Friday, July 25, 2008

Hospital, Sweet Hospital

I'm not ready to give up on blogging. I say that as much to myself as to any reader who might stop by even after all these days of No News. I tried closing the blog several months ago, and I missed the idea of having it just as much as, or maybe more than, the actual writing. It's some place to go, you know?

I can't remember a more miserable summer, weather-wise, than this one. I know we've had hotter ones, but the combination of the heat and the humidity and the absence of rain have worn on me. My Aunt Netsy has had a rough summer beginning in May. She broke her hip, had surgery, entered a nursing home for rehab, got a sudden painful infection, entered the hospital and stayed 10 days, and is now back at the nursing home where more rehab awaits. You've just been given the condensed version. She and I both agree that We'd Rather Be at Starbucks.

Frankly her ordeal makes me question my previous desire to live a long life. The extra years seem to come with a price. But I don't think I'm up to examining that subject this morning, and so I'll share with you a few of my observations from spending many hours bedside in the hospital.

1. I do not speak English very well. Why else would the same desk clerk, sitting at the same nurses station, stare at me with fish-eyes as I was speaking, then respond-- every time!-- "Wait, wait, what are you talking about?"

2. It's the little things, that turn out to be big things, that separate adequate nurses from good ones. Sadly, the Adequates are greater in number than the Goods. But in the interest of honesty and optimism, I can't say that we encountered a single Bad One.

3. In Waco, Texas, you're supposed to drink iced tea with your meals. It doesn't matter if you've never liked tea, or if you carefully explain at every mealtime that you would prefer juice, coffee or even water, you will be given iced tea in Waco, Texas.

4. Hospital gowns, though always open in the back, come in an amazing variety of lengths. They are plain and rather stark; Aunt Netsy commented that a crocheted collar on them would greatly improve their appeal.

5. Hospital breakfasts are not bad at all. I've eaten more grits during the past 10 days than I've eaten in my entire life.

6. Medical personnel do not share information with each other. They would much rather have you repeat it over and over. I've been told there is a reason for this, so that they can hear the patient explain her own history, but I don't buy it. I was repeatedly asked, "Why is she taking Cumidon?" The questioner(s) never seemed impressed by my answer of, "I'm not sure, my cousin Kay was the one who took her to those appointments and she's currently in New Mexico helping her husband Dewey build their dream cabin and she's not where I can reach her easily because otherwise I'd call her up right now so that you wouldn't have to read my aunt's medical record or call the cardiologist...." I admit I didn't add that last phrase, but it wouldn't have mattered-- The Inquisitor was already interrupting me to ask the next (unnecessary?) question.

7. There are many different ways of moving a frail, hurting 89 year old from one place to another. Some ways are so much better than others.

8. Being blessed with "good hair" can get a female patient a lot of favorable attention, especially in Texas where good hair is very important. Aunt Netsy has has a frail little body but very, very good hair.

9. Students should not be sent to draw blood from an elderly person with bad veins. It happened twice and was a disaster both times. Let them learn on someone else.

10. Modern medicine has its faults but it is also an amazing process that I am truly grateful for. I was and am in awe of what can be learned and accomplished to help a very sick person.

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