I was hospitalized in the desert town of Lancaster, California. Since it was a long two-hour drive away from where I lived that summer, I organized this day so that we wouldn’t have to come back in case my halo did come off. My entourage included my two teenage siblings and my cousin who drove us. With every location under 15 minutes away, this was our schedule:
10:00 am – appointment with orthopaedic surgeon (for my left arm)
12:00 noon – CT scan
2:00 pm – appointment with neurosurgeon to evaluate CT results
4:00 pm – appointment with orthotist for new neck brace (in case halo could come off)
5:00 pm – appointment with neurosurgeon to place new neck brace (in case halo could come off)
Taking into consideration the dreadful traffic for which Los Angeles is known, we had to leave by 7:30 am. That was the earliest I had to wake up in three months… and I barely got any sleep the previous night because I was so anxious about the whole ordeal.
At 9:45 am, we were early for my first appointment with the orthopaedic surgeon. In all my previous follow-up appointments the average wait time had been 1 1/2 hours, so I came prepared with my Kindle e-Reader. I saw this one guy at the clinic who I’d seen before. He was in a wheelchair with a cast on his left leg. Six weeks ago, he saw me at the clinic parking lot with my halo and asked, “What happened to you?” “Car accident, you?” I replied. “Man vs. motorcycle.” Ouch.
That day he was with a lady whom I assumed was his girlfriend or wife. We exchanged hellos when we saw each other (disabled people stand united!). I told him, “Hey, maybe my brace can get removed today.”
“MAYBE, if the CT scan shows it’s all good,” I cautioned.
“Hey, at least it’s a step in the right direction, right?” With that he gave me a great fist bump.
I still hadn’t been called to see the doctor by 11:15 am and the CT-scan-of-all-CT-scans was in 45 minutes. For the third time I went to the receptionist and asked when I was going to be seen. I explained that I had a very important CT scan appointment to make for my halo brace to get removed. She probably took pity on me (wouldn’t you?), left her desk for a while, came back and said, “They’re going to call you soon.”
Thank you, lady!!!
I saw my orthopaedic surgeon for a follow-up. He was quite impressed when I showed him the progress with my left arm as I was at least 80% mobile and functional then. I told him the whole deal with the halo brace removal and possibly going back home soon. After I thanked him profusely for all his kindess and compassion since I broke my arm, we said our good-byes. Never will I have a surgeon that looked so much like Woody Harrelson. The receptionist who expedited my wait time probably went on her lunch when I tried to look for her to thank her.
We arrived at the hospital’s outpatient radiology facility at 12:10 pm. I panicked when I saw the long line up at reception… but there was really no need for it. I was told I would have to wait an hour for my turn.
An hour passed. During that time my entourage left to eat lunch while I waited until they came back with a salad for me. I asked the receptionist when I was going to be seen. “Another 45 minutes,” she said. Umm.. that’s not going to work. I had my appointment with the neurosurgeon at 2! Apparently the outpatient clinic was accepting stat patients (those with life-threatening conditions) from the hospital at the time, so everyone on the queue was moved down. Though I didn’t want anyone dying because they didn’t get their scan on time, the incredibly long wait time was just unacceptable. The guy next to me was even worried that the contrast liquid he drank for his MRI would lose its effect by the time they saw him. We had no choice but to sit there and wait in vain while we read our respective books.
I called the offices of both my neurosurgeon and orthotist to reschedule my appointment later in the afternoon. Luckily they complied, and I was to see the orthotist at 4:00 pm and my neurosurgeon at 5:00 pm. I waited again. At one point I was walking around the waiting area when an old man approached me, “You are so brave, you are going to be alright.” Random. “Yeah, I know. Thank you,” I said.
By 3:00 pm, three hours after my scheduled appointment, I still wasn’t seen. Frustrated and angry, I went up to the receptionist once more. Instead of blatantly expressing my frustration and anger, I surprisingly burst into tears.
“It’s just that I really need this CT scan today…” I whimpered.
I think I caught her off guard. She phoned someone to ask how far down the queue I was. Third. Okay. I hurried to the bathroom to calm down.
At long last, a young Mexican or Filipino radiology assistant called my name. He led me to another waiting area. UGH. What’s the point of all these different waiting areas?!?! When he came back he led me to the actual CT scan room. He asked, “What happened?” As you can tell, this was not an unusual question for someone with metal rods on her head. I now forget the rest of our conversation, but at one point we agreed that it’s important to joke around and to have a lighthearted outlook despite the circumstances.
He told me a story about his father who lost his sight a few years ago. When his father, who used to be an architect, became blind his entire family really had to adjust to take care of him. Once at the dinner table his father asked, “Can you pass me the salt?” To which he said, “It’s just right beside you, can’t you see it?” He immediately realized what he just said and they all laughed about it.
In and out the CT machine I went. I painstakingly waited three and a half hours for this $275, two-minute scan. During the scan I prayed to God that my bones healed well enough.
At the orthotist’s office we wasted away waiting again.
In my haste with the day’s events, I completely forgot that I needed a prescription from my neurosurgeon for this new brace. That’s why I originally scheduled an appointment with him first. Thankfully his office was able to fax the prescription over, but it obviously took some time.
Ready with my new brace in my hands in case my CT scan revealed good results, I anxiously waited at the neurosurgeon’s office. I was called and my sister and I went into the examination room. After some time my neurosurgeon came in and said, “It looks good!”
“Oh my god, really???”
“Yes, you’re all healed.”
I could not contain my joy. At that moment all the hardship, anxiety, and troubles the halo brace brought into my life disappeared. Minutes later I would be free from that cage on my head.