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Tuesday, 09 July 2013

Humor Is The Best Medicine

By Jackie Harrison

Until this latest hospitalization, it had been years since I was hospitalized. How things have changed!

During my recent hospital stay, I discovered my previous experience as a nurse has become antiquated. No more white uniforms for nurses. Nurses, aides and assistants, all dressed in their pantsuits, looked alike to me.

The only time I could identify a nurse was when she introduced herself at the beginning of a shift or gave me the medicine listed on a computerized medicine chart after she scanned my wrist bracelet to make sure I was who I said I was.

Those caring for me listed their names on a blackboard each day, along with their titles. This list changed every day.

My family doctor deserted me during this emergency as most do these days since they have no hospital privileges and left my care to hospitalists. The hospitalists, most of whom were very good but with their own separate opinions regarding my treatment, rotated so I never knew who would attend me on a specific day.

I was lucky to have my specialist with the final word visit me in the hospital and prescribe my medication and treatment.

In my condition, I was convinced that the rotation of the hospital staff and hospitalists was a plot to confuse me and keep me quiet for fear of being labeled senile.

I was sent directly from the doctor's office to the ER because of the severity of my symptoms. After filling out a bunch of papers and being weighed when I could hardly walk or breathe, I was escorted to a unit in the ER.

They immediately started oxygen. I was forced to wear a hospital gown so they could start an IV and do an EKG. The lab girl came to draw blood before they hauled me off for a chest x-ray.

After six hours in the ER, a volunteer arrived with a wheelchair to take me to my room - without my having eaten lunch or dinner.

I liked my modern room with a view and a separate curtained-off section with a pull-down bed for a family member or such until I discovered they had placed me in isolation. They said it was because of a sputum culturing MRSA 10 years ago, ignoring the fact that my current sputum test was negative.

That explained the long delay for a room since they had to sanitize the room before I could be admitted.

Being high as a kite on 80mg of IV Solu-Medrol, I didn't realize how sick I was. I didn't care either. I became a pro at dragging around an IV pole and the long tubing that supplied my oxygen. I didn't even mind the vampires who came repeatedly to draw my blood.

I was excited when they transported me out of my jail cell for a chest x-ray and a CT Scan.

I was never lonesome. About every four hours the respiratory therapist gave me a treatment. In between these treatments, my vital signs were checked or I was given medication. When this activity wasn't going on, my IV beeped, which necessitated another visit from the nurse.

I felt sorry for the staff having to listen to all the IV beeps up and down the hall. I thought they should change the sound to something like Claire de Lune. I also felt sorry for them as I watched them put on the gown, gloves and mask every time they entered my room.

Visitors like my minister had never experienced this gown, mask and glove procedure. I think they were a little fascinated in spite of the discomfort of the rigid face mask. (They wouldn't allow the soft masks.) At my suggestion, the minister took his face mask home to use while he was mowing his grass.

I could tell I was getting better when I got tired of the woman down the hall yelling "hello" all the time for attention and when I got sick of pacing back and forth dragging tubes around in my confined space.

I told the young lab girl that I needed a sign saying, "Free Willie,” She thought this was a good idea so she posted one on my window.It read," THIS IS A PROTEST! FREE JACQUELYN NOW!

Two days later I was released. The man next door wanted to know if he could have my sign so they could release him.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I got many chuckles from your article, having spent 6 1/2 weeks "incarcerated" this last autumn. It is all exactly as you said, but I would add that the days of getting a sponge bath and back rub from a nurse are long gone.I didn't even get help from an aide to shower and I couldn't stand alone. It was a treat when I got home to have the "bath lady" come twice a week to nearly drown me in shampoo, soap and lotion.

You are right about no sponge bath, back rub or assistance in showering.I didn't get those either.

I just send my doctor a signed copy of my DNR...I do not want to suffer or put my family through that either BUT when push comes to shove...will I go along with it....only the future can tell. OYE GEVALD!!!!!

During the 10 years of my husband's illness and many hospitalizations, my job was to arrive at the hospital by 7 am and stay until 6 pm to be sure to catch the multiple physicians caring for him. Like many older and very sick people he needed an advocate who learned how to get the necessary services. Often the sponge bath and shave were my job and endeared us to the staff as did the home made brownies (I'm not above bribery). I learned that the assigned hospitalist could be replaced and that my husband's specialists could talk to one another if requested to do so.

While our medical care has advanced greatly in the last 50 years it has become so complex and impersonal that we need a GPS to navigate the system - and of course that is if you have good insurance.

Jackie - Fortunately, I haven't been hospitalized for many years. Your terrific description of today's regimented, wired-up, almost automated process seems like what my Subaru Outback must experience each time I drop it off for a major overhaul! - Sandy

Opened my laptop (which is a semi-rare occurence these days)only to see your message. I'll have to view your other recent posts to find out what happened. Hope you are doing well. You made me laugh when reading this post. Yes it is as you say. These last few years I've made quite a few visits to our local hospital. Guess I'll go check your other recent posts...Be strong. We out here in cyber land love you..

Thank you, Patricia. I am doing much better but not quite up to "my usual par". However, I am getting pretty good on the treadmill.

How true, but you did not get a Humorectomy, thank goodness.

I totally understand how important it is make the care better for patient, but I'm not sure all of the changes have done that. Thanks for giving us the laughs you did today.

Humour is essential in dealing with all that life can throw at us - but as Sydney said -so is an advocate for anyone in hospital nowadays -it can literally mean the difference between life and death to have someone there for you checking on just what is happening- a partner, family member, friend or even someone you have to employ! Just make sure your have someone looking out for you - and brownies are a great idea - everyone can be bribed!

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