By Judy Reiss
I know that I told you that I would be going to the hospital to have a knee replacement. I was all set for this procedure and all ready for when I would be able to come home. Well, of course, the best laid plans of Judy Reiss all went to hell in a hand basket! I won’t bother you with the details or why such a thing could happen but what I will tell you is that without the love and skill of my daughter, Polly, I would be dead today! It was she who found me having a heart attack and who rallied the troops and got me to the cardiac unit at the Medical Center and so as I write this, at home, I am definitely “on the mend”.
So rather than write a column about my medical problems and the many days I spent in the hospital, I wrote this one, which I think is a lot more interesting and important! What I want to do is give you a list of what you should take to the hospital with you and what you can expect when you get there. What do you think? Well, just let me know after you read it.
Number one and foremost is you must take someone with you to the hospital to act as your advocate! I know you think you can take care of yourself and don’t need anyone but you are wrong. I had my three children right there and if it wasn’t for Polly, well, you can only imagine what would have happened. Now, I am assuming you don’t need an advocate to save your life, but you do need someone to make sure you get the services you want and need. Remember, the kindly family and community doctor is just about as available as the Dodo bird!
For me, this was amazingly important. After a day or two in the hospital, I realized my skin was about to be sandpapered off! All the blankets and sheets are washed in heavy duty bleach to keep the germs and diseases at bay, which is a good thing but it tortures your skin. So, my grandson had won a fleece blanket at a sailing race a few years ago and he sent it in to me. And friends, it really made all the difference in the world! My fuzzy blanket and I went everywhere and it really helped not only my skin but my mental health. So bring something soft you can use as a cover.
If you are someone who has spent your life as a private person, forget it! The hospitals of today are huge, like factories for the sick and the last thing they have time for is to accommodate your privacy. My personal favorites are the “gowns” that you are given to wear come in two sizes, Elfin or XXX large. And neither one closes and neither one keeps your private parts private. So, the best thing is to grin and bear it. At least they are clean, and I am assured they make it very easy for the medical staff to reach your part they need to administer medications and to be able to see what is happening with you. And I believe that our rear-end looks just like everybody else’s.
I have many issues I find difficult at best and probably the worst is this. At least at the medical center, every room is a double, which means the small room you are assigned to has another resident in it. And you are separated by a very thin piece of cloth, period. But for me, here is the hitch. Regardless of what is wrong with either of you, you can hear every single thing that is being said or done to your roommate. During the day this is bad enough but in the middle of your sleepless night when all the lights are turned on and a team of caregivers all gather about 3 feet from your bed, it is your worst nightmare. True, I have no idea how to alleviate this problem unless, like Dartmouth Hitchcock you have small individual rooms, which I believe is much, much better. I firmly believe that if I had the stamina to take notes, I could have written a blockbuster revealing novel. Oh and I have only talked about the really bad parts, what I failed to mention is that all of my roommates cried, moaned and screamed throughout the night, too. Did I mention it to anyone? Of course not. These were sick and suffering people and the last thing they needed was a sick, suffering pain in the butt as a roommate!
Just as an aside, I think it is interesting to note that in the restrooms, the toilets are the old kind and very low to the floor. And believe me, it is not only a shock to realize it, it makes getting back up at least a two-person job.
Since I am telling you one of the bad things I should tell you some good. The food was terrific and always arrived hot and presented nicely. But the most important thing was every single nurse I worked with, and there was quite a few, was amazingly good and wonderfully kind and helpful. That might not sound so important but believe me, it is. And maybe it isn’t too polite to mention the initials MD don’t stand for what we think. Nope, they stand for Missing Doctor! Again, the old, kindly warm doctor who used to deliver your babies and come to your houses is long, long gone. If they show up at all it is to say hello and shake your hand. In the 9 days I was there, I was never, not once touched by a doctor! There were aids and there were medical students all exhausted and over worked, but a resident MD, I don’t think so.
So, are you ready to go and have your surgical procedure? Well, of course you are but well before you leave your house be sure you know what kind of post-op care you want and need. A small hospital has a lot going for it that a big mega-hospital doesn’t. And be sure, absolutely sure that you bring your advocate with you. And beg them to stay with you until you leave. You might owe them big time but whatever you have to repay will be worth whatever it costs.
More to come next week, about the hospital? Hopefully not!