We try to keep our hospital trips as few as possible. This means that if one girl has a chronic bloody nose, another has fluid seeping from her ear, and a third needs her routine check-up, we load all the ailing girls into the van and head to the hospital. With twenty-one girls, this averages to about a trip per week.
Hospitals can be intimidating places, but all it takes is a little confidence. When you go to a hospital, you need to know exactly what you want so you can demand it. If you need a certain test, just walk up to the counter and ask. If your ear is causing you pain, fill out a new registrant’s form and sign up to see the ENT doctor. If any other feminine problems are flaring up, fill out the form to see the OB/GYN.
Don’t worry about the potential crowds of people pushing to be heard first at the counter; there is some order to the system and the attendants will recognize when it’s your turn.
At first the hospitals seem like a never-ending maze of consultation rooms, testing laboratories, cash counters, and waiting areas, but once you’ve gone once or twice, you’ll start to get a lay of the land. The hospital staff begins to remember you and the frequent trips you’ve made with a girl whose ear infection just won’t cooperate.
Before anything can be done, payments will need to be made at the cash counter. Fill out a form and get referred to the cash counter. Sign up for an initial consultation and get referred to the cash counter. Let the doctor prescribe an additional test and get referred to the cash counter. Whatever it is, no procedures will take place until your bill has been paid.
The girls’ favorite part of going to the hospital is the television in the waiting room. One time the news was on and a girl leaned over to whisper, “Ma’am, different channel? This one, so boring.” We’d guess that their least favorite part is getting shots; most of our girls would do anything not to get stuck with a needle. They listen intently to what the doctors tell them to do, following even instructions they don’t like, which is why one of our girls now likes to announce, “Ma’am, I’m drinking water!”
Sometimes, a girl needs to be admitted to the hospital overnight, so we all pull extra shifts to make sure someone is with her at all times. We shift the schedule around so the girl can take comfort knowing she is not alone. These days and nights are full of little sleep, tests, and waiting as well as, you guessed it, more trips to the cash counter.
Since we tend to take multiple girls in one trip, sometimes things don’t work out and not all the tests we came for can be completed. One time, a girl needed a tuberculosis test, but there was no one at the hospital we took her to who could perform it. Thankfully, we had asked her to bring her schoolbooks for a little extra study time, but as we reviewed her long division in the hospital waiting room, she asked, “Ma’am… why am I here?” to which we responded, “to get a little fresh air,” which does us all good, doesn’t it?