Trippin' to Washington County Hospital emergency room not bad

December 18, 2007|By TIM ROWLAND

I am pleased to report that my secret plan to infiltrate the deepest recesses of Washington County Hospital without detection and report back on the quality of health care in Hagerstown was an unqualified success.

Only problem was, I didn't know I had a secret plan to infiltrate the deepest recesses of Washington County Hospital until after the fact. That fact being that I found myself flat on the ground outside a Frederick restaurant and people running every whichaways as if there had been some kind of disturbance or something.

Turns out I was the disturbance. Beth said her first clue of something amiss was when I didn't finish my supper. It concerned me, too, to be honest, and I also couldn't help noticing a suffocating feeling and the sense that everything was going a bit black, like the way you would feel if you inhaled too much carbon monoxide - or attended a Lee Greenwood concert.


I exited for some air and Beth says she found me on a bench, rocking back and forth, pawing at the air and mumbling incoherently. Now, if I had been Al Sharpton, this might not have seemed too much out of the ordinary, but Beth realized instantly that this was not my traditional behavior, save for the mumbling.

She took me by the arm and tried to lead me to the car, but at the halfway point she noticed that the arm had suddenly gone missing and the rest of me along with it. After that, I remember waking up on the pavement and explaining that, no, I didn't want an ambulance, although I would take a BMW if one were available.

Beth knew two things: It would take 40 minutes to get me to Washington County Hospital, while arguing with me over the relative merits of emergency transportation would take a full hour. So she jammed me in the car and away we went. To her credit, if the speed limit on Interstate 70 had been 100 mph, she would not have exceeded it.

She seemed to me to be in an excessively inquisitive mood, and kept asking questions:

"Can you count to 10?"

"1, 2, 3 ..."

"Who's the president?"

"George Bush."

"Which one?"

"The stupid one."

As it turns out, we were just rehearsing, because when I got to the emergency room, the questions started all over again.

"Who's the president?"

"George W. Bush."

"What day is it?"

"I didn't know that when I got up this morning."

The emergency room was OK, compared to some of the horror stories you hear. I didn't have to wait, and everyone was quite attentive. I don't see how the medical staff does it though, and stays so good-natured at the same time. At one point, a poor child came in with an ear infection, screaming at full volume.

"At least we know he's not suffering from shortness of breath," one of the nurses quipped.

As a matter of fact, everyone was wonderful - doctors, nurses, techs, nursing assistants. And I should know, I believe I saw every last one of them over the course of my 20-hour stay. I was tested more often than a Washington County third-grader.

I saw some old friends and made some new ones. I even met a future student who had signed up for an English class I'll be teaching at HCC next semester. Guess I'd better pencil her in for an A. In all, I've never met a friendlier, more professional group of people - top to bottom - in my life, and my thanks go out to all of them.

And keep in mind, I'm not always the easiest person to deal with. As soon as I woke up Thursday, I began to announce my intention of leaving as soon as possible, and the nurse Shannon said brightly, "Oh yes, your wife has already been on the phone with us this morning and warned that you might be a problem."

As to what happened to my melon, that may always be a mystery. People occasionally black out and the reason is never known. I think it's what people used to call a "spell."

Sounds to me as if the cure might be a good, old-fashioned witch burnin.' If I can stand up that long.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on

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