Tuesday, September 6, 2005

In search of Room 212

My husband spent most of last week as a patient at Concord Hospital…and I spent most of it getting lost.

Concord Hospital used to be a pretty simple place to get into. You’d drive up to the visitors’ parking lot, walk up to the automatic doors near the cafeteria, enter the lobby, come face to face with the elevators and push either the “up” or “down” button. Simple.

The night that my husband was admitted to the hospital, however, I discovered that Concord Hospital, as I knew it, no longer exists. The hospital grounds look as if they were in the direct path of a giant meteor.

As I pulled into what used to be the emergency-room parking lot, all I saw was a crater the size of Rhode Island. “Drop off Patients Here,” a sign said.

“Am I supposed to dump you into that hole?” I asked my husband.

He shrugged. “Maybe it’s their way of drumming up more business for the emergency room.”

I backed out and drove to the “new” main entrance, then left my husband in the car and ran into the lobby. I was pleased to see a woman sitting at the information desk. “How do I get to Admitting from here?” I asked.

She stared at me as if I’d just asked her the final question on Jeopardy. “Um, I think it’s up in the emergency room,” she finally said.

“I was just there. The parking lot is a giant hole.”

“You have to park on the roof of the garage,” she said. “Next to the helicopter landing-pad.”

It was my turn to stare. It was bad enough that my poor husband had to be admitted to the hospital, but to be flattened by a helicopter before he even got out of the car would be, well, downright tragic.

“I know that all of this construction is an inconvenience,” the woman said, “but when it’s done, this hospital will be much bigger and better able to serve its patients.”

There was only one patient on my mind at that moment. I went back out to the car and drove up to the crater formerly known as the emergency room and parked where the woman had instructed. Then my poor husband and I walked the 12 miles to the building. Fifteen minutes later, he was settled in his room on the second floor. It took me a half-hour to find my way back to the car.

The next day, my mother and I headed up to the hospital to visit him. We followed the signs that said “Visitor Parking” and were stopped by a hospital guard. “Sorry, the lot is full,” he said.

My mother and I looked past him and spotted at least six empty parking spaces. “I’m just dropping off my mother,” I lied.

“Okay, go ahead then,” he said, stepping aside to let us pass.

I parked in one of the empty spots and my mother and I entered the lobby. An elderly man wearing a smock cheerfully greeted us. “Good afternoon! Where are you headed?”

“Room 212,” I said.

“Well,” he said, looking thoughtful, “if you walk to the end of this hallway and take elevator B up to the first floor, then take a right, switch over to elevator C, take another right, then a left and go straight down the hallway, that should get you there.”

He lost me after the word, “elevator.” I nodded, smiled, and Mom and I were off to search for room 212.

Five minutes later, we were standing in front of two doors that said, “Authorized Personnel Only.” There were no other doors around.

“I think we took a left when we should have taken a right,” my mother said.

By the time we found my husband’s room, it was time to head back home. My mother and I were hungry, thirsty and had blisters on our feet.

“How do we get back to the main lobby?” I asked one of the nurses when Mom and I were ready to leave.

“Hmmm, let me think,” she said. “I never go out that way.”

That was not a good sign.

She recited a lot of “lefts” and “rights” and then mentioned that the lobby was on the ground floor. That was the only thing I remembered when Mom and I entered the elevator. I looked at the buttons. There was a “G” and a “GR.” I pressed the “G” for ground.

The doors of the elevator opened and my mother and I stepped out into the dark depths of the hospital. The hallway looked creepy enough to be the setting for one of those horror movies like, “Dr. Hacker and the River of Blood.”

“Ohmigod!” my mother said. “I think we’re in the morgue!”

We nearly trampled each other in our haste to get back onto the elevator. That’s when I figured out that I should have pushed the “GR” button.

My husband called me from the hospital later that night and said, “Remember, the minute I get discharged, I want you to rush right over here and get me. I don’t want to be stuck in here one minute longer than necessary!”

I laughed. “Then I’d better start heading over there to pick you up as soon as I hang up, because it’ll take me a week to find you.”

“Never mind,” he said. “I’ll call a cab.”