Sunday, 17 February 2013

General Hospital - by Mike Sands

Hospitals have been around for a long time.  Up until the beginning of the twentieth century most hospitals were run through religious organizations. It was at this time in history that the public realized that government run hospitals were necessary to ensure a more egalitarian, structured medical system.  Formal hospitals were set up with access guaranteed to the public – provided the client was willing to pay.  In Canada in the early 1960’s, we moved to a publicly funded system  as we realized health care was a necessity for all, not just a privileged few, unlike in the United States where  it’s still pay as you go, or as Groucho Marx said, ‘’In the U.S., a hospital bed is a parked taxi with the meter running.”

As a Registered Nurse, I’ve been associated with the hospital setting for many years. I worked at Riverview hospital for 12 years. Riverview was a hospital for the mentally ill.  Mentally ill people often find themselves on the outer parameters of society, as they often do not fit in or conform to society’s mores.  I found this job to be very rewarding and very interesting.  I particularly found it enjoyable and refreshing how many of them would speak their mind; they would say things that many of us thought but were afraid to say.  I remember hearing one story of a nurse coming in a patient’s room to give him his anti-psychotic injection.  As the nurse walked in the room, the patient yelled at the nurse, ‘’ they treat us like dogs around here.’’  The nurse yelled back, ‘’That’s nonsense, now rollover!’’ The only problem I had working in a hospital was that whenever I wanted to call in sick, the boss would say, “Oh you’re sick, why don’t you come into work and well take a look at it.‘’

With the onset of my ALS, I knew my days of serving patients were now going to be reversed.  My second taste of hospitalization came last week when I was admitted to get a feeding tube put in.  With ALS, the muscles in your throat become weakened.  Swallowing becomes difficult and the need to supplement your eating becomes necessary. The surgery only lasted 15 minutes. I was then wheeled back to my room. With my dire diagnosis of ALS, the doctors are more liberal doling out the pain medication.  So I pretty much had free reign with the morphine. The adage ‘’too much of a good thing is not good ‘’ fits this situation.  Although I was pain free and giddy as a schoolboy, morphine decreases your respirations.  It makes you feel like there’s an elephant on your chest.  Never again will I be tempted by the allure of morphine. The guy in the next bed was on the same ‘morphine trip’ that I was on. As his wife sat by his bedside, his eyes fluttered open and said to her, “You’re beautiful.”  Flattered, she continued her vigil as he fell back  to sleep. Later, he woke up and said to her, ‘’You’re cute.’’ Startled she said, “What happened to beautiful?” He said, “The morphine is starting to wear off.”

My last night in the hospital, I was transferred to a room with 3 patients suffering from Alzheimer‘s disease.  I looked across the room at a man tied at the waist to the bed. He was struggling feverishly, (to no avail), to get out of his bed.  I thought of the irony between the two of us, me, unable to move a muscle and in control of all my mental faculties, and him, strong as an ox and not in his right mind.  Oh what a team we could have made with his brawn and my brains. We could’ve been a contenda.                                                              

         I used to have a drinking problem, I had two hands and only one mouth...problem solved!

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