September 26, 2005

Corridors of unknown

This started as a comment on Kerry's blog. This blog rips me and leaves me raw and hurting, but I can't quit reading it. I realized I had more to say than a brief comment so I brought the whole thing here.

This is the post that I'm responding to. Even as I write these words, I am trying to ignore that my friend is in an ICU fighting for his life. And these comments are not about him or his situation. Nor are they about Kerry or her husband. She just got me thinking.

It's institutionalization. The reason the Dr. doesn't want him there is that you become used to it. Why is it that so many patients never leave? Hospitals sap will. They are places of pain and misery. Even childrens' wards are dismal. (Think of the words associated with hospital. Wards, ICU (Intensive Care Unite), Code.) These are not kind image provoking words. Hospitals are sterile eveironments not only in the terms of germs, but in terms of what happens there. Rarely will you ever hear a loud noise or laughter in a hospital. It's worse than a library. Everything is stifled there. Including humanity. We learn at a young age that people die in hospitals. Sure, a majority of patients seen in a year probably go home in better condition (or at least recovering) than they were in when they arrived. I'm startled that with all the medical advances they've made over the last 40-50 years that they haven't found a way to make a hospital more warm and inviting. Hospitable even. How's that for funny. Hospitable. Isn't that what a hospital should be?

Perhaps I'm colored by my own experiences of spending time in hospital waiting rooms with my brother as our mother, aunts and uncles and even older cousins argued about the care my grandmother was getting in the ICU. Heart attack you know. Days on end. Nothing to do. Hard nasty benches. Specified hours you can visit. Is this prison? What if the person I'm visiting is a night person? No visiting hours then is there? So sorry.

I was admitted to a hospital (A really well known one.) about 6-7 years ago. I had a cluster migraine. Imagine 30 days of pain and sensitivity to everything around you. Only relenting for a few hours every few days. By the time I'd been admitted, I'd tried every single pain medication you can name that you can get in a pill at a pharmacy. I'd also tried every migraine pill made too. Most made my heart hammer in my chest so bad that I couldn't imagine that it wasn't going to just rip itself free of my chest and go to a boxing match all on it's own. It would have been a contender.

So no-one knew what was wrong with me. They wouldn't share their theories or even the reasons for the tests they were doing. What they were ruling out. Finally, I had two neurologists going over me and and talking about more tests. "I'm not moving until you tell me what it is that you are afraid I have and what the tests are for."

"We think you have MS." I've never been more terrified in my entire life. No, that is that thing that Jerry Lewis stays up all night for. Not happening. This is not happening to me. I had no one to call. No one to tell. No one to give me comfort. After another test and prescriptions for a bunch of intravenous drugs, I was admitted for observation. To my knowledge, I didn't see either of those doctors again. The MRI they scheduled to see if I had a tumor never happened. After two days of lying in a hospital bed with that half rag wrap as my only clothing I was discharged. Wearing the same clothes I'd had on three days before when I came to the hospital.

While I was there, I saw two sets of nurses and perhaps an intern doing rounds. Everyone was businesslike about their jobs. There was very little friendliness and the room itself couldn't have been less stimulating. Now, you might be thinking, with a migraine, what do you want stimulation for? I didn't. I'm just trying to illustrate my put about the sapping of wills that happens in hospitals and why. I think it's time someone considered the effect the place of treatment has on a patient as well as the treatment itself. It's well known that laughter is good medicine. Why is it then that hospitals don't have closed circuit comedy channels for patients to watch? Hmmm... the laughter and good will might spread like an infection. I'll tip my glass to that.


At 10:35 PM, Blogger StrangeMadness said...

What a disheartening and incredibly miserable experience that must have been for you. I think reading your account will help people see just how cold and draining hospitals can be, on not only their patients, but employees and visitors as well. No one wants to be in a hospital, but it sure would be nice if an effort could be made to uplift our spirits as they are trying to heal our bodies. I'm a firm believer that the body cannot be well without a well mind.

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Chrissie said...

I had stomach surgury about 8 weeks ago... I've been battling cancer on and off for the last 7 years. I've been in numerous hospitals for varying lenghts of time. I had a stem cell transplant at MD Anderson 5 years ago... That was a great hospital... I stayed at the rotery hotel right across from it and it was as nice an experiance as I could expect. My family was allowed to stay there with me... This was during the gathering, after the transplant it was a bit different, the need for the totally sterile env. was a bit disheartening, but the nurses were VERY nice. (I am not a nice patient really lol bit of a bitch) The place I was in a few weeks ago... I had one intern who was so cute and funny I actually sent him flowers after I left. I think people who work in hospitals see so much... all the time they sort of forget that there are people with feelings in front of them. I'm sorry Tim wsnt where you were... to be alone like that, sounds horrible.

At 1:14 PM, Blogger Maggi-nifica said...

I remember visiting mom after her gal bladder surgery - her nurses were militant. I remember the numerous time Dad has been in for heart or lung issues. 50/50 there.
I remember my sister-in-law during the last four months of her pregnancy staying flat and in bed. The nurses there were amazing.

I think it all depends on where you work.

IN the HRP and ICU units - you get close enough to show you care but you can't get too close.
in the regular wards, people are in and out so it's hard to get close enough to care

I was supposed to grow up and be a doctor but my heart just couldn't take it - too empathic.

My recent bike crash had me strapped to a back board with Nurse Crachet totally ignoring my plees of "Put the iv in my hand -PLEASE don't put that thing in my arm i have a terrible needle phobia and i will freak out if it's in my arm" (which i did and she didn't care) She didn't debreed my wounds. I asked if i could get up to pee, she offered me a catheter.

There was an article recently about patients healing and recovering better in a home-like environment.


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