtain.
Dave was having trouble holding the pen in his trembling hand, but he somehow managed to redo everything before Carrie reappeared. He handed her the clipboard.
Carrie flipped through it, took a sheet from the bottom, put it on the top and handed the whole thing back to Dave.
“Please sign the document saying that you declined to take a pregnancy test,” she asked.
“But I’m a man,” Dave protested.
“Yes, but since the Medical Equality Act was passed we have to treat all patients equally when providing medical treatment,” she explained. “Now we can’t treat you until you’ve signed that.”
“If I sign this, will you give me something for the pain?” He pleaded.
She nodded. “Of course.”
He signed the form, she took the clipboard and disappeared. If the physical torment wasn’t enough, the TV in the upper corner of the room was playing soap opera reruns and he couldn’t reach the off switch.
He watched helplessly as Jessica agonized about whether to stay with her current boyfriend, the incredibly sexy Dr. Jamie Dreamheart, or get together with her late husband’s long-lost identical twin brother.
The nurse returned about thirty minutes later.
“Oh, you’re dripping blood!” She observed. “Let me grab some towels.”
“Wait!” Dave called, but she’d already stepped out.
Another thirty minutes passed and she returned with the towels and threw one of the floor beneath his leg stump. She put a paper bracelet on his wrist.
“Alright, Dave,” she said. “Let’s get an IV started, then we can get those pain meds going!”
Dave managed to mouth a thank you.
“Which arm do you prefer?” She asked.
“Oh you’re easy!” She smiled and started tapping the crook of his arm. She frowned and tapped a few more times then poked her head out of the room.
“Rita?” She called. “Can you come look at this?”
An older nurse, presumably Rita, entered.
“I can’t find the vein, Rita,” Carrie stated.
Rita brushed her aside and started tapping viciously up and down Dave’s arm.
“Hmm…” she mumbled. “How about this one?” She pointed to his forearm.
“No,” Carry replied. “He’ll bruise.”
“I just lost a leg,” Dave moaned. “I really don’t care about—”
“Let me go get the butterfly needle,” Rita said and swept out. About thirty minutes later she returned with new equipment. It took about twenty-seven pokes, but they managed to get the IV started.
“Alright, Dave!” Carrie smiled. “The anesthesiologist is just finishing up with someone else and she’ll be in to discuss your pain management options.”
“Can I at least have an ibuprofen?” He pleaded.
Carrie thought. “I’ll have to ask the doctor.”
“Wait!” Dave cried but she’d already swept out of the room.
She swept back in thirty minutes later.
“Hi Dave! So the doctor says you shouldn’t take anything until we are finished running our tests.”
“TESTS?” Dave cried.
“Yes, he’s ordered an X-ray, a CAT scan, and blood work.”
“Well we want to make sure we understand what’s wrong with you before applying treatment.”
“I’ve lost my leg!”
“I know,” Carrie sighed. “But we need to make sure nothing else is wrong with you.”
Dave didn’t have much blood left but the lab team managed to squeeze a few drops out for the tests.
After several hours of imagining, the anesthesiologist caught up with him. She wheeled a cart through the curtain into his treatment room.
“Let’s discuss your pain management options,” she began.
“Give me anything,” he pleaded. “I trust your judgement.”
After confirming Dave wasn’t allergic to nylon, shellfish, eye of frog, or dragon’s blood, Dave finally experienced sweet relief.
Carrie wheeled Dave up to ICU where he received a permanent room, a welcome pamphlet, and a bucket sized water cup with a giant bendy straw. He also got a new nurse—a chipper man named Fred.
After covering Dave’s chest in suction cups and clipping a monitor to each of his fingers, Fred explained that the best thing Dave could do was try and get a good night’s sleep. Sleep sounded wonderful, and Dave managed to doze off despite being completely entangled in wires.
About thirty minutes later, he awoke to the grip of a blood pressure cup.
Fred was standing next to him in the dark.
“Go to sleep, Dave,” Fred whispered. “I’ll just be poking you here for a couple of minutes, don’t mind me.”
He took Dave’s temperature, adjusted the heart monitor clip on his finger, and left the room. Just as Dave was dozing off for the second time, an alarm sounded in the room.
ENT! ENT! ENT!
It continued unceasingly. Dave looked around. What was it? Was he dying? Where was Fred?
He pounded on the nurse call button until Fred stumbled into the room.
“Oh dear, is that IV machine going off again?” Fred grumbled. He adjusted Dave’s IV.
“This is a finicky one,” he explained. “Try holding your arm straight upward and hopefully it won’t go off again.”
Unfortunately, it did happen again, and again, and again, every twenty minutes all night long. At last, around 7:30 Dave managed to fall asleep only to wake two hours later when the door to his room opened. In walked a jittery, red-headed man in a collared shirt and lab coat.
“Good morning, Dave! My name is Doctor Randy Webb and I will be taking care of you!”
Doctor Webb cheerily explained the tests revealed trauma, lacerations, facial and bodily injuries, and the absence of a limb.
“That’s what I said at triage,” Dave complained.
“Oh did you?” Dr. Webb replied. “You know they really never tell me anything around here.” He shook his head. “Well, we are going to have to do surgery on your face and your leg. What’s left of it anyway.”
Dr. Webb laughed.
Dave did not laugh.
“What does that involve,” he grumbled.
“You know, I’m not sure,” Dr. Webb answered. “You’ll have to ask the surgeon. He’ll be here around 11:00 to talk to you.”
“But—” Dave started.
Dr. Webb’s watch beeped. “Alright, great talking to you,” he said glancing at his wrist.
“But!” Dave repeated.
Dr. Webb swept out of the room before he could answer.
A little later someone called a nutritionist came into the room and gave Dave a plate of slightly dried microwave pancakes.
Dave clicked the TV on and started gobbling them up. The same soap opera that tormented him the night before was playing. It was a stupid show, production was cheap, the acting was bad, the characters were shallow. He sat watching it for the next two hours until the surgeon entered followed by a small army of medical students.
Dave jumped and clicked the TV off as quickly as he could find the remote.
“Um, hi,” he said.
One of the students rolled a white board to the end of Dave’s bed.
The surgeon drew a diagram of Dave’s face by making a circle, a dot for one eye, an X for his swollen eye, and a happy curve for his mouth. He started explaining what they were going to do. Dave could only understand a few of the words he was saying, such as incision, puncture, and remove.
The surgeon asked if he had any questions.
“…um… how long will it take my eye to heal?” He asked.
The surgeon laughed. “I actually don’t know. You’ll have to ask the Ophthalmologist that.”
“Opht-what?” Dave asked but the surgeon and his students were already pouring out the door.
So it continued. Experts came in and out throughout the day, there was a different one for every question.
Dave was glum. There was one doctor on his soap opera. Dr. Jamie Dreamheart. He could do ANYTHING: deliver babies, heart surgery, facelifts, treat STDs, (spread STDs) there was no medical question he couldn’t answer.
Dave went into surgery early the next morning. When he awoke, the surgeon came in to speak with him. Again Dave didn’t really understand what he was saying, but he seemed pleased with himself. Dave decided to take this as a good sign.
He finished by saying, “When we get you back to your room, Fred will show you how to take care of the cavity.”
“I’m sorry, what?” Dave asked.
“Where we removed your eye,” the surgeon explained.
“REMOVED MY EYE?” Dave exclaimed.
“Yes,” the surgeon replied. “I am afraid cutting it out was the only thing I could do.” Despite his words, he did not seem regretful. In fact there was a gleam in his eye and the corner of his mouth twitched as if he was trying to conceal a smile. “Don’t worry, most insurance plans cover fake eyes!”
The days passed and with them came specialists, surgeries, pills, and IV alarms in an endless flurry. Fred was his nurse the entire time. The man never ate, never slept, never sat down, yet was always in a good mood. Dave wasn’t sure if he should admire Fred’s endurance or worry that a man so sleep deprived was medicating him.
When at last the surgeries were done and the stream of specialists exhausted, Dave received a visit from the billing department. The representative was a woman with a perpetually bored expression and a clipboard piled high with pamphlets. When she introduced herself, Dave was relieved that he’d managed to find his insurance information through the online portal. He gave it to her and relaxed as she left the room.
A little while later, she returned to inform him that his insurance wasn’t going to cover his medical bills because he hadn’t pre-notified them before checking into the hospital.
“HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO NOTIFY THEM!” Dave cried. “I DIDN’T PLAN ON GETTING MUGGED!”
“I’m sorry,” the billing lady said. “You can pay in installments if you like. It looks like you are going to owe about eight hundred and fifty thousand dollars.”
He sprang out of bed on his good foot and ripped himself free from the monitors and cords. Then he hopped to the window like a madman as the billing lady frantically called for help. He threw open the window and leapt toward freedom.
Fred entered with security just in time to see him disappear.
But poor, unfortunate Dave did not escape that day. You see he came down onto a lighting rod that impaled him directly through the heart. He was taken to surgery where it was determined he needed a new heart.
Dr. Webb just happened to have a heart available. It belonged to one of his former patients, a certain CEO by the name of Scott Allen. It was horribly diseased but the best Dave could afford without insurance.
After several months, he was released from the hospital. Since he couldn’t afford prosthetics, he settled for a peg leg and an eye patch.
He returned home a different man, no longer the upright citizen he used to be. Scott’s diseased heart was filling him with evil desires. That night he illegally downloaded hundreds of movies.
This action filled him with such exhilaration, he decided to pursue a career as a full-time pirate. He flew to Seattle and stole one of Lake Washington’s historic sailing ships. He picked up a crew and started commandeering ferries on Puget Sound.
He’d put the terrified passengers ashore and leave to distribute their vehicles to sketchy used car dealerships in Tacoma.
The moral of this story is never buy a used car without first verifying it is ethically sourced.