BY DR. DAVE HEPBURN | SEPTEMBER 12, 2012
It isn’t in any of the travel brochures. Fodor’s forgot and Lonely Planet left it lonely. We were in Buda-pest, a tale of two cities with Pest (not pest as in silverfish or KanyeWest) on the flat side of the Danube and Buda (not Buddha as in large following and larger navel force) on the hilly other.
While strolling aimlessly down the back streets of Buda (translated: we were really, really lost) we bumped into a young Hungarian who gestured to us in a manner that meant he wanted to help us out or possibly rob us. I attempted to communicate in my best Hungarian, but as the only words I actually knew were “paprika” and “goulash” this would have been a very short and confusing culinary conversation except that he handed me a photo of some caves/rocks and said the word “hospital.” Remarkably, prior to WW II a hospital had been built into a massive rock, a series of caves that ran for some 10 kilometers. An amazing place with a horrific story!
We found it and were given a tour of this hospital that had been used to treat Hungarian soldiers and their German allies. The caves were cold and rooms small, yet there was an entire operating room which at the time was state of the art. An X-ray machine, a lab, some wards complete with gas masks and first aid kits. A triage room where soldiers lay cold and wounded, and hospital wards where so many soldiers were treated that bunk beds were jammed together so three bodies could lie on two mattresses. Though made for 200 patients, there were usually 800 at a time. Deceased bodies were sent up a back tunnel to the churchyard and buried in a bomb crater to be excavated after the Russian siege. While under siege by the Russians, Hitler commanded those 20,000 Hungarians holed up in the rock to stay put and provide some resistance, even though, initially, they could have escaped at any time. He wanted the Russians delayed long enough to prevent them taking Vienna. On the day they finally broke out, the Russians were waiting for them, courtesy of spies, and killed all but 750 who escaped to the German lines 6 km away. An incredible, tragic and unheard of story as it was kept behind the iron curtain for decades. The Russians then took over the hospital and kept it through the Hungarian uprising of 1956 where both Hungarians and Russians were treated. A couple of years later it was converted into a nuclear bunker and kept top secret until I, Indiana Dave, discovered it.
In our hospitals, emergency staff are mercilessly over worked because, in part, they spend no shortage of time dealing with ridiculous, non-emergency stuff ranging from colds (man colds excluded as they are deemed life threatening) to acne to ingrown toenails to bladder infections to prescription refills. It is the mundane non-emergent nonsense of the “worried well” that clogs up our system like your in-laws clog up your plumbing. “Excuse me sir but your crushing chest pain will have to wait as there is a case in front of you of a paper cut, apparently on the thumb.” Fortunately the ER has expert triage personnel who are well trained to sift out those with true emergencies from those with chronic yet severe wimp-itis. When you’re not sure where, or even if, you need to be seen for a “medical issue,” take a moment and triage yourself. Those of you who listen to Wisequacks will now be so knowledgeable that you can perform your own lobotomies, like Sealey has. Assuming the answer isn’t on wisequacks.org (a safe assumption) then follow this protocol.
Step one: Do you have a friend who is a distant relative of a doctor, one who might be in the throes of landing a record sturgeon or in the midst of tightrope walking. Call him immediately of course, “Doc, I have a cough...”
Step two: Call 24 hours/7 days a week 2-1-1. You can find a nurse, pharmacist and even a dietician here.
Step three: When your own doctor isn’t available due to the fact that he/she is busy, likely taking a course (Bear Mountain being my favorite) then walk-in clinics are invaluable in helping deal with those issues that don’t need to clog up emergency rooms.
Step four: Try a different friend with a different relative.
Step five: Emergency room visit
NOTE: Reverse that order if you have symptoms of a heart attack, stroke, appendicitis, paprika-itis, or your left leg is in a different room than your left arm. But otherwise, don’t be a Pest.
Learn more and meet Dr. Dave or contact him at www.wisequacks.org.