Monday, December 6, 2010

Life: Indifferent and Arbitrary

To follow-up on a previous posting concerning life during, and after, an unplanned and unwanted spell in Hospital Land, I suppose what’s particularly ugly about the overall experience—aside from the incredibly obvious—is the palpable indifference that wends its way through the sterile ether. Now, according to all that I’ve read, I was a patient in one of the best hospitals in New York State. And the doctors were top notch (they saved my life), and the nurses even better than that. Nevertheless, there were many instances when the quality of care was seemingly put on hold, suspended indefinitely.

For example, at some point in my stay I was scheduled for an MRI procedure, which necessitated a three mile or so journey from one hospital hotspot to another. If memory serves, the exam was scheduled for 9:45 in the morning and, of course, I was in transit long before that. When all of this transpired, my pre-amputated right knee was a grisly mess—an open wound that reeked to high heaven. I was also in perpetual pain and on countless meds to help alleviate the worst of it.

Well, to make a very long story short, I didn’t undergo said MRI until mid-afternoon sometime, and didn’t get back into my hospital bed until 7:30 at night, where I had a debriding surgery on the docket for later in the evening. Now, I won’t bore you as to the why it took so long for the MRI, which, by the way, is very unpleasant—a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare. I think one of the operating machines may have been out of order or some such thing. And then I had to wait hours for my ride back from whence I came. But what interested me most of all this day was how I had become a non-entity—somebody else’s problem. There was absolutely no concern that yours truly was in a tremendous amount of pain, and on medications, which didn’t get shipped along with my still breathing body. And so I received no pain relief all day long. And, too, there was no concern that I get a bite to eat, either. While I’m not a medical person, I suspect that when you’re really, really sick and very, very weak, a little nourishment might just do you a bit of good. If it weren’t for a sympathetic receptionist on duty supplying me with Jell-O, a few of packs of saltines, and apple juice from the waiting-room refrigerator, absolutely nothing would have passed between my lips from nine in the morning to about eight at night. Her superior even chided her for such generosity. I recall him saying, “That stuff’s for us.”

So, I spent hours upon hours in a waiting room, with countless people coming and going as if those of us patiently waiting on stretchers for our MRIs were invisible. The office conducted its mundane business as usual. Inconsequential personal conversations also occurred while the sick on stretchers listened in—if we were fortunate enough to be that aware, and some of us weren’t. And, if the majority were anything like me, they took special note of the cold chill in the air—life reduced to total indifference and completely arbitrary in meting out its punishments. Kind of scary, and not something one soon or so easily forgets.

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