Maria (Part 3)
By the time we met the doctor on Friday morning I was exhausted! It had been a long week and instead of winding down, it appeared to be gearing up for even more activity. We left his office and went straight to see Maria’s daughter. She was at work and listened intently as I explained Maria’s diagnosis. Tears rolled down her face when she heard about the urgency of Maria’s condition and the unfortunate fact that there was only one option….Somehow, miraculously, we needed to get Maria admitted to the Civil Hospital located more than an hour away.
After a week of burning the candle at both ends, I was tired. I knew I couldn’t make the drive to Guadalajara. Fortunately a friend agreed to drive us. It had been many years since I had been to the Civil Hospital and even then I had never been inside. I couldn’t quite remember how to get there and had no idea where the Emergency room was located. Once we found the massive building which takes up an entire city block, we had to make two full circles around it before locating the emergency room entrance. Even then, we entered through the back door and had to be escorted by an armed guard through the “Authorized Personnel Only” zone before we arrived in the waiting room. When we stepped inside, I looked around. It reminded me of a sight out of a natural disaster movie. There were people everywhere. An elderly woman sat on a stool in the middle of the waiting area. She was moaning and walling in pain. What appeared to be a homeless man slept a dead sleep on the floor. He was lying on a pallet against the far wall. Another man without any legs slept stretched across some chairs in the opposite corner. The room was covered with a shroud of sickness and was pungent with the stench of body odor and urine. As I looked around, I couldn’t believe that this was the best option available for my friend.
After finding a seat for Maria, I walked to the counter to register her. The polite woman behind the glass informed me that Maria would need to be checked by the nurse and approved for registration before we could even put her name on the list. Heeding her instructions, I returned to stand by Maria. I had a feeling we were in for a long afternoon/evening. When the nurse emerged, I quickly flagged for her attention. I knew it essential to get the admittance process started and that would require us to convince the nurse of Maria’s need. I silently called on God for favor and help and then with a sigh of relief said a prayer of gratitude when the nurse directed me to the registration window.
Only one family member is allowed to accompany the sick in the Emergency Room. Since we entered through the back door we managed to by-passed the two sets of officers who carefully interrogated all who enter. But during the registration process, I had to come clean that I was actually not a family member. I was a bit concerned that I would be asked to leave, but God showed mercy for both Maria and me and I was allowed to stay with her. Finally step one was complete.
While waiting to jump through be next hoop, the room had become even more crowded. There was a line forming outside the door with people waiting to just step foot in the room. Suddenly, the security guard came in and announced that in order to make room for the sick, all accompanying family members would have to wait outside. I thought our luck had run out. Fortunately, I have lived in Mexico long enough to understand the phrase “to see if the gum sticks”. (Sometimes rules and announcements aren’t reinforced here like they would be in the states. They are rather ideas or suggestions which are given to see if anyone will respond.) I decided to lay low and watch before standing up to leave. It didn’t take long before the officer returned outside and the threat of being separated from Maria dissipated.
When the nurse emerged and asked whose vitals still needed to be checked, I heartedly waved my hand and pointed to Maria. She motioned for us to enter the small examination room which also served as a secret passageway to the ER. It was our moment to shine! If we didn’t pass this interview we would be returning home tonight and looking for another surgical option for Maria. The nurse had to believe that Maria really was in desperate need.
Earlier that afternoon as we drove to the hospital, I tried to convey to Maria the urgency of being admitted into the ER. I suggested to her that during this very interview would be an excellent time to shed a few tears. After all the tears I had watched Maria shed over the last week, I suspected that this wouldn’t be very difficult. To my surprise, Maria assured me that she would be strong and not cry. In vain, I tried again to explain that indeed this would be THE appropriate moment for tears…. She never quite understood what I was telling her! True to her word, Maria answered all the nurse’s questions just as calm and unmoved as I had ever seen her. Clearly it would be God’s grace that admitted Maria to the hospital, for in comparison to many others in the waiting room, Maria certainly did not look like the most desperate nor sickest person in the room. In fact, many others who looker more sick than Maria had already been returned to the waiting room without being given the opportunity to be examined by the doctor.
When the nurse asked me if Maria had any specific condition which we were already aware of, I thought I saw a flicker of hope at the end of the tunnel.