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Where being urgent is nice

by John Pixley

I told him to take me to San Antonio Hospital—actually, it’s now San Antonio Regional Hospital—over in Upland. I sure as heck didn’t want to go to the emergency room at Pomona Valley.

It was about 7:30 one evening, and I was having a fever despite being in the middle of a course of antibiotics and having taken Tylenol. Something wasn’t right, and I was worried. A nurse my friend talked to—my friend is young, tech savvy and knows how to find a live nurse to call and talk to at night—had advised that I be seen by a doctor within six hours.

Within six hours? Maybe that wasn’t immediately, but I didn’t feel like waiting until midnight or 1 a.m. to go out and get medical help. So it meant immediately. It meant that I needed to go now. But not to Pomona Valley Hospital. Or is it Medical Center? It probably is, but it was bad enough when I would go to the emergency room there years and years ago. Going there meant having to wait for hours, like two, three or even four hours, in a crowded, noisy waiting room. Over the years since, from what I have heard, things have only gotten worse, with nothing but horror stories about the ER at Pomona Valley, like having to wait for five or 10 hours.

No, thanks. I didn’t want to be at the ER all night. So I had my friend take me to San Antonio. I hadn’t gone there in years, but the last time I did when I sprained my leg, the waiting room wasn’t crowded. The wait was only an hour or two. It was much more attractive, if that’s the right word, than going to the ER at Pomona Valley.

That was 15 years ago, which is a long time. It turns out that the hospital’s name isn’t the only thing that has changed. Maybe it was the fever, but I didn’t remember the ER at San Antonio being almost underground, behind a large mound with a steep drive down to a drop-off circle at the door. My friend didn’t have a fever, but he had to drive around a confusing parking lot a couple times before finding the ER hidden away.

But that wasn’t all that was different. When we drove down to the front door so that my friend could drop me off, I looked into the windows and knew this wasn’t going to be a short visit. Indeed, I couldn’t just check in. I had to get in a long line and wait to check in. Then my friend and I were lucky to find a place to sit. No, this wasn’t going to be a quick visit. I knew we were there for a long haul.

The question was how long? And I began to wonder if I even had to be there. It was only a fever, after all.

This was everything I didn’t want and was trying to avoid. Unlike when I went here all those years ago, my friend and I were stuck for hours in a crowded and noisy waiting room.

There were people moaning in pain. There was a couple giggling over YouTube videos on each other’s phones.  There were elderly people, looking lost and forgotten, staring ahead, waiting for an answer, even if it was only their name being called. There was a group of young people, talking about going out with others and one another, while texting and looking at their phones and laptops and trying on virtual face masks on their apps.

There was also the young father bringing in his baby who appeared to have difficulty breathing. And there was the father with his grown, injured son in a wheelchair, who was clearly angry about being in the chair. They were arguing, the father having informed the son he’d better find a place to spend the night, because he wasn’t going to let him stay at his house anymore.

What was I doing there? Was my fever, which was now going down, more of a problem or a crisis than what these people were going through?

I wondered this for nearly four hours, as my friend and I waited to be called. Sure, it wasn’t five or 10 hours and we weren’t there all night, but I did find myself talking to a physician’s assistant around midnight. She was a very nice woman who essentially told me that my temperature was fluctuating as the antibiotics were fighting hard against the bacteria.

I was left feeling stupid that I had panicked and that I had wasted all those hours and space—not to mention funding—at the emergency room. But the fever returned the next morning and kept rising throughout the day, up to 103 degrees, despite my taking Tylenol. It turned out I was having a bad reaction to the antibiotics.

It may not have been the right thing for me to go to the ER, whether at San Antonio or at Pomona Valley. Or maybe it was the right thing. The fever did turn out to be a problem, but sitting in an ER certainly wasn’t what I wanted to do.

Of course, what I wanted to do was to not have a fever, but if I needed to be seen by a medical professional and couldn’t wait to get an appointment with my doctor, I wanted to go to urgent care. But I couldn’t go to the urgent care office here in Claremont. When my friend called, it was getting ready to close for the evening.

Too bad. The urgent care in Claremont on the corner of Claremont Boulevard and Monte Vista, which opened about six years ago as a branch of the Pomona Valley Hospital, has been a godsend, even a miracle. As the old saying goes, it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

A trip to the Claremont Urgent Care, when the situation is appropriate and not too dire, is nothing like going to the ER at San Antonio and definitely not like Pomona Valley. Not with its quiet and uncrowded waiting room and certainly not with wait times averaging, in my experience, about one hour. What’s more, the waiting room is more attractive and more welcoming than many doctors’ waiting rooms, with its plants and quiet nooks. In my experience so far, things continue to be remarkably proficient and even serene once one is taken in.

No, this is amazingly different, another world. It isn’t a secret that I’m letting out, is it? Or is it just another thing that is special about Claremont. 

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