Yesterday afternoon, R's pain grew so bad that I implored him to let me take him to the Urgent Care in our system (St. Joseph's Heritage). He was finally willing, and I packed a bag with clothes just in case he had to be hospitalized. All the times I did this for my dad and mom had taught me to be prepared.
There was a full waiting room full of unhappy looking people in the waning afternoon light. We were lucky: the Urgent Care was only open until 5:30 and it was already about 3:45. We waited an hour, and then two. As the sun set in a spectacular pink sky, R. pointed out that the place would be closing in 10 minutes; we wondered whether that meant they would throw us out untended to, but it turned out only to mean that no new patients would be admitted after that time. As it was, we were the absolute last people out the door, prescriptions for painkiller and antibiotic in hand for the bladder/urinary infection R had.
Then we had another problem: finding a 24 hour pharmacy. One of the other patients told us there were a few in the other direction, but since I don't drive on freeways and have a pretty poor sense of direction at best, I didn't want to go off looking for them, with R in pain and having to go to the bathroom every five minutes, a process that caused an incredible amount of pain and anxiety.
So we headed back to Irvine. There was a lot of traffic on Chapman ave., too much to stop at every pharmacy that presented itself along the way. Meanwhile, I was getting really hungry, which magnified all the difficulty. We went to three, then four pharmacies, but none were open for prescriptions. Finally, we just went home and looked in the phone book. I ate a rotisserie chicken I had picked up at the last place, and headed off to stand in line with other people at the only 24 hour pharmacy in Irvine.
If the people in the waiting room, sick and uncomfortable, had looked unhappy, the crowd here looked even more miserable. Some had been waiting for 2 1/2 hours or more. The situation could have been dreamed up by central casting and a t.v. writing with a penchant for exaggeration. An orthodox Jew, perhaps from the Chabad down the street, talked non-stop on the cell phone as he waited for his prescriptions, his tzit tzit, the tassels dangling at his waistline, swung jauntily. An exhausted woman with heavy circles under her eyes like a prize fighter told me she had come directly here from taking her daughter to the hospital, and it had been 2 1/2 hours so far. Finally, she gave up, taking one of the prescriptions, an antibiotic, and leaving the rest till tomorrow. Another woman, esconced in one of the few chairs, confided that her sick husband had been waiting out in the car for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Every few minutes, he called her on the cell phone for a progress report. There were only about 5 chairs, though at least 10 people leaned wearily against the counter. The line stretched half-way through the store, while behind the counter, the lone pharmacist, unbelievably a one-armed man, filled prescriptions at a rapid clip. Actually, he was quite nimble, much better than most people would have been with two arms, yet given that this was the only game in town and the stakes were so high, it seemed ridiculous at best to pin all our hopes on this one man with his one arm. But after at least three trips to the counter in the long line, the pharmacist finally came through, and I left with the prescriptions I came for.
Despite the pain pills, it was a very tough night. I don't know how R will go to work tomorrow, if tonight is as bad, how he will calmly do his work when every trip to the bathroom, and there will be many, is as agonizing as the ones I've witnessed thus far have been. Yet I know that he cannot really take off.