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Friday, January 14, 2011

My First Time in the Hospital or How I Learned that Being Sick is Not Good for Your Mental Wellbeing or How I Killed my Grandmother's 1963 T-Bird

OK. I was 12 years old and woke up with a fever and a humongous pain in my stomach. Since it was a Saturday, my mother took me seriously. The moaning and groaning down the hallway must have disturbed her Saturday morning in some fashion. Somehow or another my grandmother and mother took me to the doctor's clinic while driving my grandmother's 1963 Thunderbird. (Sweet car. It had white leather interior and this actually figures into part of the story. Can you see it coming? Come on, take a guess.) The doctor determined that I was in fact, ill, that I wasn't faking it, hysterical, hypochondriacal, and that it was appendicitis or some damn other thing. (But the pain was on the wrong side of the abdomen.) He told Ma to take me to the hospital. I was going into the BIG house and it was going to be my first time.

On the way out of the parking lot I told my grandmother to pull over. It's possible I screamed at her to pull over while clamping a hand over my mouth while making obscene gulping noises. Imagine this I wanted her to pull over so I could barf, preferably not in her car, and for my consideration I got verbally hosed. Amazingly she did stop and I did get the door open in time to vomit all over the parking lot. (Wonder which poor bastard got to clean that up.) The problem was that since I was really sick with 104 degree temp and my body was not aware of grandmotherly mandates, while I was throwing up my body was also off loading in the other direction. Then my grandmother was yelling at me to stop. I mean, really, she was screaming at me to stop simultaneously upchucking and having massive diarrhea. (Sorry, gran, I didn't have any control. I defy any twelve year old alive to be ralphing with the force of a launching space shuttle to NOT lose control of their bowels.) Remember the white leather interior of a cherry 1963 T-Bird? (And I don't know who got to clean that up, either, because I was incarcerated in the HOSPITAL of DOOM.) I'm pretty sure that was what the sign said when I was rolled in the door in a wheelchair, smelling like puke and poop, feeling like a pile of living crap. Let me tell you I was the most miserable 12 year old girl on the face of the planet. I could still tell this story to a therapist and get the therapist, an individual with eight years of postgraduate school and twenty years of practice, to wince.

Upon arrival at the HOSPITAL (cue scary Freddy Krueger music here) I was checked in, prodded, x-rayed, tortured with an IV line, and permitted to clean up with a male nurse. (12 year old girl, remember? Having a male nurse in the room was like mortal dread mixed with rat poison. I was sick and I was embarrassed. The only thing worse was if my entire class had wandered through the hospital for a field trip while the nurse was holding the bed pan for me.)

So everyone got settled in. The doc came in and said that it was possible that my appendix was on the wrong side and they'd have to wait for x-ray results. Meanwhile I was given lots of antibiotics and left to rot in a hospital bed. Fortunately I was alone in the room. Unfortunately, I didn't want to be alone. So naturally what happened? My grandmother and mother left me. For the night. Alone. In the bleep-bleepity-bleeping-bleep-bleep-Jerry Springer-Inspired BLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEPPPPP HOSPITAL. Alone.......

I think this was a mistake because not only do I still hold it against them, it's 35 years later and I'm still mildly pissed off. (That was a trade-off because I believe my grandmother held my spontaneous diarrhea against me for months. I didn't ride in that T-Bird again for a long, long time.)

Then the sun went down. I've been to creepy places before but a hospital at night while you're sick and at the cusp of your imaginative abilities and psychosomatic maturation is the WORST place ever. The nurses kept coming in and taking my temp and my blood pressure and messing around with my IV. They did not let me sleep. AS IF I could have slept. These weren't the nice nurses either. They didn't go, "Oh, poor little girl. Let me get you a 7-Up." Instead they went, "Oh, you're not asleep. Don't move while I shove this thermometer down your throat. Hold still while I pressurize the blood pressure cuff so tightly that your eyes pop out of your head, kid." Demon nurses.

Luckily I got to watch TV for a while. Big treat. They got three channels. I'm going to pause to try to explain this concept to my 6 year old child. Back in the auld days of yore, we didn't have cable or DVDs or satellite dish or hundreds of channels or Disney crap up the ying-yang. We had ABC, NBC, and CBS. There was no ESPN, no FOX and no Oprah. At my house, sometimes we only got one channel, depending on how windy it was outside and how precarious the antenna was leaning. So three channels was like, whoo-hoo. And I didn't have to fight with my sister. (Of course, it's hard to argue with your sister about what to watch when you only have ONE channel, but I think we still managed.) (BTW, the remote control was also known as getting your lazy ass up and physically changing the channel by turning a knob.)

Soon the nurses gave me a look and I decided to turn the TV off and get some sleep. Sleeping in a fever induced doze is akin to hitting acid in the sixties with a horde of ravenous hippies in the Haight-Ashbury District. Shall we say that the man down the hall, who moaned throughout the night, not unlike a ghost in a haunted house, did not aid in my hapless somnorific attempts?

"OOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHH! Ohhhhhhh! OH! OOOOOOOOO-OOOOO-OOOHHHHH!" he went, starting after lights out.

I quivered under the too thin sheets and blankets and debated covering my head with a pillow.

"OOOOOOO-ooooyyyyy-OOOOOHHHHHHHH!" the man down the hallway groaned.

At that point he went on, intermittently for some hours. Also the nurses finally decided that I should get some rest and did not come back into my room. I would have even been grateful for the male nurse to come back. And incidentally, the nurses neglected to inform me that I could have called them in to ask WTF. The little call button thing behind my bed would have been salvation, if they had thought to inform me about it. Told you. Demon nurses from the ninth level of hell, brought up to torture and torment poor sick little children. Stephen King would have liked these nurses.

"OoooooooOOOOOOoooooooOOOOOOoooooo," it went on. The man sounded like he was getting his groove on. Then the nurses got into the deal and I learned that the man's name was Bill. How do I know his name was Bill? Because the hellish nurses kept yelling it at him. "DO YOUR BUSINESS, BILL!" That's a direct quote. Silly me. Now I realize that the poor bastard was probably constipated and pissed at the nurses. If I had known I would have brought him Ex-Lax. I think my grandmother would have been grateful if I had been constipated.

The stupid nurses not only DID NOT tell me I could call them, but didn't mention that I could get up and drag my IV stand to the bathroom where I could have LOCKED THE FUCKING DOOR. Do you know why? Because they were busy yelling at poor Bill. "Do your business, Bill! Do it! Do it now!"

I would cheerfully, gleefully, happily have sent him a basket of prunes combined with raisins and garnished with little blocks of Ex-Lax, if that would have made the nurses and him shut the HELL up and stop scaring the crap out of me. (Not literally, the poor T-Bird had gotten all of that effort.)

So the next morning the doctor condescended that I probably didn't have appendicitis and I probably did have an infected ovary. (WTF was that about? Who knows?) Then he sent me home. The huge black circles under my eyes and shivering body probably were cues that I hadn't rested well, while in the HOSPITAL. (Doooo dooooo dahhhhh. Insert harpsichord music here.)

So I got a week off school and an everlasting fear of hospitals, nurses, doctors, and men named Bill. (I don't think I voted for Clinton and I know I never dated one. So there.)

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