Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Patient No. 1-2-3 Observations #saynotoneedlepokes #dislikeshospitalfood #hatesplasticbracelets

RX Needed: Hot doctor, better drugs, nicer outfits with better back coverage and do you have to stamp the hospital name on it like we're convicts (although, SOME DAYS it does feel prison-like, I have to admit!) It's not like we are stealing these fashion gems! The only runway these little numbers will see are a hospital hallway or the bed of a MRI machine. Lights, camera, action... Start the clang & clack of technology!

So, I'll be talking hospital gowns later on in the month and I have an entertaining story for you then. Today, though, it's all about patient observations. I've done this whole patient thing a few times... Like two-dozen times and counting. If I could get a degree as a patient, I'd have something by now... maybe a bachelor's, working my way to a master's? Crazy to talk about it in these terms, I know! It's how I cope. And I hope I can share some of my experiences -- good, bad, and ugly -- with you! A few funny and freaky ones might have slipped in! I might have to apologize or delete this blog later. Ha!

I'm always in a zone when I wake up on surgery day. I've got my target in my mind's eye: I'm getting to where they knock me out (hang on...) before surgery by giving me a relaxant ("the good stuff") through the IV in my arm. Before I know it the black-gray mask is over my face. I so dislike the suffocating rubber smell over my nose and mouth, blocking my view, aiding my surgical slumber at a rapid speed. For a brief second, every time, I think: "Is this sucker, this dang contraption, gonna kill me?" Someone overhead tells me, "Breathe in real deep, Leslie. Real deep." I feel a gentle pat on my right or left shoulder. "We will take good care of you. Don't worry about a thing. Breathe in. Big deep breath. See you in a little while." I can feel my body ease into the gurney, my eyes flutter closed. I heard one last question: "Are we ready to get started here soon?" Faint laughter and the clang of medical equipment fills my ears. Then, I'm gone.


1) Ever feel you're the equivalent of a frequent-flier when it comes to hospitals and doctor's offices? Where's my free trip? My free anything! Can I feed the fish in the lobby fishtank? Get a free smoothie? Something? Coupon for parking?

2) What about when you get your prescription filled after a long day of doctor visits, scans, and a blood draw...But wait! The pharmacist has a problem! Oh no, not NOW! It's late. You're tired, your feet hurt, your stomach is growling... The pills can't be re-filled yet because it is too soon on the calendar, according to your insurance carrier. Insurance will pay for it in a few days but not now. The out-of-pocket cost is $435. "Come back in four days," says the pharmacist. The hospital pharmacy is not in your town, though. It's actually a two-three hour drive depending on traffic. You only have pills for two days. You need pills now. NOW. Can YOU relate?

3) In an open area, near a waiting room full of patients, you have a nurse yell your weight as if she's yelling "Bingo!" Loud. Very LOUD. Fair skin + red hair + embarrassing moment = Glowing patient! p.s. Karma make its rounds! :)

4) Girl talk, for a moment. Hospital undergarments! The white "mesh"underwear. If you can call it underwear. Have you SEEN it? Have you WORN it? OMG! It is more like someone took scissors to mosquito netting and fashioned it to look like a pair of panties! It's horrible! While we're here... no padding for down there! None!

When a nurse handed me a pair of "fruit of the doom" undies before my surgery I thought I was on one of those blooper shows. I just knew it! This HAD to be a joke. No blooper. Just sad, sad bloomers. What a mess! This whole time I have thought the hospital gown has been so bad! That's regal, a showstopper, in comparison.

5) Nurse Ratched is a legendary literary character. "Medication Time!" But I'm here to tell you that she's not just in books but alive and in a hospital near YOU! Before you think I've knocked over all my pill bottles, let me explain. There is more than one Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over The Cukoo's Nest), who may not go by that name, but has a irritable, mean, even devilish persona.

Most nurses I've met have been extremely helpful, kind, and supportive during my hospital stay. There are exceptions, though, ready and willing to give you The Evil Eye. *I have witnesses. He or she can be unwilling to communicate with the patients and/or physicians, try to convert you to her religion while on her work shift (appropriately apologize and then start all over again preaching!), and theres the lovely nurses who are in a rotten mood the entire shift and give you the *wrong* medicine. Luckily, your visitor catches the error!

You don't choose to be here! You have to be here because a tumor is causing pain in your left shoulder and you must have it removed. It's not for fancy cosmetic surgery or a vacation from the fur kids or real kids like a Real Housewife, or more accurately, a Real Singleton of Texas! LOL!

Besides, would I really choose the Brain and Spine wing of a hospital to spend my time off if I had a choice? Um, no. New York City! Southern California! Georgia! How about overseas? ... Although I've had so many now I might as well go for the world record, right? Most Surgeries of a Single Woman Who Hasn't Completely Lost Her Mind And Still Has A Penchant for Those Cozy Hospital Socks with the No-Skid Feet. Sad, but affirmative. I'm doing the best I can. In conclusion, Nurse Ratched is alive and well. And in a hospital near you! Be on alert. That said,
there have been wonderful nurses I've been honored to meet in Houston and Seattle who know way more than the the average doctor. I'm serious. Much like teachers, they rarely get the pat on the back they deserve and get paid far too little for what they do. I joke about the few "bad seeds" but there are some amazing men and women out there who keep those hospitals running.

6) Never ever read itemized statements of your hospital bills unless you are actually in the hospital. Lying down! Strapped down! Are you comfortable? Do you have plenty of medication in your system? Warning: If the statement is fully read, you might experience side-effects such as: a red face; yelling; excessive obscenities; screaming; crying with projectile tears; hysteria; rage; running or sprinting after doctors, nurses and other staff; overwhelming sense of helplessness. See. I told you not to read it! Oh, don't use that extra box of Kleenex. It's *18.50 per box, not including tax. (*Kidding with you! Not sure how much hospital tissue is these days!

7) No matter how sweet or kind-sounding physical therapists seem, be wary at all times. They're all up to something. :) I had one PT take me on a walking tour of MD Anderson in Houston (the place is like a city!) the day after surgery. The DAY AFTER SURGERY! A little soon for a city walking tour, eh? (OK, so we didn't see the entire City of MDA but we saw enough and what we saw I never want to see again.

Couldn't we go to a window that overlooks a garden or even just some art? She took me down this window-less hallway and made me walk, walk, walk. Gray carpet. Gray walls. Gray, gray, gray. Everything was gray. Think of Seinfeld's "No soup for you!" guy and convert it to my situation here: "No fun for you!" Yeah. Boy, did I hurt the next day. Know thy limits and know thy physical therapists. And lock your hospital doors at 2 p.m.

8) Why does every release from the hospital take longer and longer...longer than even Mom's stubborn doxie, Abbey, to get from the corner of the backyard to the back door? That. dog. takes. her. time. You watch her and it's as if days go by before she makes her way into the house. It's like the saying goes, 'her way or no way.' Well, unless you say, THE WORD. If you say THE WORD, the waiting is over. The dog is in the door in seconds flat. "Treat." All of a sudden, magic happens. Tiny feet, long body flying through the grass so fast it gives you those cartoon stars if you watch the performance start to finish.

The one piece of information I want to know is: What is the magic word to get me out of the hospital? I've tried getting the paperwork started the day before but it DOES NOT HAPPEN. The real aggravating part is that the doctor can even give me the green light "to go home" and it can be hours and hours AND HOURS before I leave. A nurse can tell me to plan for a 8-9 a.m. release and it still can be a long wait even if I'm ready, suitcase packed. Come to think of it I don't know if I've ever been sent home before noon! But wait, do I have my prescription? Can't leave without the prescription!

So, when I wake up from surgery, I wiggle my arms and fingers, determine how this stacks up against the last few procedures pain-wise. It honestly takes me a moment to remember where on my body but the pain usually alerts me rather quickly. Post-surgery, I am constantly amazed each time by the dryness of my mouth, the open desert. The ice chips, the size of a pencil's eraser, are given to me by the spoonful. The first chip as it melts, tastes like a body of water, cold and fresh. I swallow, wanting more and more.

***HEY, READERS, DO YOU have a memorable observation from your medical experience you would like to share? Not looking for fiction here! This has to be a real experience that happened to you, a friend, or family member in the hospital, doctor's office, exam room, etc. I would love to hear your stories & I might even put your submission on my blog! E-mail your stories to lesliee30@gmail.com with the subject line Observe. Thanks!

©The Healing Redhead

First and last images: http://office.microsoft.com


  1. If it makes you feel any better, I've started joking around with some of the staff members at my doctor's offices. At least that makes me feel like I have an in for being a frequent flier.

  2. Abigail, Thanks for stopping by my blog! You make a good point here. Humor can help diffuse a situation, lighten a situation that might be getting too emotional/tough for you, the patient, etc. All round, humor can be a wonderful sidekick in the doctor's office -- even if you are telling yourself the jokes in your head (think I'm crazy? It works!) and later share with your BFF, favorite co-worker, or family member. If it helps get you through the appointment, LOL! ;) Abigail, I think the staff feels more at ease too when someone has a lighter attitude going into the appointment (easier said than done - believe me - though humor again helps with this) . So, thank you! Hope to talk to you again!