Tuesday, 11 October 2011
How Many Hours?
As I sat in Outpatients this afternoon waiting with Cameron for his Epileptologist appointment the thought crossed my mind - How many hours of my life have I spent in this waiting room - waiting?
For fifteen and a half years I have sat in that room watching the world go by. It has changed over the years, walls have been painted, new flat screens installed and the colouring in sheet themes have changed to include new TV characters. Today I was surprised by a new admin system, I no longer have to put my little slip of paper in a box to alert the nurse that we have arrived. It felt really weird to not do something that I have done hundreds of times before. Sometimes several times in a day and some weeks, almost every day.
I once spent all day in outpatients for an audio appointment. We watched them close down for lunch and then we were asked to leave and let back in later. One day we sat until 8pm waiting for an Epileptologist appointment. There is a cleaner who one day commented about the day patients were still waiting at 8pm at night and I said - I know, we were one of them.
I've watched parents abuse receptionists and storm out because they've been waiting twenty minutes! I've watched children sleep and parents fret. Toddlers run away and get into strife in consultation rooms and children throw playdough at walls.
Every time we visit I take note of the faces I know and have known for many years. Today there was only one. We used to have a receptionist who knew us so well that she would leave her desk and come and talk to Cameron to while away the hours. It was very sad when she finally escaped the abuse of parents who didn't understand that it wasn't her fault they were waiting. She was a friendly face that we looked forward to seeing.
We've visited a lot of the departments in outpatients - ENT, Audio, Opthamology, Neurology, Epileptology, Pediatrics, Psychology and a couple of others that I can picture the rooms but not the departments name.
Sometimes there are happy moments associated with visiting Outpatients such as when the Clown Doctors visit with their zany entertainment and distracting games. Our favourite receptionist once gave Cameron a special car racing Teddy Bear which had been donated by a racing car driver. Occasionally we catch up with an acquaintance or student from our school but very rarely. You would think with all the hours we have spent waiting and the thousands of people we have sat waiting with we would see people we know but no, hardly any.
There is a certain level of stress associated with waiting in Outpatients related to toileting, sustagence and boredom. Murphy's Law if you take your child to the toilet your child's name will be called and likewise if hunger or thirst gets the better of you. Even worse if your child vomits or empties their body in some other way - the staff don't seem prepared for such events and you always end up feeling very uncomfortable while mild attempts are given to assist you. (If you're lucky) Over the years I have seen every possible way to occupy a child happen before me but ultimately they have to wait and Cameron has learnt to be extremely patient and sit quietly while he waits.
It seems strange to look back and remember when I first walked into the strange new world of Outpatients with my baby in my arms and now I walk in with my teenager by my side. I've learnt to be extremely patient, observant and on guard for any run away toddlers who may collide with my shins at any moment. I've met some interesting people and observed some interesting things but I do wish I could get back all the hours I have spent sitting in those uncomfortable chairs staring at those boring walls and wondering - How much longer?