When Patients Lose Patience: Meghan O.: Memoir

Meghan Ogrinz

Mr. Jockers

Period 1 ILA

Feb. 10, 2017


When Patients Lose Patience


The thick, wooden door swung open, allowing a cold gust of wind to sweep through our small, Nordic hotel room. My dad practically fell into the room, stumbling.

“Get up! Put on your coats and gloves and snow boots!” He yelled, loud enough to wake the entire hotel, his face a dark shade of red.

I carefully climbed down the ladder, off the top of the bunk bed, and reached for my grape-colored jacket. As I pushed my arms through its puffy sleeves, I noticed my dad was still standing in the doorway, his eyes darting around the room.

Suddenly, he leapt toward the dresser, and pulled open one of its bottom drawers. He began frantically digging through the neatly folded clothes, throwing any clothing in his way into a heap on the floor.

As I struggled to find my snow boots, I realized my mom was not in the room.

The drawers of the dresser rattled as my dad flung some open and shoved some closed, until his search abruptly ended, and it was silent for a moment. In his hand, he held up the small, black box that we bring on every trip.

The first aid kit.

Immediately, a wave of worry rushed over me. Before each trip, while packing our bags, my parents would always remind my sister and me that we were bringing this little kit. We couldn’t lose it. We were only allowed to use it in emergencies.

“What happened?” I asked instantly, nervously trying to tie my snowboots without my finger ending up in the center of the knot again. There was a small pause, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to get the answer.

“Mom slipped on the ice,” my dad responded, and I realized he was out of breath. Of course I wondered if she was okay, but I was afraid of hearing the obvious answer.

“Can I bring my iPad for the car ride?” Lexi asked. Clearly, she was not paying attention to the situation.

“No,” my dad said, with hints of disappointment and sleepiness in his voice. “Of course not,” he added louder.

A few seconds later, we all ran out to the car. My mom sat in the passenger’s seat, leaning against the window. ¨Are you okay?¨ I asked.

¨No.¨ she said – a frustratingly short, one word answer.

Pop! Pop! Pop! My dad rapidly entered the word “hospital” into the GPS, and several addresses appeared on the screen.

¨Where did you -¨ I was interrupted.

¨Quiet, Meghan,¨ my dad said quickly. As our car pulled out of the parking lot, streaks of light from the streetlamps penetrated the windows of our car, and for a brief moment I could see my mom’s hand  pressing an ice pack against her head.

The car ride lasted forever, and when we finally reached the hospital, it was closed, so we tried a second, further one. Also closed.

My head propped up against the side of the car, I stared out the window. Most stores appeared to be closed. They didn’t even have advertisement lights or security lights in the parking lot. Everything was dark. It was as if Reykjavik had shut down. Where were all the people?

The car jolted to the side, then came to a sudden stop. My dad´ s rushed, sloppy parking maneuver must have been what had woken me up.

¨Everyone go inside,¨ He said sleepily, and I remembered that he had been driving the whole time I was asleep. We ran out of the car and into the hospital, carefully avoiding the thin sheet of ice that coated most of the parking lot. The transparent doors to the hospital slid open, emitting a low “shhhhhh,” which reminded me of the sliding doors on Star Trek.

I had expected that the hospital would be warm inside, that I would feel warm air stepping through the door, but instead, the hospital was nearly as cold as the environment outside. Even the large waiting room resembled Iceland’s lifeless landscape. It was sparkling white. Everywhere. A custodian in a grey uniform pushed an enormous cart of cleaning supplies down a never-ending hallway, leaving a trail scented of Windex.

Grumpy, half-asleep patients slumped in the short metal chairs of the waiting room. Bundled in colorful layers of winter clothing, most of their eyes were fixed on the digital  clock above the front desk. Their drooping posture and falling eyelids suggested they had been waiting for a long time.

“Hello?” my dad was already at the front desk, although there didn’t appear to be an employee behind it.

Cough! Cough! An older man in a long, dark coat covered his face with his sleeve, and I remembered where I was. Immediately, I went over to a Purell dispenser I’d notice on the way in, giving myself several squirts of the cold, clear goo.

A woman dressed completely in white, except for her large blue nametag, walked at sloth-speed down the hallway, and I predicted that the front desk was her destination.

Making the same assumption, my dad called, “Hi. My wife needs to see -”

In a thick Icelandic accent, she began talking as he was still speaking, “I’m sorry sir, but we are not taking any patients right now.” Time for the explosion, I thought.

“What do you mean, you’re not seeing anyone?” My dad responded, agitated. “This is a hospital!”

“In our country, on New Year’s Eve, everyone stops what they are doing from 9:00 to 1:00 in the morning.” She explained. Based on his expression, I could tell he didn’t know whether to take it as a joke or not. Neither did I.

“Why?” He asked, a few people in the waiting room trying to hide the smirks they were growing. It must have been a familiar story for them.  

“We come together and watch a comedy movie, called Áramótaskaupid, on the television. It is an annual tradition.”

My mom, dad, sister, and I stared at her in disbelief. The unhelpful employee typed something on her computer, and then took a few seconds as a break to bite her perfectly polished, vibrant red and blue nails. She clicked the mouse a few times, and the TV in the waiting room buzzed, popping to life, translations of the script scrolling at the bottom of the screen.

This was what was keeping my mom, and all of these other people, who didn’t look as injured (except for the guy who blew his thumb off while playing with fireworks), from receiving medical attention.

A movie.

What ever happened to the Hippocratic Oath?

My dad kept talking with the employee, but their conversation soon blurred into a background noise. I began thinking of people who could have a lot more serious injuries, maybe from a car accident, who were being denied to see a doctor. How many other people, not just in this hospital, were also being ignored?

“Sir, there’s nothing I can do. You’ll have to wait until 1:00 a.m., when the show ends. Then, after we’ve taken everyone else here, your wife can see a doctor,” She said, but her eyes suggested she was lying. There’s nothing I can do, she’d said. She was just being lazy.

So we waited, for hours, in the cold waiting room. There was nothing to do but worry and study the room’s details. The clock above the front desk. The bucket of soapy water a custodian had forgotten. Some magazines in a foreign language on a nearby table. The usual options of playing games on my dad’s phone was not available. He dad didn’t want to risk draining the battery, just in case he needed to call someone. I was jealous that Lexi fell asleep. She would wake up feeling like only a few seconds had passed.

Extremely bored, I began flipping through the pages of the Icelandic magazine, looking for interesting pictures, but I soon became aware that the crinkling of the paper was a sharp, annoying sound, and the only noise in the room, so I closed the magazine and set it back down on the table.

I’m not sure when I fell asleep, but I must have slept for several hours, because when I looked at the clock, it was around 1:30. My parents were not in the room. They must be with a doctor, I assumed. Lexi was still sleeping. Now that I had more energy, I was feeling more impatient. To my relief, in a few minutes my parents stepped out of the door that connects the waiting room to the rest of the hospital.

“Are you okay?” I asked my mom, curious about what the doctor had told her.

“Yes, I’m fine. The doctor just said I needed to rest and…” and as I’d hoped, she began to tell me about the details of her appointment.

During the car ride back to the hotel, my parents expressed their thoughts on the hospital’s service, wanting to make it clear to Lexi and me that the hospital had not been setting a good example for us. My dad said, “Sometimes you have to ignore traditions so that you can do the right, moral thing.”


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