Monday, October 3, 2011

Walking to the Emergency Room

Three and a half weeks ago, shortly after Labor Day, at about 7:15 am, my left lung partially collapsed as I was getting ready to take my morning shower.  (All by itself. Yes, that actually happens.)   My right lung collapsed completely in 2005, which required a ten-day hospital stay and surgery to fix.  A byproduct of the surgery is that virtually eliminates the risk of my right lung ever collapsing again.  My left is not so fortunate.

The way that you can know that it is a collapsed lung and not either a random pain or something less serious like a pinched nerve resulting from pleurisy, is that it happens in both your chest and back simultaneously.  However, it's not very common, so you probably don't have to worry.  Risk factors include being male, tall, thin and between the ages of 15 and 45.  Among the heightened risk factors are having had a prior spontaneous pheumothorax (collapsed lung) and being a current or former smoker. Each of these applies to me (btw: former, not current smoker).

Well, this morning I went ahead and took my shower before going to the hospital.  The first time this happened, I couldn't shower for eight days; I could only wash using this little pre-soaped sponge.  If I was to be in the hospital like that again, I was getting a last shower first.  My apartment is a ten-minute walk from the hospital.  I wound up taking my usual bus that I would take to work and walking the remaining few blocks from there.

It...could have been worse.  The hospital is undergoing a dramatic addition.  I've been to the Emergency Room before, but with the construction going on and in my condition, I did not want to risk taking a wrong turn and walking any further than I had to.  Additionally, even the way the hospital was configured before the visual confusion of construction was added, the ER wasn't the easiest place to find.

Yes, I see the big sign saying EMERGENCY.  However, it's pointing straight down Myrtle Avenue, which was formerly the access point for the Emergency Room.

I would guess that I could go up the hill at this point, and I would be correct.  However, there comes a certain point of pain where things like this are not worth the risk.  It should also be pointed out that I was across the street, where the view was even more ambiguous.
I decided to walk to the main entrance of the hospital, which is clearly marked and, in any case, would stand out as an entrance of an important building simply because of how it is built.

This entrance is the equivalent of about one long block up the street from the ER entrance, so it wasn't a bad walk.  However, it involved crossing the street, which in my diminished condition took a little while, even though it is a relatively narrow street (compared to many of the horror shows throughout Albany).  Drivers chose this moment to forget they were driving past a hospital, with sick and injured (and thus, not very speedy) people.  You would think this isn't the place to be rude to people crossing the street.  And you'd be wrong.

Finding the Emergency Room from inside the hospital was quite a bit easier, even if it was an incredibly convoluted route that takes you there.

This is nice.  The University at Albany could do this, but it's doubtful that any organization with less funding than the U.S. Military could fund the task of getting people around that mess.

The red isn't just on sign arrows.  There are red strips on the floor throughout the hallways.

The parking.  Oh the parking! So much parking!! Empire State Plaza and the Alfred E. Smith Building appear in the background.

The construction site.

The road from the ER to New Scotland Avenue.

All of the above is the walk from the ER to the CVS, where I filled my prescription for pain medicine.

This time, because my lung was only partially collapsed, I required a stay of only a few hours while they monitored me to make sure it had gotten no worse.  So far, surgery will not be required unless it happens again someday. One of the things that I noticed a few hours after my release from the hospital was just how much more manageable things were this time:

Six years ago, I was a driver.  I was also a college student attending campuses at least 45 minutes, one way, from my house.  I also had two jobs at the time, one of which was delivering a weekly newspaper all over Southern Vermont.  What happens when you're on narcotic pain medication?  You're not allowed to operate heavy machinery, in this case known as an automobile.  My parents and friends drove me to all of my classes, waited 3 hours for me to be done, and then drove me home.  My co-workers at the newspaper split the delivery route.  Even when my pain medicine was done, I was unable to lift more than ten pounds, which made delivering bundles of newspapers impossible for six weeks.

While I could not have been more grateful for the help, it's been incredibly apparent that this time around, I'm simply not in need of assistance in the first place.  Even if I was still driving, I live in a city that allows me to get to work on the bus and school on foot.  As I mentioned earlier, the hospital is a ten-minute walk from my apartment, so I've been walking to all of my subsequent appointments.  At the very least, my choice in living environments gives me that choice.

When I am able to go on more long walks, I look forward to showing off some places where this isn't as possible.

My follow-up appointment a week later involved this incomprehensible scene:

What's so incomprehensible about this?  It's the entrance to the Albany Medical Center Surgeons Pavilion, where my follow-up was scheduled with the thoracic surgery department.
Except it's not the entrance to the Albany Medical Center Surgeons Pavilion. It's the entrance to a conference room.

This is the main entrance:

You see that sign next to the door?  That's the sign indicating it's the entrance to 50 New Scotland Avenue.

After figuring out how to get into the building, I noticed an older couple having the same problem in front of what appeared to be the entrance.  I directed them to the correct place and later, it turned out they were from Vermont, about 20 miles from my hometown.  I promise it's a design thing, not a Vermont thing.

Compare the tucked away entrance to the Surgeons Pavilion with the entrance to Albany Medical Center, which is noticeable as an entrance even from further away.  The original building is behind this entrance.  Notice that it looks like something out of Shutter Island.
Of all the conditions of modernist architecture, the practice of obscuring important building features like entrances is the most confusing to me.  It simply makes no sense whatsoever.  Sometimes I think people will do anything to be 'artistic' or even utilitarian, sometimes going as far as defeating their original purpose, in this case, to make a useful building.

Here are some random pics of Albany Medical Center:

Construction leftovers actually make this little spot pretty interesting.

Walking along Albany Medical Center's blank wall.

The "gerbil run", as James Howard Kunstler would call it, from Albany Medical Center to the parking garage and the hotel across the street.

The AMC side of the gerbil run.

Looking up New Scotland toward University Heights, home of Albany Law School, Albany Medical College, Albany College of Pharmacy and Sage College of Albany.  I've probably forgotten a school or two.

Another perspective of the main entrance to the hospital.  No matter which angle you shoot from, it looks like an entrance.

A view into the construction, where you can see a tunnel will be built.  Can you imagine patients traversing the tunnel to get to the hospital rooms, though?  No, probably not.  Funny how some people think that's perfectly okay in other situations.
That's all for my trip to the hospital.  In about another week, I go back for what should be my final follow-up appointment.  Hopefully there will be good news and I can get back to taking walks for hours and hundreds of pictures at a time. 


  1. I love your photos of the front of AMC. Im building a website for a local Dr's office and would love permission to use one. Is that possible?

  2. Very sorry it took so long to respond! I don't check this very often anymore. Please feel free to use any photos here that you like. Thank you for your kind words!