One night, I had a dream. In my dream I saw a man standing outside a gleaming city of tall buildings, connected by skyways. There was a hustle and bustle of people from all walks, dressed in all manners of garments from business suit and tie, to dirty work clothes. From beautiful middle eastern garments to “pants on the ground” gang colors.
CITY OF THE INFIRM
The man stood in front of the most prominent building in the city and read a sign over the entrance that read, “City of the Infirm.” The man was in obvious pain and distress. With a deep breath to gather courage, he entered the grand portal and stepped inside. He was greeted there by a magnificent foyer that seemed to extend forever in all directions, including up. The architecture featured Mahogany and stacked stone, water features and hanging plants, but he could not determine where he should go. There were signs everywhere, pointing in every direction, and some of them were color coded with corresponding directional lines on the floor. People were going every which way; many of them in white coats and different colored uniforms. They all seemed too busy to help him find his way, so he wandered…
After a time, the man stumbled upon a desk with a sign labelled “Information.” There were several people in line at the desk and he fell in behind them, and watched for a number of minutes while a very nice older lady attempted to answer questions and give directions amid incessant interruptions from a phone on the desk. Finally, it was his turn! He explained that he was very sick, did not have any appointments, but needed someone to help him. The very nice lady told him to follow the red line on the floor to the Department of Emergency and ask for the Nurse of Triage, who would tell him what to do next.
DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY
The man did as he was instructed, and, after a time, found himself at the end of a hall, entering into another large lobby with rows and rows of chairs, TV’s playing, and all manners of people. Many of the people where crying and moaning. Some of them had towels and bandages wrapped around injured appendages. Others were asleep in the chairs, and yet others stared at the TV’s with lifeless expressions of disinterest. Then the man saw another desk with several long lines. He picked one and waited his turn while several nice clerks asked the same questions to each person. “What is your name?” “What is your date of birth?”, and “What is the nature of your emergency today?”
When it was the man’s turn he answered, “I am called Much Afraid”, gave his date of birth, and explained that he felt like he was going to die if he did not receive help. The clerks told them that someone would be with him shortly, and placed on his wrist a plastic bracelet with his name and date of birth. They told him that he is now a “Patient” and that is what he should be by taking a seat. So, he did. He then watched as people in the same colored uniforms stepped out of a row of doors on the opposite side of the waiting room from where he entered, calling every name under the sun except his. Then, he finally heard his name.
The man, still obviously in pain, struggled to his feet and shuffled to the one who called his name. She told him that she was the Nurse of Triage, asked him his name and date of birth, and compared it to his wrist band. He asked why she did that and she told him it was to keep him safe. She said he should make sure everyone did the same while he was in the City of the Infirm. She took him through the door and asked him to have a seat on a rather strange type of couch covered with butcher block paper, a thought which made Much Afraid, more afraid!
She then proceeded to ask many questions about him, his family, and the nature of his illness. She put instruments in his mouth, on his finger and around his arm. She stuck his arm with a needle and collected tubes of his blood. Finally, she connected a machine with wires to several spots on his chest and abdomen, and the machine printed out a long strip of paper that the Nurse of Triage studied intently. When she was done she said that his complaints were serious, so they would have a doctor see him right away. She said she would be right back, and went out a different door than they had entered, the long strip of paper in her hand.
She returned with a man in a white coat. The man introduced himself as Doctor E.R. He asked Much Afraid for his name and birth date and compared it to his wrist band. He told Much Afraid that he was in grave danger, but that he was in good hands. He said that they needed to take him to the Laboratory of Cardiac Catheterization because his heart was in distress, and Doctor Cardiology would be the best person to see what is going on. Then, a team of people in different uniforms swept into the room, put him on a rolling stretcher, and whisked him through the back door of the exam room. They rolled him for what seemed like forever through many halls, through a tunnel, around many turns and up an elevator. Then the stretcher came to an abrupt halt.
LABORATORY OF CARDIAC CATHETERIZATION
Much Afraid looked around and he saw he was in a room full of machinery that looked like a mad scientist’s torture chamber one might see in a science fiction movie. Then, as the team of people lifted him from his stretcher to a long thin table in the midst of the machinery, a lovely lady in a white coat introduced herself as Dr. Cardiology. She asked Much Afraid for his name and birthdate and compared his answers with the bracelet. She then explained that he is now known as Patient STEMI and that they needed to perform a procedure to save his heart and his life and asked his permission. He told her he was Much Afraid, but she assured him that she had performed this procedure on hundreds of Patient STEMI’s and many of them had moved on from the City of the Infirm to the State of Well-Being.
Much Afraid had heard of that land and very much wanted to go there, so he consented to the procedure. The team of people started a buzz of activity. Clipping hairs, poking, sticking, and calling out to each other with instructions, questions and answers. Then they put a needle in his arm and hooked him to plastic bags of liquid with long plastic tubes. They told him he would begin to feel calm and relaxed, and he did. Soon he awoke to the pleasant face of Dr. Cardiology. “Patient STEMI, you did great. We fixed the problem in your heart and you are well on your way to the State of Well-Being! Much Afraid was ecstatic, thanked the doctor, and cried tears of joy. Dr. Cardiology said, “get this man a new bracelet. He is no longer Much Afraid, he is now Hopeful!” The team did as she instructed as “Hopeful” drifted back to sleep, relieved of all his burdens and cares.
When he awoke, he was in a real bed in a room that looked more like his bedroom at home, though he was still hooked to a bag of fluids and to another machine with wires. A man entered into his room and told Hopeful he was Nurse Harried, a Nurse of the Floor, and was there to give him his medicine. Hopeful took the medication as instructed, and made pleasant conversation with the man as he went about checking the fluid, and the machine, and writing things down. The nurse soon bid farewell and started washing his hands at the sink when Hopeful had a terrible feeling in his chest. Then he looked, horrified at the Nurse of the Floor and said, ” I am once again “Much Afraid,” and no longer “Hopeful.” The Nurse looked at him curiously and then became very much afraid himself, as he said, “Is your name not Stable?” Nurse Harried then realized his mistake. He had given the medicine to the wrong patient.
Much Afraid remembered the instructions of the Nurse of Triage, “Make sure everyone checks your name and date of birth, it will keep you safe.” Much Afraid could not help but laugh at the irony of surviving a heart attack and then dying from a mistake, as the pain in his chest subsided and darkness fell over him. Somewhere in the distance he heard a loud voice calling, “Code Blue!, Code Blue!” It was obvious he would never travel to the State of Well-Being. He had lost his way, forever.