Dude, Where’s My Wheelchair?

It's cool, Hahnemann. I'll just drag myself to get an x-ray. BY ERICA PALAN

“Can I please have a wheelchair?” I asked the x-ray technician. He seemed a little surprised, but said, “Yeah, sure. Let me find one.”

“Find one?” I thought. It was an emergency room. Shouldn’t wheelchairs be pretty accessible?

These were the thoughts running hobbling through my head on Sunday afternoon as I sat in a hallway at Hahnemann University Hospital. I’d been there for two hours, seeking treatment for the toes I’d clumsily broken and dislocated moving furniture in my living room.

The nurses and technicians were kind and knowledgeable, but for reasons I still don’t understand, they kept making me walk around on my sore foot. I couldn’t put any weight on it, so I wound up sort of half-hopping, half-dragging my right leg as I shuffled from the waiting room to triage and from triage to the hallway where I received all my care. Before I asked the technician for a wheelchair, he seemed perfectly content to let me limp down the long hallway to get x-rays.

And it wasn’t just me. A sweet, talkative older woman with a torn ligament in her leg was camped out nearby. When she asked to call a relative, a hospital worker pointed to a phone across the room. “I should just walk?” she asked incredulously. She wound up doing the same kind of limp-shuffle-drag maneuver I’d adopted and grimaced in pain as she made her way back to her seat.

I’m a grade-A klutz, so I’ve had foot and leg injuries before. This is the first time I haven’t immediately been given a wheelchair in the ER. It wasn’t busy—I’d been one of only three patients in the waiting room—so it seems unlikely that all the unit’s chairs were occupied. I’m no medical professional, but common sense tells me that walking around on broken or torn body parts does more harm than good. What’s the deal, Hahnemann?

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