Saturday, September 06, 2008

MY STAY IN THE HOSPITAL


I just spent five days in a hospital and the experience was indescribably ugly and nightmarish. I spent every minute of the five days waiting for the hour hand to make it's way twice around the clock, dreading the boredom and the extreme tortures to come. I had an extremely competent and experienced surgeon yet my advice to everyone reading this is, don't get major surgery if you can possibly avoid it. If you can't avoid it then have the surgery at the earliest possible time when the problem is relatively small.  I remind the reader that we don't live in Captain Kirk's time when Bones the doctor can cure everything with what amounts to a flashlight. Our time is more like the Civil war when whiskey and amputation were the remedies.  Surgery is still about all about violating your body, and causing pain. We're not really all that advanced.


Hospitals are crazy places. Everybody agrees that sleep is important to recovery, yet hospitals are one of the hardest places in the world to sleep.  The staff keeps waking you up to give you pain pills to put you to sleep. Since those pills cause constipation, and since constipation prevents you from getting rid of the gas that accompanies surgery, pain and sleeplessness are actually guaranteed by the system.


Some nurses are angels of mercy that really care what happens to you.  Others are martinets who will follow a regimen regardless of the consequences. I had to wear a catheter and I was constantly woken out of sleep by compulsive nurses who felt the need to "irrigate" it, i.e., put a big horse tranquilizing syringe into it and pump it to shake loose possible clots. The syringe causes searing, torturous pain by causing rapid change in the internal abdominal pressure. Once again, the justification for irrigation was that it would help patients sleep. After every irrigation I would stay awake for hours trying to shake off the horror of it all. 



Francis Ford Cuppola called Vietnam the first rock and roll war because rock was so frequently present, even during firefights. In the same way, we live in the first ( or maybe the second) era of daytime TV medicine. Daytime TV is the constant background rhythm of hospitals. You may be dying, and your doctor may be struggling to figure out how to medicate, but you both have one ear glued to the TV so you can find out what Dr. Phil said about Oprah, or who the movie stars dated last night.  Daytime TV gives me nausea. Does the world really need one more manicured, perky anchorwoman or one more executive-driven animated show with "tude?" 



Of course real conversations happen, even in hospitals. My roommate, was a police officer and we got to talking about crime.  I wondered out loud if criminals were really chronically unimaginative people, who just couldn't imagine the suffering they were causing to others. The policeman looked at me with stunned disbelief.  His answer:  "Real criminals aren't unimaginative. They're selfish and undisciplined. They want immediate satisfaction and would rather take the risk of killing a 7-11 clerk for 50 bucks than work a legal job for a day and make the same money risk-free. They live in an environment where crime is in the air and no other activity is admired or encouraged." I muttered something Hunter S. Thompson said about crime, and he brusquely made his apologies and closed the curtain securely around his bed. He just couldn't see the point in talking to a dilettante like myself who didn't know what he was talking about.  He never opened it again. I knew from peaking that he spent the time reading Field and Stream magazine.  


By the way, I'm a big booster of the police who, whatever their faults, risk their lives every day so the rest of us can be safe. I'm just not a fan of Field and Stream.




31 comments:

Bitter Animator said...

Good to have you back, Mr.F. It doesn't sound like it was a bundle of laughs. Hope you're back to your healthy testosterone-led self soon.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Bitter: The testosterone is back, I can feel it!

kellie said...

Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Eddie.

I agree wholeheartedly about avoiding major surgery if possible, partly because of the evidence I had to hear when on jury duty in the coroner's court a few years ago, but I'll leave that unamusing story for another occasion sometime after never.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Kellie: Tell it! I'd like to hear it!

Andy said...

I could go through the pain. I could go through the sleep deprivation. What really made me feel for you was the boredom. I hate boredom... it's at the top of my list of my most hated things.

Eventually I'd like to live in a world without boredom. I guess it's all to do with time management though.

Aaron said...

so imagination is a useful ability that we have to help us put ourselves in other people's shoes. We use it so much for entertainment purposes, we forget what it was meant for originally, maybe. That makes some sense to me. It also explains why artists are such wonderful people.

Marlo Meekins said...

Oh Eddie, the thought of you all sick makes me feel all weepy! I'm so glad you are tip-top enough for a post.

Anonymous said...

cops are jerks, As a kid I had an Errol Ness ideal of selfless crusaders for justice which is bs.

Even the cops on the wire are much better than the real thing, think of the most loudmouthed ignorant meanspirited people you went to highschool with then think of the ones who ended up cops.

There are exceptions to the rule, blah blah salt of the earth blah blah stressful job blah blah blah

Anonymous said...

Eddie, probably better to have a catheter than having them try to force nature back into the business by having you drink tons of water when the nervous system handling the valves in that area is still asleep.

The basketball to medsin ball sized bladder is not fun.

I think Hospitals should have ethernet, or wi-fi perhaps, but they are still lying about cell phones and their telemetry half the time, in order to charge you 20 dollars for every call out.

And you are often too tired and sick to read while in hospital. A portable DVD player is a nice thing to have around if the TV is dreck. Luckily, after years of no TV, there were actually some entertaining shows in syndication when I had surgery way back when.

Subect 645-3 said...

Say, Eddie. I just finished up a post on my blog for your return to the Theory Corner:

http://paroxykavenger.blogspot.com

Tell me whatcha think.

-J.

Anonymous said...

Most cops believe that there are but three classifications of humans: police, citizens and fucking garbage. That system (and free donuts) allows them to function.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Subject: Thanks for the kind words!

Marlo: Thanks much! How are you doing these days?

Anon: I've liked the police ever since I was a kid. When your life is threatened by some crazy person they're the people who will risk their lives to help you. That makes up for a lot of faux pas they may have committed in high school.

Lester Hunt said...

Eddie, Welcome back hermano! Not only back but funnier and wiser than ever!

BTW, one small disagreement: The cop's legal duty is not to protect you against any particular menacing person. Their function is, after the crazy person has killed you, to discourage future malefactors from harming other victims by catching them so they can be punished. If you need personal protection, you have to hire a bodyguard, or beef up your defenses in some other way. Still of course your main point stands: we should appreciate the fact that they are willing to stand between the forces of destruction and the rest of us.

Rudy Tenebre, esteemed secretary. said...

Hey Eddie, I was hoping your absence was due to a little family vacation or something of that order.

I'm hopeful that you are on the mend.

(Also hoping you received Fooey and that the Archive didn't frown upon you receiving there.)

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Lester: Interesting!

Deniseletter said...

Glad you're back! Things are no fun without you.Feel better soon:-)

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Rudy: Thanks! I can't wait to see what you were talking about!

Phantom Spitter said...

Glad you're back, Eddie! While you were gone, I got so bored that I attempted (and miserably failed) to burn little plastic army men with a magnifying glass in the relentless, blistering heat of early September. Hope you're feeling better. If you're not, I know this will cheer you up: I'm posting my copy of Milt Gross Funnies #1 on my blog! Check it out!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Phantom: Wow! Thanks for putting up the Milt Gross. How much did you pay for that issue?

Nico said...

I'm so glad your back home Eddie!!! Get well soon friend

lastangelman said...

Sorry you had to endure that surgery. I am veteran of many hospital stays (Crohn's Disease, bowel obstructions, kidney stones and two very invasive surgeries (ileum resection)).
1.)Getting any restful sleep is not going to happen unless they medically induce a coma as part of your treatment. If you can swing it, get a private room. Why? You can't pick your roommates or their visitors. Why bother through the crapshoot that you'll have a roommate you'll be able to converse and get along? If you get lonely and you're ambulatory, visit other patients or pick up the phone. If you can't swing the private room, well, hope for the best.
2.)ALSO IMPORTANT! Specify who can and cannot visit you. If certain relatives, friends, people you don't know showing up to sell their services (lawyers, people of faith, Amway distributors, etc.) upset you, let the hospital people know and let some of the people you know it's OK if they don't visit. Try to do this without hurting anybody's feelings ("Doesn't he care that I care? Boo-Hoo!") Having unwanted guests can be very distressing while you're trying to convalesce.
3.)Bring distractions:books, magazines, music, pencils, crayons, paper, DVDs, puzzle books, anything to occupy your time. Daytime television is the pits and it'll steal your brain cells. Better to program your own edification and entertainment. Arrange to have a daily paper brought to you each morning. Reading about the daily events (as opposed to watching on the gogglebox) helps keep you sane.
4.)Engage with the nurses, doctors, orderlies, etcetera. Find out little stuff about them. After visit, send a card with a small plant, makes 'em feel appreciated, and they remember you next time.
5.)Sleep. Good luck. Bring plugs. Find out when you're to be disturbed for meals, blood pressure, temperature, draw blood, X-rays, pills, etc., if possible, to plan some sort of sleep schedule. At best, you may get two to four hours at a time.

lastangelman said...

BTW, I can only think of two Hunter S. Thompson quotes about crime. Were these it?
1.)Going to trial with a lawyer who considers your whole life-style a Crime in Progress is not a happy prospect.
2.)In a closed society where everybody's guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.

I can imagine a very straight arrow policeman's reaction to either quote, if he was convalescing in hospital. "OK, I gotta' rest up for my colonoscopy, goodnight and good luck!"
"Good night? But it's three o'clock in the afternoon!"
"I said GOODNIGHT, COMMIE! (whoosh of curtain) grumble, grumble, pinko bast-umble-mumble.)"

Phantom Spitter said...

Well, on eBay, the week before issue 1 -- the one I got -- came out, issue 2 was on, and I bid on it and lost when a guy bid one dollar higher than I did. The next week, #1 of Milt Gross Funnies was up for bidding, I bid the same amount the other guy did for #2, 56 bucks, and won it.

Ken Mitchroney said...

Welcome back Eddie. Glad to see they didn't take out your funny bone by mistake.

cwyatt said...

Did your surgeons tell jokes and sing songs while you were under the knife?? I was awake for all 3 C-sections and that's all I heard. It kinda made me happy. They also played some Frank Sinatra.

pappy d said...

Glad to hear you're on the mend, Eddie. Recovery is awful. The better you feel the more bored you get, too.

One good tip is to get admitted to a hospital that only has private rooms e.g., Cedars Sinai or the new Ronald Reagan. The union plan still pays whether they have semi-private rooms there or not.

Maybe criminals do lack sympathy for their victims because of a basic failure of imagination but if you hadn't been drug-addled & testosterone deprived, I'm sure you wouldn't have shared that speculation with a cop.

I'm all for police as an institution, but it is the career choice of a great many assholes.

lester: I would have thought that deterrence of crime is the greater social contribution of police.

pappy d said...

Glad to hear you're on the mend, Eddie. Recovery is awful. The better you feel the more bored you get, too.

One good tip is to get admitted to a hospital that only has private rooms e.g., Cedars Sinai or the new Ronald Reagan. The union plan still pays whether they have semi-private rooms there or not.

Maybe criminals do lack sympathy for their victims because of a basic failure of imagination but if you hadn't been drug-addled & testosterone deprived, I'm sure you wouldn't have shared that speculation with a cop.

I'm all for police as an institution, but it is the career choice of a great many assholes.

lester: I would have thought that deterrence of crime is the greater social contribution of police.

Just Jim said...

Oh my word, that sounds like an absolute nightmare! I hope you feel better soon and are able to gradually forget that grisly experience! I wish you all the strength in the world!

trevor said...

Being that I'm a huge fan of Gonzo reporting, what was the Hunter S. Thompson quote?

Was it "In a closed society where everybody's guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity"?

- trevor.

IB said...

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

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