I haven’t spent much time in hospitals. Wasn’t even born in one.
Somebody removed my tonsils when I was little, but all I remember is the ice cream. Other than that, I’ve been disgustingly healthy, breezing through the medical world as an occasional, reluctant visitor.
Even then, I rush into the room, say my hellos and sorrys, shuffle my feet, shake hands and hustle back to the real world as soon as possible.
I know it’s not fair, but I think of hospitals as places where people go to die instead of places where people go to live. I’m working on that perception.
Like most businesses we’re not familiar with, hospitals can be mysterious places, adrift in a universe of words we don’t know and people we don’t recognize doing things we don’t understand.
They make us uncomfortable.
We sense our own vulnerability.
Not to mention mortality.
Combine that with an unspoken sense of superiority that often floats in this rarefied atmosphere and it can be intimidating. Especially when the staff is being clever and clinical and you’re standing there in one of those little open-air, gowny thingys.
My surgery is at 7 a.m. tomorrow.
By lunchtime, I hope to be rid of my prostate gland and the cancer that has formed a beachhead there.
With any luck, the war will be short and the good guys will win.
The first skirmish, however, is tonight.
Like most doctors, they’d rather not deal with too much reality, so you have to do a “clean out” before surgery. Nothing goes in. Everything comes out. No big deal. We’re baby boomers.
We invented the colonoscopy. We’re tough. We’re enlightened. We’re thorough.
But this is different. It’s surgery.
And it isn’t for sissies.
I’ve been told in the soft, consoling voices of men who have been there the graphic details of what my surgeon will be doing to me. The incision. The invasion. The cutting.
Fortunately, I won’t be there.
I’ve got a first- class ticket to La-La Land, compliments of Anesthesia Airlines.
My desire is to awaken, surrounded by my loved ones, with a childlike sense of bewilderment, as if it had all been a vague, gauzy dream.
The reality, however, is probably different.
Sick people skills
Medical people are smart, but they don’t always possess people skills. Especially sick people skills. But after they cut you open and take icky things out and sew you back up and fill you full of pain medication, they’re nice to have around in case something really bad happens.
Not that anything bad will happen. You have to believe, despite all the stories about doctors cutting off the wrong legs and staph infections running rampant and drugs getting mixed up and patients being misidentified, that everything will be fine.
Because hospitals are working much harder on their image. For centuries, they were given the benefit of the doubt because they were considered angels of mercy who sought to heal. They were above reproach.
But that’s changed in the consumer age. Which is good. Because hospitals, for all their noble intentions, are now bottom-line oriented.
And I like that. Because if I have to be in the hospital, I want them to value patient referrals.