Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Frontier

Back when I was young, there was a strange television show that speculated about exploring new frontiers and "boldly going where no man has gone before."

Heh. That's not a big deal. All you have to do is go to the hospital. That's a really new frontier. As we grow up, we're exposed to various ailments. Influenza, chicken pox, colds and ear aches. Unless we're incredibly unlucky, we won't have to encounter a hospital stay until we reach adulthood. For many women, their first stay is due to child delivery.

That was the case for me. I was nineteen and greener than an Irish shamrock. I didn't know much, except the doctors and nurses all knew more than I did. That lasted about two days. After nearly dying from a kidney infection, I quickly learned to speak up.

Hospitals are alien adventures beyond any you can imagine. Strange people invade your privacy, stick tubes where no tubes should ever be inserted, inquire about your private, personal voiding habits, take your blood day and night, wake you up to inquire if you're sleeping, and feed you things you would never think to eat any other time in your life and generally treat you like you have all the intelligence of a sea slug.

Over the years, I've had occasion to spend a night or two in the hospital and during that time, I've formulated my own set of rules.

1) Ask. Ask a lot of questions. What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Why can't I (go to the bathroom, take a shower, have something to drink)? The more you ask, the better informed you'll be.

2) You have the right to say no. Wow, what a liberating idea that was. The first time I said no, my doctor showed up very quickly to have a chat with me. After a bit of discussion, he agreed.

3) If something is uncomfortable, speak up. Ask why it hurts. Ask for a pain killer. Ask for an adjustment. 

4) Keep a pad of paper and pen by the bed. If you can't do it yourself, ask your doctor or nurse to jot down the important points from each visit--especially if you're on heavy duty painkillers.

5) Absolutely understand that there will be a point in your life when someone else will have to wipe your butt. We all get there someday. Some of us do so sooner rather than later. Get over it.

6) Understand your doctors and nurses are not gods and goddesses. They're overworked, exhausted, and likely underpaid folks dealing with substances and body fluids that you and I wouldn't touch on a bet. Patients generally stink from stress, sweat, meds, leaky body fluids, and illness. Be happy the docs and nurses are available.

7) Thank you and please are the three most important words you can say. Use them lavishly.


1 comment:

  1. Also - never allow a nurse to try and treat you like crap. You have rights. I've had that situation with my father and I will not ever accept that.