Hospital Absurdities

I’ve been thinking a lot about illnesses lately.  About how some of them take your loved ones away, piece by piece, until there is nothing left of the person you once knew.

My grandmother’s mind was ravaged by Alzheimer’s. Such an insidious disease. She went from the fiercely strong woman I knew to someone who no longer even knew herself.  And as some of you know, my dad is currently struggling with cancer; he’s doing everything he can to kick its ass.  I’ve often wondered: is it better to lose your mind and keep your bodily health or retain your intellect yet have your body waste away? A twisted kind of lottery if you ask me, no matter which way you go. Terminal illness sucks, of that there is no doubt.

While I would drop everything to be at their beck and call, from day to day I try to keep a light heart and not dwell on the reality that is my dad’s illness … if I did, I’d go down that rabbit hole and never come back up. Instead I show my love through food and treats and stupid jokes and gossip and stupid jokes. Did I mention stupid jokes?

The tangled mess that is my mind wonders about so many things and since we’re discussing illness, naturally, I wonder about hospitals. So here is me … dealing with an ugly reality in a very not so mature way.

Why can you never find a doctor?  It’s a hospital, for goodness sake.  Doctors swarm around there like ants on your kitchen counter, so why is it you can never find one when you need him?  Pinning a doctor down for a visit to your hospital room is like planning a visit from your cable company, only a lot less fun.  “I’ll be there between 8am tomorrow morning and 11pm next Tuesday.”  Are there hidden golf course in the basement of the hospital?

Why are so many surfaces white?  Sure, I get the concept.  White equals cleanliness and sterility.  But what’s the point when the janitors are playing “Guess That Body Fluid” every time they make rounds?  Do you think janitors and housekeeping play fun games behind closed doors?  “I’ll see that pee puddle and raise you a vomit pile.”  “BINGO!”

Why do they wake you up to give you a sleeping pill?  Look, Mr. Baker is finally asleep.  Let’s run the floor polisher, set off all the alarms, and wake him for a sleeping pill.

Where do they hire the cooks?  Is there a testing process the cooks have to go through to be hired?  “Yes, Mrs. Smith, I see you worked in the High School cafeteria.  Serving cardboard pizza and soy hotdogs is great experience for this job.  However, I’m afraid you failed the test when you made the chicken taste like meat.”

How do they change the hallways to ensure you get lost every time you leave the floor?  This is some kind of engineering feat to rival anything NASA accomplishes.  From the moment you step out into the hallway, the room changes sides and moves to the opposite wing of the hospital.  The hallways reconfigure themselves, and the elevators disappear completely.  I swear, it’s like Hogwarts on steroids (if you don’t get that reference, go read the Harry Potter series … it’ll be good for you). The cafeteria moves multiple times to ensure no one will ever be able to find it, or its tasteless chicken.  I tried to leave a trail of breadcrumbs, but they disappeared when the janitor swept them up, excitedly marking his Bingo card.  Apparently, breadcrumbs are double or nothing.

Why have a call button at all?  Admit it, we all do this.  You hit the call button and immediately go out to find a nurse.  This is similar to the person hitting the up button on the elevator when it’s already been pushed.  Of course, once the call button is pushed, all nurses and technicians play hide and seek.  Well, all except for that poor nurse who’s always standing at the medication cart, paper cup in one hand, looking like a deer in the headlights.

Can we try happy words instead of procedure names?  “It’s bubbly yum yum time” sounds so much better than “It’s time for your chemo treatment.”

In all seriousness, I hate disease, and the way it robs us of all we hold dear.  The treatments sometimes seem worse than the illness they are treating, and it is hard to stay strong when you are watching someone begin to lose parts of themselves.  Some stories have good endings – thankfully, my Dad appears to be veering off into this direction – some, unfortunately, don’t.  The best you can do is reassure your loved ones that you have your seat belt on, and you’re coming along for the ride.

In the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to try to find some small doses of humor along the way.

Oh, and I’ll bring the snacks.

 

Because Allergies are Contagious

I’m sorry I fell off the face of the Earth the past couple of days.  My computer died (may it rest in peace) and then I got sick, thanks so much to my daughter for that one.  I did take my daughter to the doctor to test for strep as she’s prone to that and it’s most likely what she had given the severity of her symptoms…at least so says her mother of 16 almost 17 years, said mom knowing what the girl looks like when she has strep among other illnesses she has had umpteen times in her life.

But the doctor knew better, as you’d think they would, and decided it had to be allergies. Really, really bad allergies. The rapid strep test came back negative as it does every single time Sarah has ever been tested in her life. But was it cultured to find out for sure? Why no, no it wasn’t. Why not? I’m glad you asked. It’s because she has allergies. Just ask the doctor.

Of course Sarah has never had allergies in her life, but sinus infections with accompanying strep throat…now that she’s had more times than I can count. But of course it’s not strep or a sinus infection. It’s allergies. You see the pollen has been so bad here of late that everyone, even people without known allergies, are being affected by it. The doctor said so.

So it’s been a few days now since my daughter first showed symptoms. And here I sit. Sick as a dog. Feeling like I have a thousand knives lining my throat among other, don’t want to talk about it symptoms.

My daughter’s nonexistent before now allergies must be contagious.

Sick-O

As if life wasn’t hectic enough, the universe recently thought it could double up on my stress level and bless me with a nice medical problem on top of everything else that’s been vying for the top spot in my list of current anxieties. Or, maybe I should say it’s not so much a medical problem as it is… cue ominous music… “mystery science theatre,” because as of yet the doctors have no clue how to solve whatever it is I’ve got – or even what I have.

I’ll tell you, there’s a special category of “disheartening” when you go to your doctor seeking reassurance in the knowledge that surely to goodness somewhere in his career he’s cured things much worse than whatever it is you’ve got and he just shrugs his shoulders at you. Literally. That’s what he did.  No joke.

When I first went in to be seen the doctors went straight down the terror route. “Ahh, let’s see, maybe we should do a biopsy of something.”  Of course, my mind immediately jumped from “I thought I might need some pills for a few days” to “What the hell’s going to be on my tombstone?” Then, after wrapping my head around the possibility that I might have a malignant golf ball in my lungs and/or my sinuses, the doctors said “Nah, screw that, never mind.” They never did the biopsy.

Instead they downgraded their opinion of what I might have to something cheerfully referred to as “double pneumonia.” Just for the record, I would have been fine with just a single. That’s all the pneumonia I’ll ever need.

Then the doctors said, “Forget we mentioned that” and changed it to sudden onset asthma.  Then, another guess was thrown in the ring for good measure… bronchitis?

None of their treatment methods have worked out so far. At this point it just sort of feels like they’re flipping through pages in a medical dictionary and seeing where their finger lands. After the attempts at treating the bronchitis, asthma, and pneumonia failed they at least know it’s none of those three. Thank you, Dr. Obvious.

So now we just have to keep doing more tests. Not like I have other stuff do with my day. Oh sure, Doc, I’ll be here whenever you need me. What do you want to test for? Rabies? Great! You think it could be scurvy? Let’s find out!

I’m sorry, I know diagnosing an illness isn’t exactly so cut and dry, but c’mon, Doc. You have that fancy degree hanging up on your office wall. Let’s earn it, buddy. If I have to go into another X-ray and give a 10 minute explanation about how I know for sure that I’m not pregnant one more time, my freakin’ head’s going to explode. Just mark it down on my record. I’m sure there’s a box there. Pregnant? No. In ink. And please just believe me next time. I’m not trying to pull one over on you.  Seriously.  I’ve had two kids, one is 22 years old.  I know where babies come from and would hope you’d trust me about something as life-altering as pregnant or not pregnant.  You don’t need to give me the third degree every single time.

As of today the doctors, in their infinite wisdom, have me on the steroid prednisone which, as it turns out, is the same medicine my dog takes. Go figure. If they put a cone around my head I might just seek out another healthcare provider. Until then, I’ll take the steroids and my own in-house remedy…Mucinex and Codeine-laced cough syrup.  A combo of those two and it’s nighty-night.  I didn’t even have to go to med school to figure that one out.