The Hospital Meditations

My apologies, dear reader, for the lack of posts as of late, a reality that has undoubtedly left you jonesing. Alas, I have a chronic medical condition that has slowed me a bit and required a couple nights in the hospital. But what a rich source of material! So I'll go all Marcus Aurelius on you here and offer some meditations -- The Hospital Meditations.

1. All discussions of the hospital experience begin and end with the gowns, or "johnnies," one is forced to wear. Why are they so heinous? Well, a few reasons jumped out me. The first is that it's just not right to have your butt hanging out there like that. It's like they got together and asked, What is the least dignified thing possible that a patient could wear? The next is that there is no way to roll over or change position in bed without the thing twisting around you like a boa constrictor or bunching up like an old stretched out pair of "tighty whities." The third point is that everyone looks sickly and ridiculous in them, especially when you're hooked up to an IV and such. Let's put it this way, put Tom Brady in one of these and even he will look like an unhealthy loser. Well, um, maybe.

2. Many doctors have a kind of attractiveness that is distinguished by well balanced features and good skin and ideal body weight. It is the attractiveness of perfection. And you know they can play the hell out of some classical piano, violin, or cello.

3. The hospital is an incredibly large and hierarchical institution. God only knows how many layers exist from the sanitation staff up to the neurosurgeons. The MDs can be forgiven a little cockiness, given their place in the pecking order. What I want to know is whether there are any administrators who command as much respect as the top doctors. Going back to football again, I'd have to say that Bill Belichik is as authoritative as Brady, so maybe a similar dynamic holds in a hospital.

4. Being in hospital is like existing in a mash up of a Robert Altman soundtrack and an electronic ambient recording by Aphex Twin. Murmurs and snatches of half-heard overlapping conversation emerge from everywhere, a la Altman, and a never-ending chorus of electronic blips and beeps echoes down the halls and from room to room, engaging in constantly shifting patterns, a la the Twin. I actually like the beeps; I find them soothing.

5. Do not turn on your TV. It will make you crazy, always searching for something good that isn't there. And you don't want TV voices in your head.

6. As an editor, I know how personally one can take a difference of opinion about something as simple as the placement of a comma or employment of an em dash. Somehow, your competence or judgment as a person gets attached to these disagreements, even when that minor. So can you imagine how differences about diagnosis and treatment play out and are felt among doctors? Members of my medical team actually differed on the best discharge day for me.

7. The size of the medical equipment, supplies, and technology industry must be staggering, given the array of devices I encountered the last couple days. Just the technology around something like an IV includes a lot of parts from the plastic bags and the tubes all the way up to electronic monitoring devices. From the bedpan to the MRI machine, there's a lot of stuff that has to be supplied by somebody. The competition for these contracts must be beyond intense, and one might reasonably wonder how much corruption is involved.

8. Nursing looks like a great profession, one requiring complex technical knowledge and people skills, and one that features endless changes in patients and challenges. I'm glad to see more men doing this. Male nurses don't have to act feminine in the slightest to do their job well, which raises questions of what constitutes 'caring.' Of course, this was played for laughs in the pretty good movie Meet the Parents, in which Ben Stiller's male nurse character is played off of Robert DeNiro's old school macho father-in-law to humorous effect. The downside has to be burnout, with the nurse being caught in a cross-fire of bureaucratic nonsense and the great demands of dealing with people who are not in a great way at the time.

9. When you are put on a clear diet and get really, really hungry you can learn to love things like jello. As the old adage has it, hunger is the best cook. And you know what, I didn't think the solid food I had was bad at all.

10. Constantly combing your hair can help you feel like you're still in the game.

11. Since I rock it old school, I have chest hair. Which means that removing the EKG sensors that have been stuck to your body conjures up the epic chest waxing scene from The 40 Year Old Virgin. Pull them fast and let the F-bombs fly.

Go here to read my first set of meditations, The Hamburger Meditations.


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