Can't call it a waiting room any longer

I hate hospitals. I don't like anything about them. I hate the architecture, the furniture, the parking decks, the overpriced gift shops, the gowns, the smell, the food - you name it, I hate it.

I don't like visiting people there, and I certainly don't like being a patient. Most of all I hate the wait, whether it's waiting to see someone or to be seen by a doctor. God, how I hate the wait.

That said, thank God for Gwinnett Medical Center and the good people who work there.

Now let me be perfectly clear: Despite what my friends, family and girlfriend might say (some less tongue-in-cheek than others), I did not break my big toe on purpose to get out of moving.

That said, I did break it Friday and broke it "impressively," the orthopedic doctor said.

Here's a safety tip: When moving out of your third-floor apartment and going downstairs with a coffee table, it's extremely important to make sure you're all the way down before taking a big step forward. I've had worse feelings than the one I had in that nanosecond where I realized I had one more stair to go, but not many.

After I got my knee to stop bleeding and came to the conclusion that I had probably done more than sprained my big toe, I called my girlfriend and uttered one of my least favorite sentences that I've ever had to speak in life.

"I need to go to the emergency room," I said.

"You really don't want to move, do you?" she replied.

By the time she got to my apartment, I had talked myself out of it.

Emergency room, Friday afternoon, Gwinnett County. No way, I thought. There'll be hundreds if not thousands of people there. Construction accidents, car crashes, baseballs to the head, West Nile virus, maybe a stab wound or two - broken big toes will be all the way at the bottom of the list. I'll die of old age in the waiting room. It's just a sprain. I'm not going.

An hour later the throbbing told me otherwise. So off we went. I began preparing myself for the wait. Maybe I'll be home by sunrise, I thought. I checked in about 6 p.m. I told my girlfriend to note the time. We could set a record, I thought. It turns out we did, but not the kind I predicted.

Ten minutes after arriving, a nurse was taking my blood pressure, temperature and asking about my toe.

"We're going to put you on FasTrak," she said.

As I was to find out, no sweeter words can be heard in the emergency room.

Within minutes I was hobbling down the hall to a bed. A few minutes later it was off to X-ray. A few minutes after that my knee was getting a proper dressing. Then a pain pill, a splint, a quick course on walking with crutches, sign here, here and here, a co-pay and I'm on the way to the pharmacy for more medication.

The whole time each nurse and doctor is smiling, treating me cheerfully, quickly and professionally.

"Must be a slow day around here," I said to one nurse.

"Actually, we're swamped today," she said.

I'd have never guessed.

The whole ordeal ended up taking a little over two hours from "I broke my toe" at check-in to "I'll have a No. 7" at the drive-through on the way home.

All my life, half the story of any trip to the emergency room has been the wait. People always use the same formula. They tell you how they got hurt, how bad it was, and how long they had to wait in the emergency room.

"I sat there with a broken leg for 14 hours," one guy says.

"That's nothing. I had a knife sticking out of me for two days before they even gave me a Band-Aid," says another.

A third guy lifts his shirt and says, "See this bullet hole? Sat there so long it finally stopped bleeding, so I just went home."

But no longer. People will have to change their stories because FasTrak is pure genius. I was out of there so fast I almost felt cheated. What do you mean I have to go? I just got here.

Whoever devised this system, bless you. You've climbed the Mount Everest of hospital administration. You've looked down on the waiting room and said, "No more will you be a 'waiting' room. From now on you will be known as a 'hurrying' room."

As for the nurses, doctors, technicians and orderlies who make it happen, ask for raises. You earned them.

Maybe you can take it out of my co-pay. There should be plenty to go around.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com Have any thoughts about this column? Share them with us at letters@gwinnettdailypost.com. Letters should be no more than 200 words and are subject to approval by the publisher. Letters may be edited for style and space requirements. Please sign your name and provide an address and a daytime telephone number. Address letters for publication to: Letters to the Editor, Gwinnett Daily Post, P.O. Box 603, Lawrenceville, GA 30046-0603. The fax number is 770-339-8081.