Friday, January 18, 2013

The Maw of the Hospital-Industrial Complex

People who know me well may or may not know that I have a phobia of hospitals.  My mother-in-law's experience in 2005 solidified my phobias into knowledge.  She fell, broke her hip, and everything that could go wrong did go wrong, including staph infections, nursing staffs who couldn't communicate with us or with each other, doctors arguing over best treatment, a lengthy time to wait for a Hospice recommendation.  It was brutal.

Happily, my husband's experience this week was almost completely opposite of his mother's.  He's been experiencing varying degrees of pain for all of 2012 and 2013, and he underwent microsurgery on his spine.  The surgeon said that the herniation was very large--and now it's gone.

Yesterday was my spouse's first relatively pain-free day in 13 months--he was feeling so good that he didn't even request pain meds.

Here are some reflections from our journey into the maw of the hospital-industrial complex:

--As we left for the hospital on Wed. morning, I felt a strange calm--and a strange sense of optimism.  I wondered if what I felt was similar to what a couple going to the hospital to have a baby feels.

--I expected to feel freaked out or grossed out or any number of negative emotions.  For the most part, I was bored.

--I was bored because we spent a lot of time waiting. In part, it's because my spouse seemed to recover from it all very quickly. In part, it's a different world. As one person said, "You're on hospital time now."

--All of the TV shows that I've watched that are set in hospitals have a much faster pace than real life.  People race here and there and patients collapse or spew fluids or erupt in verbal theatrics.  We didn't see any of that.

--We had good customer service the whole way through.  Everyone we encountered was warm and kind and welcoming. I asked one nurse if they have to do customer service training periodically, and she said, "No. Most of us are just into giving our best in that area.  It's who we are."

--It made me think of my own workplace.  I, too, try to be customer service oriented in everything that I do, and to see everyone as my customer:  students, faculty, staff.  It's partly a spiritual thing with me.  I want to be light in a dark world.  Some days I'm better at that than others.

--My spouse has a quirky sense of humor.  It's not always effective in a hospital setting.

--My spouse said that trying to sleep inside of a recovery room is like trying to sleep inside a video game.  Lots of beeps and whistles and electronic sounds.

--In the recovery room, we were surrounded by patients in much worse shape.  I don't know how people who work in hospital settings cope with the knowledge of the many ways our flesh will fail us.

--I was also struck by how many of the staff aspired to work in a different part of the hospital.  The nurse in the recovery room hoped to move to the Trauma Center.  One of the nurses who came to the room to draw blood or take blood pressure had aspirations to the OR.

--I thought about all the ways we think of rescue:  superheroes who take on the forces of evil or fairy tales where the maiden is saved from a dark spell.  I think of all the ways we think we may have to rescue our loved ones and how often that scenario isn't the one we end up facing.

--I'm amazed by all the technology and all the people that a hospital hires.  No wonder health care costs us all so much.  I know that some of it is necessary for some people.  But I suspect there are lots of ways one could cut costs.  Happily, that's a subject for someone with different expertise than I have.

--Last night, I felt exhausted in much the same way that I often felt exhausted during my mother-in-law's much more gruesome experience.  Why does being in a hospital, even when there's no drama, exhaust me so much?

--And now, on with the healing.  Hurrah for healing!

1 comment:

Hannah Stephenson said...

Yes, hurray for healing! Glad to hear it was a good experience.