Who You Gonna Call?

This is the second in a series of articles about my recent trip to the emergency room, my intestinal surgery, and my recovery afterwards. Here is an index to all of the articles in this series.

Once we made the decision that I needed to go to the emergency room yet it wasn’t a “911” type emergency we had to figure out how to get an ambulance. Mom looked in the Yellow Pages expecting to see lots of familiar names of local ambulance companies and she didn’t recognize any of them. I suppose the fact that we’re not intimately familiar with ambulance companies is a good thing but right now we need one. Ohe tried picking a company with a West side address. They told her the soonest they could come with about 11 a.m. and it was currently a little before 9 a.m. now. She asked them to recommend a different company and a suggested a couple. Among them was Rural Metro Ambulance which we had used a few years ago when Mom had some heart trouble when we were at the Lake and she needed to be transported from Johnson County Hospital to St. Vincent Hospital here in Indy. We called them and they said they would be here in 30 to 45 minutes. That sounded great.

Mom and Dad finished getting dressed and started packing things for me to go. Even though I was going to be lying down in the ambulance, there was a good chance they could patch me up and send me home. In that event I would need my wheelchair, a change of clothes, my back brace etc. Additionally there was a chance I would end up being admitted to the hospital which meant that I needed my CPAP breathing equipment.

My St. Vincent Call Button

One essential item we had difficulty locating was my St. Vincent’s call button. About 15 years ago when I was hospitalized with my first bout of diverticulitis I was unable to work the nurse call button. They brought in some guy in the biomedical engineering department. They had a variety of specialized call buttons for disabled people. The most promising one was a rubber pad about 3 inches in diameter that you can lean against to trigger the call. We would put it under the corner of my head and I would tilt my head sideways to trigger it. It works pretty reliably during the day but after laying completely still most of the night it would slip out from under my head or the pillow would sink so that I couldn’t turn my head well enough to trigger it.

The specialized devices had a simple 1/4″ jack that look like a headphone jack where they plugged into the wall above the hospital bed. Dad and I have wired lots of different devices with little easy to push micro switches that I regularly use to control lots of different gadgets. During that first stay years ago, dad tried to create a microswitch gadget I could plug in at St. Vincent’s but for some reason it didn’t work. The hospital engineering guy looked at the one we were trying to create and made one for us that did work. He told me when I leave the hospital just take it home with me and bring it back anytime I come again. I’ve been doing that for 15 years.

A couple of years ago I spent an overnight at St. Vincent with a nasty urinary infection and suddenly the wire and switch no longer worked. Since my previous visit they had rewired the entire hospital call system. The old system used a “normally open” switch that when you close it it would call. The new system was “normally closed” and pushing the button needed to open the circuit. They’v rewired the call button for me and it continued to work fine after that. My only difficulty was that the wire and they used was extremely stiff and sometimes it was difficult for me to hold on to since my arms and hands have gotten weaker over the years.

Anyway… the question was no longer “Who you gonna call?” It was “How you gonna call?” Because we couldn’t find the call button.

My Third Dresser Drawer

The 3rd drawer where I keep all my cables

We always keep the call button in a dresser in our spare room where I keep lots of computer cables and spare computer parts in something we call “The Famous Third Drawer”. Mom and Dad both looked through it thoroughly and could not find it. We wasted a few minutes trying to figure out where else we might have put it. Eventually Dad found it in the third drawer right where belonged. I can’t figure out how they missed it, can you?

Very soon after we found the call button, the ambulance arrived and I was on my way to St. Vincent Hospital Emergency Room. In our next installment I go cruising for chicks in an ambulance and flashback to my first ambulance trip.

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