June 19th, 2011:


Two days after my sidewalk spill, my daughter Heidi drove me the 30 miles to Harbor UCLA Hospital in Torrance. Thirty miles isn’t far in the middle of the night, but in LA Monday morning traffic, it will take an hour or more. We arrived at 9:30 a.m., found parking, and Heidi guided me to a very large waiting room, which wasn’t yet full.

Despite my bruised face—I looked like I’d been in a traffic accident—I was told I didn’t look in my 60s! It’s great to start with a compliment, especially when little children couldn’t help but stare when they took a gander at my red and purple face, my arm in a splint, and my leg clasped straight by the immobilizer.

We sat for hours as the room filled up. The excitement that day on the TVs around the room was the Michael Jackson child abuse trial. The verdict was to be announced at 1:30; by the time he was pronounced not guilty, Heidi and I were getting closer to actually seeing a doctor.

There was a lengthy process of elimination before a doctor looked at me, but the staff was polite and the waiting room had a reasonable sound level. I was quite patient, after all I had been raised with military health care: serious cases were first on the list and it always took hours to see a doctor.  In the meantime, it was fascinating to see all the different cultures waiting for care. Los Angeles has a larger cultural mix than any other city in the world. Many came as a family unit, even if only one family member was hurt or sick.

When I finally saw the admitting nurse, he was kind enough to assign us to the urgent care side of the emergency area where we would see a doctor for an evaluation. I saw two doctors and got X-rayed before I finally arrived to see the orthopedist in the early evening. The first good news was that my nose wasn’t broken.

So many attractive doctors for "pain" control!

Harbor Hospital is a teaching hospital affiliated with UCLA, and I enjoyed the enthusiasm of the young doctors (looking back at the incident, I can see why I enjoy “Gray’s Anatomy” on TV). My orthopedic surgeon was a tall, handsome Asian fellow and I wondered how many nurses and/or female doctors were interested in him.  Dr. Lin had me lie on the examining table. “Can you lift your right leg?” he asked. When I could—I was proud that all my exercising had strengthened my legs—he told me a cast would be suitable and no operation was necessary.

The wrist was another matter: I’d need a pin inserted to straighten it out. Since there was an opening for an operation the next day, he’d see if he could get me into this very busy hospital.  A bed was available but I wasn’t ready for a room yet; I needed a cast for my right leg from ankle to mid-thigh and a splint for my right arm. A nice-looking older Latin man was the cast technician and his “bedside manner” made everything seem more positive. I hadn’t been in a hospital for years and appreciated all the friendly medical staff—it made things so much easier and fun. I flirted with and complimented them all.

I hadn’t been in a wheelchair since my son was born, 33 years before. Heidi tagged along as an attendant wheeled me into a four-person hospital room. I hadn’t been prepared to be admitted, over 10 hours after we’d arrived, but circumstances demanded it. It felt strange to get into a hospital gown and wiggle my way into a narrow bed, and I felt a bit abandoned when Heidi left.

Upcoming: Hospital life and the Operating Room.



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