Last Friday I was hospitalized for severe abdominal pain and internal bleeding. It was he worst pain I have ever known. It was so bad, in fact, that I could not stand upright. I was discharged on Sunday morning. Initial tests revealed that I had a bacterial infection in my intestines, but they don’t yet know why. I visit my doctor tomorrow when she’s supposed to confirm the results. Based on the fact that I’ve got no family history of anything like this, and based on my conditions on Friday, I’m guessing it was salmonella poisoning. I had a lot of time to research it over the weekend. But, we shall see.
Anyway, this was the first time since I was a child that I was a patient in a hospital. I’m about 80% better now thanks to the treatment I received there, along with continued rest and medicine, but the trip will stay with me for a long time. Here’s what I learned:
1) Emergency Rooms suck. And not just because it’s full of coughing people and people who smell like liquor and Class A cigarettes. The process is ridiculous. The lighting is terrible. The design is depressing. The seats are plastic. The ventilation is non existent. Terrible, terrible experience, the ER. The only plus was that they had masks available.
2) The hospital is full of really sick people. No, I mean really sick. When I was able to get out of my room, every person in every room that I passed looked like they were dying as they lay there watching the square box hanging from their ceiling. Hopeless souls high on drugs. Sucking air.
3) When you’re in the hospital you’re a science experiment. As amazing as medicine is today, when something’s inside of you doing damage, no one can see it in real time. So they have to try different things in order to identify and treat it. The best advice my father ever gave me was, ‘It’s better to run in on a fly ball than run back on one.’ That’s how doctors treat things they can’t see – wide angle to telephoto. And the only way they can do that is by experimenting. A lot.
4) Television is terrible. I was a patient in the hospital for about 36 hours. The television was on for maybe 6 of those when I watched Turner Classic Movies. Everything else is just trash. We killed cable at our house a few years ago, and except for live sporting events, I don’t miss it. My hospital trip reinforced that broadcast television sucks and that Americans care about some stupid stuff. Thankfully, the hospital had solid wifi.
5) I do not like Jello™. I’ve tried. All my life I’ve tried. But I just don’t. Sorry, Bill Cosby.
6) I do like being wheeled around. I didn’t spend much time on the move during my short stay, but I have to admit, I like being wheeled around in a chair or on a gurney. Especially high on morphine. It’s like transportation without doing any work. Like a ride at a fair. Come on – who doesn’t like a fair ride on morphine?
7) Blood work nurse don’t care.
This was maybe the worst health experience I have ever had. But like with all things, there is a silver lining. As I lay there motionless Friday night, for fear of ripping out my IV, the fact that I’m no longer a 20-something year-old man in peak physical condition hit me pretty hard. Not that I’m in denial about that, but rather, I take my health for granted. I wasn’t taking anything for granted last weekend. I don’t ever want to be sick like that again – even if I did get sick as the result of tainted food. So on Monday I quit smoking. I’ve tried before, but could never make it past a day and never really believed I’d stay quit. After all, I was young, virile and physically resilient. But now I’m in my late forties and just came through something pretty traumatic. Neither of my children have ever seen me smoke. You didn’t know I smoke. I never smoked around others. And I didn’t smoke much to begin with (another reason it was always easy to justify continuing.) But smoking at all is the one thing I’ve been living with all these years that I completely and utterly regret. Hell, it’s my only regret. Smoking used to be a sign of being a badass. Now it’s just a sign of weakness and ignorance. I fully expected to die from lung cancer one day. And still may. But after my trip to the hospital, I’m resolved to make that bastard work as hard as possible for me. Will I succeed? Who knows. I’ve got plenty of personal experience on how treacherous addiction is – but today I’m winning. And I’m stronger as a result.
Sometimes our epiphanies are thrust upon us.
9 CommentsLEAVE A COMMENT
Mar 7, 2012
Good thing you TMed Jello. Otherwise this post would have sucked. Glad you’re doing better, Jim.
Mar 7, 2012
Glad to hear you’re on the mend. And I’m a big fan of anyone willing to quit smoking. I watched my mother die of lung cancer and would not wish that on anyone.
Are you at liberty to share which hospital? I got a clue as to the system by the place-mat, but wasn’t sure which one.
Take care. And I’m pulling for you on the quitting thing.
Mar 7, 2012
Mar 7, 2012
I’ve had my recent fair share of hospital excitement. Heart attack. Remember? I’d like to compare note:
#1 – I played a game in the Emergency Room. I called it the “Eye Contact Game.” As a patient, it’s impossible to win.
#2 – Sick people. Agreed. Hospitals are full of them. I said I was the healthiest person in the ICU and that I could kick the ass’s of all the other people in there. Line ’em up.
#3 – Science Experiment. I’ve worked in hospitals. I was behind the desk of a nurses’ station when reports came back of a horrific accident had killed a couple of people. They died before or just as they got to the emergency room. bloody, traumatic deaths. One of the nurses said, “Oh, what a horrible way to go.” Dr. Principe, without even bringing his eyes up countered with, “Better than anything we’re doing up here.”
#4 – Television is terrible. I miss Barney Miller. Okay, maybe I miss being 16 more.
#5 – I like Jello. You can pass me yours.
#6 – Being wheeled around. I never thought of it but, yeh, I could get used to that. I started my healthcare career as a Transport Orderly. It was one of the best jobs in healthcare, mainly because I was able to flirt with every nurse in the hospital on a near daily basis.
#7 – Blood work nurses don’t care. Of course they don’t! Do you see what they have to do for a living?!
(Smoking. Reminds me of the joke: “Do you smoke after sex?” “I don’t know; I never checked.)
Glad you’re back at 80%, man. Stay out of the hospital; hospitals are not places to get better.
Mar 7, 2012
Thanks, Jim. I appreciate the feedback. And yes, you may have my Jello.
Jenifer Olson (@jenajean)
Mar 7, 2012
So glad you are home and feeling better.
I spent a lot of my childhood in hospitals and can so relate to your jello aversion. Ha. I also happen to hate ginger ale and Seven Up to this day.
Good for you on stopping smoking… I stopped 15 years ago, and it was a good decision then and now. 🙂
Please take care of yourself!
Mar 8, 2012
Emergency rooms were pretty scary back in the day for me. Your description of the type of people there is dead on. Now imagine that times ten.
Growing up in the 70’s I was a sickly child so going to one of the worst public hospitals in NYC was my parents only course of action – since we were poor and didn’t have a regular doctor – this Emergency room was our only health care option other than the Public health clinics that we went to get our immunizations.
Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx was a notorious place back then – everything from shooting, stabbing, auto accident, burn victims (Yes, the Bronx was burning at the time), insane, drug and alcohol addled person from my area would go through those doors. If your ailment didn’t require several pints of blood or miles of stitches to treat then it meant you would wait for hours – hopefully for someone with a white coat on who might be a doctor. *Note: (In those times Lincoln hospital was referred to the “Morgue” because if you ended up there it was likely you would die there.)
One particular trip that always remains with me was just arriving because of scarlet fever (113deg.?) anyway nothing breaks the funeral home-like atmosphere of the Emergency room like the wail of an ambulance and police cruisers tires screeching – the double doors slammed open by a gurney with a screaming teenager strapped down who was bleeding profusely from multiple stab wounds. An emergency tech desperately holding down a rolled up towel on a severed artery. Police were there too because apparently this kid was in a gang fight and they had already cuffed him to the gurney for questioning. Then this guys friends burst into the emergency room wanting to find out exactly who had done this to him. The place was total chaos as the cops had to rough up on the recent gang arrivals and usher them back outside to restore semi-order.
Not the kind of scene you want burned into your 6 year old mind.
The South Bronx was like a war-zone back then and the doctors there at Lincoln and other city hospitals operated like *M*A*S*H units.
Nothing was more unpleasant than a visit to the Emergency room. Most preferred to die.
So how fitting was it that one night in the mid 80’s when I get the call from my mother while I was working at the supermarket that my older brother was in the hospital he had been stabbed. My mom could not bring herself to go because by that time she was very sickly herself and my father could not leave his job to go see him.
Luckily for my brother his stay at Lincoln was one of the rare feel good stories, stabbed nearly centimeters from the main artery connected to his heart while in a drunk fight. His Naval training saved him as he stuck his finger in the stab wound. The doctors said he was lucky to be alive. When I got to the hospital thinking it would be too late they ushered me up to him. I walked into his room (that reeked of cheep wine) he turned to me smiled and said “Hey bro, I’m all fucked up” and laughed –
He can still laugh about it to this day.
Mar 8, 2012
Wow. What a great story, Gabe. Yeah, my experience pales to that. I remember hearing the horror stories from up there as a kid.
Mar 8, 2012
Thanks for taking that picture of the “food.” They expect you to get better eating that stuff?
Glad you made it out and good luck with quitting smoking.
My novel – Minor King
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