Hospital Thoughts

A Greco-Buddhist statue, one of the first repr...
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It’s been a nerve-wracking few days.

The sweetie needed some tests, and one of them involved a CAT scan with a dye injection. (Looks like he’s OK, thank heaven — only a kidney stone. I shouldn’t say only, as everyone who’s had one or knows someone who has says it is excruciating.)

I’m the one who’s usually lying on the gurney/MRI platform/X-ray table. We’ve been back and forth to our small local community hospital so many times in the past decade — thankfully, for nothing serious — we’re on a first-name basis with the doctor who works the overnight shift at the ER. On one of our last visits, he asked: “So, whose turn is it now?”

It was my turn, then, with a fever of almost 104 and a spot on my lung so dark and ominous he drew the curtain and said it might be lung cancer. The sweetie, a photographer by trade, asked to see the films, as he can read negatives with the skill of a radiologist, even if he doesn’t know what he’s looking at.

It turned out to be only pneumonia, but it still meant three days on an IV, sharing a room with a 95-year-old who startled awake at midnight, sat on the edge of my bed and tried to pull out her tubes. I coughed, as one does with that disease, so hard my body ached from exhaustion; I wrote an essay about it for The New York Times.

This time it was my turn to watch the phlebotomist wheel in her cart and overhear her explaining to him how his body would react to the contrast dye. I kept him company as long as I could. In our 11 years together, I’d never seen him lying flat inside a diagnostic machine, grateful for this and shocked at the sight.

I sat and waited, staring at the lavender wall trim and burgundy cupboards and a cheerful British print on the opposite wall, aware for the first time how soothing it all was and how much I needed it to be so.

My last ER visit was January 2009, the beginning of a five-month odyssey to figure out my painful/arthritic/inflamed left hip — I was in so much pain I could barely walk and I do remember admiring the handsome design of our shiny new ER.

When I’m scared, and I admit to not loving going anywhere near that hospital by now (three orthopedic surgeries since 2000, a hip replacement my next, and more than five times to the ER, for everything from a broken finger to a mild concussion the sweetie incurred in a biking mishap) I do not want to be soothed or distracted by television. Old copies of People don’t do it for me either.

The sweetie, a devout Buddhist, did a lot of deep breathing to stay calm.

I’ve spent a fair bit of time around hospitals, thanks to my mother’s various illnesses, which included a mastectomy and a brain tumor (both of which, 10 years apart) she survived. I’ve seen her in hospitals from London to Sechelt, BC, and have learned to make medical staff crazy when necessary with my direct questions and insistence on information.

We’re glad we have a good hospital nearby, deeply grateful for good health insurance and generally good health, and knowing we can get there within a 10-minute drive.

Wish we didn’t know it quite so well!

18 thoughts on “Hospital Thoughts

  1. May the next several weeks be less eventful with no visits to the hospital.
    My brother-in-law (44) has battled Type-1 Diabetes since he was 2yrs old. He travels all over the world for work, and he has seen hospitals on almost all the continents, due to complications of his Diabetes. He’s a trooper, though. He and I joke about the fact that he needs a ‘Frequent Hospital Stayer’ card. Might as well laugh, eh?

    1. The phrase “frequent flyer” (which we would normally use) has (you know?) a specific/bad meaning in a hospital setting — people addicted to prescription drugs who keep coming in for any reason for more drugs.

      I have NO appetite for visiting a foreign hospital but it’s bound to happen at some point.

  2. Lisa (Woman Wielding Words)

    I’m glad your sweetie is okay, well except for the horrible pain. I hope it passes quickly (or are they going to remove it). I wish there was a way to make hospitals less hospital-ly and still have them do good work.

  3. Fingers crossed for some respite from the hospital visits! I hope your partner’s kidney stones are ousted soon… I hear they are no fun AT ALL.

  4. Cheryl

    ‘Oucheewowoa’ to the kidney stones and ‘whew’ to the CT scan results. We’ve just found the land in the ‘near north’ of Ontario where we will build our (future) retirement house. One of the many pluses for the spot we picked is the growing community a mere 15 minute drive away which includes a new hospital, numerous new commercial and service-related enterprises. Getting ready for the influx of boomers …?

  5. thanks for visiting my blog. I am honoured. I enjoyed reading this. hospital stays can be harrowing. I’ll check out your New York Times article shortly . You are probably aware of Alexsandar Hemon’s harrowing article about his baby daughter’s travails in hospital in the summer fiction issue of ‘the new yorker’

  6. What is the prognosis for after the surgery. I don’t like being in a hospital or going through any kind of surgery, but I hope if it would REALLY be beneficial I would do it, especially if there was no other way to deal with the issue. I pray all goes well for you.

    1. I have dead bone in my left hip and severe arthritis. There’s no way to fix it except to replace it; every step hurts and I am normally very athletic — softball, skiing, skating, riding, hiking — all of which are impossible or dangerous for me right now.

      I loathe the idea of surgery and eight weeks’ rehab but I want my life back. I’m tired of people looking at me and wondering why I limp. I spent 3 months on crutches last year just for a break from the pain (which helped a lot.)

      1. Gosh I am late replying to your last comment! I am so sorry you have this pain and I don’t blame you for not looking forward to the surgery. But it will be worth it to get a better life back.
        When you go in I will pray for a quick healing.

  7. My wife has arthritis of the hips and she struggles more and more. The physio has helped but we are more and more coming to the opinion that surgery will be needed. A good friend came over last week, showed off his scars and gave advice. He has had his new ones eight years and has not regretted it.

    Onwards and upwards, as ever. Hope yours comes to a successful conclusion, on all counts. I hate the smell of hospitals. But playing sports has meant various visits of varying degrees of seriousness. Nothing major yet luckily.


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