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The Monthly Column: That Laid Up Life

by Wombstretcha

The laid-up life. Not the laid-back life or the life of getting laid. Nope, laid-up as in, on your ass.

You see, I had occasion to be hospitalized for a rather lengthy period of time—prior to and after—a major abdominal surgery that corrected some things which, according to physicians, were "all fucked up" and needed some serious work. As life passes in both a dull haze and simultaneous flurry of activity, I have a list of insights from my many weeks in a couple of Oregon’s finer hospitals.

I know everyone likes a good list, so it’s not story time—it’s bullet-point time!

Things I learned in the hospital:

1. They can talk it up all they want, but the food always sucks. Yeah, yeah, "everybody knows that." But, they try to trick you. They have fancy menus and delicious-sounding descriptions for their edible offerings. But, for all the effort they put into that, the food manages to suck in a way very particular to each hospital. In one I was at, they managed to make everything so dry, that it could barely be eaten. How do you fuck up rice? Well, it can be done, if it’s dry as the Sahara and has overcooked, crunchy parts in it. Way to mess up the simplest of foods! Furthermore, these are supposed to be prepared by dietitians, on staff to cook healthy, satisfying meals!!! When Taco Bell sounds better than food prepared by someone with a doctorate degree, you know you’re in a messed-up situation.

2. Hospitals are a place for rest, not sleep. That may be confusing, if you’ve never been hospitalized. The vision is of someone in a comfy, bed-goes-up situation, in and out of consciousness due to drugs or whatever. But, this is not the case. Outside of very serious circumstances, you are not "drugged to sleep," as they prefer you reasonably lucid and want you to sleep on your own. This is hard, given that every few hours, someone will barge in on you and check vital signs, get blood or ask you questions, regardless of the time of day.

3. If sleep is precious, boredom is eternal. It’s 90% downtime, for the most part. And, if there’s serious action (like surgery), you’re knocked out for it, if it’s any kind of significant. Books, laptops, sex industry magazines and other distractions only go so far, when you don’t really have the option of getting up and moving around—you will be bored.

4. Your best friend can literally be a hole in your neck, with medical dreadlocks coming out of it. It is called a "central line" and, while a hole in your neck with a hose running down your jugular doesn’t sound pleasant, you really don’t notice it (plus, it beats hourly needle-stickings).

5. People can, will and regularly do rip out their catheters. Here is a snippet of a conversation heard outside my room, between an old man and nursing staff:

"Sir, you need to get back to your bed." (murmur murmur)

"Sir! Your gown is unbuttoned! You need to be resting!"

(murmur murmur)

"Sir! Don’t pull on your catheter! Please, don’t pull your catheter out!"

(murmur murmur) "YEEEEOWCH!"

"Sir, let’s get you back to your room."

Learn from this old man—do not remove your own catheter. It hurts enough when THEY remove stuff embedded in your peehole. Don’t "freestyle" it.

6. In the matter of organ transplants, there’s a misconception that the organs are "on ice" and waiting to be put into recipients. This is not so. Most of the time, the goodies are kept in the still-living-but-brain-dead body of the donor. The donor’s body is kept medically alive until they round up everyone who’s claimed a piece of them. Then, they "pull the plug" on life support, to let the donor "die naturally." So, to recap, they’re already dead, but everyone has to wait for the body to die. Furthermore, if this process takes too long, you can lose viable organs waiting for them to up and die. Plus, they can’t just strangle them, to speed it up—I asked, and they looked at me like a savage. They’re already dead! Perma-death their ass and get on with it!!! TV and movies seldom touch on this, perhaps because a kidney or a heart in a bag of ice is less unpleasant to think about, than literally using a living corpse as a steam tray to keep fresh organs warm.

7. Sometimes, when you have to take a dump, you are not master of your own fate. Accept the fact that someone else may be steward of your bowel movements.

8. Since constant re-runs on TV are the norm for hospitals, Star Trek watchers might find the parallels between living in a hospital and living on a Trek ship become readily apparent very quickly. How so? Well, here’s a sub-list:

* All the staff wear different colored uniforms depending on their jobs and are always walking with purpose while speaking jargon.

* The food tastes like it was replicated or some shit.

* Day and night lose meaning rather quickly.

* Things are always beeping, alarming, broadcasting messages to certain staff, who can moments later be spotted rushing down a hallway. There’s always a background of techno noise.

* Services are 24/7—food, medical care, repairs, etc.

* There are often fights, camaraderie and gambling between strange alien beings in the public areas, like the ER waiting room.

* Glowing screens everywhere.

* Living quarters are compact, but ecient and fairly comfortable.

* There is often a jovial, bald man (or a sternfaced, middle-aged woman), giving orders to everyone.

* I am pretty sure some Klingons attacked once.

9. Nursing staff either know what they’re doing or are pleasant to look at. Never both, but seldom neither.

So, it goes without saying, avoid hospitalization if you can.