What Others Say About Death – Take Two
When Health Professionals Disagree

A TGB READER STORY: Eat All Day, Pee All Night

By Fritzy Dean

Recently I spent several miserable days ”in hospital,” as our British friends would say. Even though I was quite uncomfortable and anxious to get home, there were some lighter moments during my stay. Those moments are my focus here.

The very beginning was far from auspicious. The intake nurse was a young black man. He was clearly bored, having asked the same questions over and over all day.

In a monotone he asked, “How tall are you?”

I told him.

“How much do you weigh?”

I told him, adding, “That is my weight this morning in my birthday suit.”

Without a pause, in the same dry monotone, he said, “Thanks for the visual.”

“Oh, you’re welcome! I’m sure that image is burned into your retinas for all eternity!” It was a little funny and I would have laughed if I hadn’t been in so much pain.

Among other indignities, I was told I would be going down to the basement of the hospital to the ultrasound lab for a tesy. AND I was instructed to EAT ALL DAY.”

Now there was a time, not so long ago, when that order would have made me delirious with glee. Eat All Day? NO problem! Now? Not so much.

I got used to be being quizzed by the nursed. Did you order breakfast? What did you have? Have you eaten lunch? You should order a snack, you know.

When I got to the lab, I was so stuffed that the probe used over my abdomen was painful. I felt like the Goodyear blimp, about to blow. But the tech was happy; he got excellent pictures.

One of the discoveries from that lab trip was a small amount of fluid on my left lung. So, in addition to getting Lasix, a powerful diuretic, every morning I was also given the same dose at night. So there was no sleeping. None.

I got a routine down after a short trial period. Get up, drag my IV pole to the bathroom, empty my bladder, go back to bed. Lie down, arrange the sheet and blanket over me. Get up, drag my IV pole and repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Every few hours, someone would come into the room and and ask me to look at the pain chart on the wall. The chart had a series of faces drawn in a line, with a smiley face at zero for no pain and a frowning: face at ten, for a lot of pain.

“The face I need is not on there,” I told them. “The face I’m feeling is a fire-breathing dragon and your numbers don’t go high enough to record it.”

Finally the pain began to subside. I felt as if I had gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson. He kicked my butt, too.

One day the nurse, again a young black man, told me that instead of his usual five patients, he had six that day. AND he was the charge nurse so he would be extremely busy. Because of this, he asked if I would confine myself to the room, please?

WHAT? The only time I have left this room is on a gurney. Where do you think I would go? Just stay confined in the room, ma’am. Okay. Sigh. That is how I discovered I was in the maximum security Unit.

Another day, I was desperately trying to nap, while “housekeeping” was clearing the room. The housekeeper was picking up linens and trash and swinging a dust mop, all while speaking seriously into her phone. I was not trying to listen.

In fact, I was trying NOT to listen, when she raised her voice enough to be heard in Galveston. “Listen Here! I hope you don’t think my life is all rainbows and unicorn farts, 'cause it’s not!”

She saw me looking at her with my mouth and my ears wide open. She dropped her voice to a whisper, so I never heard the definition of unicorn farts. I was very disappointed. I’m still wondering if they smell like rainbows. What do rainbows smell like, anyway?

In spite of these light moments of levity, I was grateful to escape. My bed had missed me dreadfully. We were so happy to be reunited. If my prayers are answered, this will be my last visit to the charming, alarming oh-so-grueling eat-all-day, pee-all-night establishment in the Texas Medical Center.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]



Comments

Thank you Fritzy -- you've provided a very amusing start to my morning. I love stories in which there is an honest account of trying times, but with a twist of humor. And I really admire someone who can hold on to that humor while in pain and discomfort. May your day be full of rainbows and unicorn farts!

(P.S. I think they smell like colorful breakfast cereal with tiny marshmallows)

Why is it necessary to refer to the incompetent nurses as "black men." Does the author refer to all people by their race. It's pretty offensive.

Continued smoother days. FRITZY. I have to say I have same question as Michael. Why the necessity to mention the nurse's race? In a medical situation or any other for that matter if the individual is qualified to care for me or is of help in any way, race is insignificant. Today's world and any time in history,see such descriptions as racist. He was a nurse period!

Boy does this story take me back--exactly one year ago this week, I was "in hospital" for 3 days, for a stent placement in my ureter. It seems all I did was situate myself in my bed, get back up, drag my IV pole to the bathroom, pee. Over & over & over & over.

A young male nursing assistant came in, asked if I wanted a can of ginger ale. I said yes, then told him to just pour it in the toilet and cut out the middle-man. He laughed, pulled out his smartphone & tap-tap-tapped something. I said "What year were you born?" He said "2000" and I suddenly felt about 100 years old.

Fritzy, hope you're doing a lot better :) PS. I hope my mentioning my nursing asst was male wasn't a sexist thing!

We say "in hospital" in Canada too.

So now I'm curious.

What do you say in the USA, when you've been admitted to a hospital?

I'm glad I'm not the only one who wondered why the nurse's race was mentioned--twice. It was offensive to me as a black woman and seemed to imply that black men are generally incapable of being medical professionals. I don't think the writer was treated respectfully or well by this nurse and that is offensive as well but what does that have to do with race?

I loved the story. I think it may be unusual to have a nurse who is a male, and black, and that is why she mentioned it.

In my experience as an old California native, it is rare but recently I've been treated by these persons . I didn't think her portrayal was unrealistic. Most nurses are brusque in my opinion.

When I was getting P.T. for my hip replacement 5 months ago I had a young woman who was gentle at getting me up to walk the same day as the surgery. But the next day I had an older, burnt out woman who made me walk too far and I almost blacked out from my low blood pressure. Then she threatened that if I didn't do better I could not go home the next day.

Very uncomfortable with the mention of two nurses' race. It serves no purpose in your story.

Great funny recollection. I tried reading it without the words "black male" and the story wasn't the same. Thanks, Fritzy. The title was what made me snicker :]

Ronnie ... you are addictive. Your posts, I mean!

I get up, get to the computer, and one of the first things I do is to check to see what is there from you!

Loved Fritzy's comments... don't think the "black male" was meant to be a put-down... any more than "young" would be. But "unicorn farts"... that is a treasure to remember! Thanks!

This one gave me a good laugh although it is certainly true. Those of us from before the cell
phone growths took over find somebody else's "important" one way conversation distracting and in fact irritating. I listen to them at the Navy Hospital and have, in fact, filled
out a complaint form. You're to rest in that room, not have your blood pressure raised by
uncaring hospital workers. Actually, it sounds like your job, eating aside, was to spend most
of your time urinating. Good luck, and thanks for the good laugh!

Fritzie, you found humor in what sounds like a miserable situation, and I love it!

I do understand where those who were offended by your mentioning the young men were black are coming from, but I didn't detect any racism in your remarks. And it is still unusual to see men at all, let along young black ones, working as nurses. So I can see why you mentioned it, and it made the situation funnier.

I think being in a hospital is being in hell. I'm just amazed that you could stand to eat the food!

This is exactly what I dread most about medical care--almost more than death itself. Oh, and the bills that are somehow not covered by whatever insurance you happen to have. A wonderful piece, but my wish for you is that you do NOT have to return to this facility any time soon!

Thanks for finding humor in a not so humorous situation. I hope you are on the mend and don't have to be hospitalized again any time soon.

Such a good way to start my day, reading this piece and from your descriptions I had great visual images of your stay.
Write on!

Thanks to all of those who took the time to comment. To those who were offended by my use of "young black" man....there was absolutely no malice intended. If one of them had been an old bald Italian guy, I might have mentioned that. Or a Asian kid who looked like he should still be in high school. I was merely trying to give a description of my experience as it happened.

Fritzy perhaps it's a generational thing, certain words used in descriptions. For quite some time now, PC, politically correct verbiage is where we are. Language habits can fly quickly from lips and in writings. Your story, experience was quite fun, didn't need anyone's race mentioned or references to bad stereotypes of people of any race. Still wish you smooth days ahead :-)

As I experienced it, your description "young black man" added richness to your story, as it reminded me of delightful experiences I've had with young black men. If we have to start leaving out adjectives we are going to have pretty dull narratives indeed.

For me, the thing is that as you're reading this story (or any story) you're visualising what's going on and we need to know he's a black man in order to visualise correctly. The writer didn't seem to be connecting his being black to his being bored and, in fact, the nurse's comment 'Thanks for the visual' was funny.

Your "pee problem" could have easily been alleviated with the use of the dreaded catheter. As uncomfortable as the insertion process may be, the relief of not having to get up every ten minutes is a godsend.

Thanks for the chuckles!

Katie,
We say “in the hospital .”

Carolyn...

Thanks!

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