Page 29


FEATURE The Golden Hour Houston’s emergency care system is in critical condition BY EMILY PYLE PHOTOS BY STEVE SATTERWHITE Paramedics with Houston Emergency Services District One stabilize a child with a temperature of 104 degrees. Houston City Bus # 1 begins its loop in a gritty North Houston neighborhood of tire shops, wrecking yards, and all-but-abandoned hair salons. The marquee on the front of the bus simply says “Hospital.” It winds through streets grown up in magnolias and banana trees, past two-room houses, some brightly painted, some nailed shut, then heads downtown to cruise by some of Houston’s fanciest hotels. The bus reaches its far terminus in the small city of hospitals, pharmacies, administrative buildings, and parking garages that is the Texas Medical Center. On the Friday before Labor Day weekend, at around six o’clock in the afternoon, the front of the bus is overflowing with members of one anxious family. The Ramirezes shift seats continuously to take turns fussing over 20-month-old Rebecca, who does or does not have a fever of 101 or higher, depending on whom you ask. She looks flushed and heavylidded, but then, she is swaddled head to toe in a Spiderman blanket and the temperature outside is in the 90s. To be on the safe side, however, her mother, grandmother, uncle, and two aunts, are taking her to the emergency room at Ben Taub General Hospital to see a doctor. 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11/5/04