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About More Voices

Every month More Voices invites readers to contribute short nonfiction prose pieces of 40 to 400 words on a healthcare theme.

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Several times a month, I'd find a patient wandering the lobby of my medical building, looking very lost. One afternoon, hurrying from work to beat the rush hour traffic, I came upon an elderly gentleman staring at the office directory on the wall.
 
I approached him and spoke softly, "Help you find something?"
 
He grinned, "Thanks, honey, but this place's a frigging spaghetti maze. Got here early cause it's my first time. Looking for Dr. Smith, know him?
 
"No, sorry, don't think he's in this building."

Mr. Patient then pulled out a wad of crumpled papers, including an appointment card and Google map of the immediate area. I was shocked to discover that this nationally recognized academic institution, which boasted of such high quality care, had failed to recognize a potential access dilemma. The main hospital, trauma center, pavilion, and heart hospital all had the same street address! No wonder this new patient had become confused and arrived at the wrong place.
 
My first thought: Call Security. They could transport him across campus. But Mr. Patient was already in a motorized wheelchair and needed to get there fast. With his ride and my power walking, we could make the trip in about ten minutes, if his battery lasted.  
 
As I led him out the front door, down the walkway, across the street, and around several huge buildings, we chatted about the weather and life. I learned that his friend would return when the appointment concluded.
 
Hooray, we made it safely to the heart hospital lobby, verified the office suite number and took the elevator to the fifth floor. My good deed was almost done.
 
"Hi, I have Mr. Patient here. He had an appointment with Dr. Smith at 4:15 PM but ended up in my building by mistake."
 
The front office staff member said, "Well, it's 4:35 and he missed it" then turned her back to us. I got her attention with, "But he's here now. If someone'd told him your street address was the same as three other buildings on campus, he'd have been here on time."
 
Startled, she offered, "I'll see what we can do. Might have to reschedule though."

Marilyn Barton

Hampton, Virginia