Thursday, June 25, 2009

hospital trips may require pre-medication

June 25th, 2009

Today was lost in hospital hallways. Corridors, a maze of beige, twisted and stocked with crazy characters; like Labyrinth, but without David Bowie to make it awesome. This place captured us for ten hours. I had been tricked. "Where are the tight pants and creepy puppets?!" I cried. Alas, there were other plans for us.

For those of you joining us late, my friend Tom was assaulted this week. His jaw is broken in two places, the muscles supporting his eye have been ripped, and he has permanent nerve damage. This morning, he went into surgery to have a metal mesh screen put under the skin beneath his eye and his jaw reset with a steel rod to hold it in place.

First thing, we received a stash of prescription bottles affixed with perplexing icon stickers instructing the user with images that I could only discern to mean, "do not to spin in circles while wearing clown makeup", "enjoy flan", and my personal favorite: "here are some birds dipped in chocolate."

Here are birds. Also: "Papaya!"

They put Tom on a gurney and gave him a blanket that was three feet too short. His bright blue socks made him easier to identify in the pre-op waiting room. Then we all went for a dizzying walk through the building to ensure that I would never be able to find my way back out. All the while, our escort kept my attention by repeatedly assuring me that "someone" would tell me what was going on.

In the next waiting area, Tom's nurse couldn't understand how to put together the plastic tube that he needed to breath through to get anesthesia into his throat. She did it wrong twice before getting lucky. Later, I was treated to a discussion on property taxes between two male nurses who should have been describing the procedure to me; or even better, describing it to Tom.

After being shown yet another waiting room by no less than four different nurses (who each told me something conflicting about where to wait and how long it would be) I was greeted by a fifth person whose job it was to write the names of people waiting and remind us about the free coffee.

I'm not really sure if she had an express purpose other than that. I can't imagine that many homeless people make it up past security and up to the third floor just so they can camp the coffee maker and watch Regis and Kelly on a 15 inch screen.

But anyway, she wrote my name on a list and expressed intense dissatisfaction that I had brought my own coffee. Basically: "Oh, I was going to tell you that I made coffee...but I see that you've gone ahead and brought your own. Yep. You just went right ahead and brought some in with you."

Oops, party foul.

Guess I should have been more concerned about her feelings and less concerned about being awake to drive a friend to the hospital. Fortunately, a whole mess of messy, coffee drinking, loudmouths promptly entered the room and took her focus off of me. I ended up moving to the second waiting room (about 20 feet away) when the first became to loud for me to read my book... and Mrs. Clipboard followed me...and asked me if I was there to see someone in surgery...and wrote my name down again...which led to yet another stimulating session of disapproving glances at my coffee cup.

Lucky for me, no one else felt the desire to break from the safety circle of the communal coffee pot, and I was able to finish reading in peace. It was almost relaxing. Little did I know that more adventure awaited, just around the the bathroom!

Here, I am greeted with even more helpful nonsense. This time, a torn, acid-green sticker on the soap dispenser wants to help me prevent the spread of disease by improving my hand washing skills. It instructs me to, "Hold hands in downward position so as to prevent water from running down the arms." I'm not sure how effective it was, you probably shouldn't shake my hand today.

Upon leaving, we were given a multi-page printout questionnaire that was supposed to have been filled out by the doctor with instructions for continuing care at home. All of the questions had been left blank until the very last page, which had abbreviations for each of the prescriptions in 8pt type with the Cliffs Notes version of the dosage instructions. Tom couldn't read any of these things with his eyes swollen shut, and nobody bothered to help him, not even a badly drawn stick figure.

Thanks, hospital.

These medical graphics, overall, do not impress me. There has to be a better way. There has to be something better than illustrations by two-year-olds and impenetrable walls of text on Astro-brite paper. It's hard to believe that these are the communication channels we rely on to help the sick.

----- Scary picture warning, do not scroll down unless you have a stomach of steel, or are a highly curious person-----

Tom is doing better. He says he can swallow now without intense pain. His jaw is held shut by rubber bands and he will have to be on a liquid diet for the next few weeks, then move up to only soft foods in a month or so.

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