Duffer...Living the life in the hospital

Rod Perry
February 08, 2019
By Rod Perry
I found myself in the hospital not long ago to be checked over for some pain that was giving me grief. I’m generally a rather healthy guy who’ll usually experience nothing more serious than the common cold. Consequently, I rarely set foot in a hospital.
Occasionally, I’ve visited the emergency wing over the years to be examined for such things as poison ivy, the removal of thorns from awkward places and a follicle infection. The latter was something I didn’t even know existed, but I felt the need for a doctor to explain to me why, at the age of 40, I had suddenly broken out in facial acne. I took it upon myself to grow a beard to mask my condition.

Fast forward to late 2018. Some recent abdominal pain prompted me to visit the hospital and have my condition checked out. As is typically the case, I sat in the emergency waiting room for about three hours before I was summoned into a general examination area divided into about six sections by pullback curtains. I was instructed by the nurse to strip down to my skivvies and cover myself up with a gown I tied at the back and another one worn atop it that I tied at the front. Then she handed me a vial for a urine sample.

This certainly wasn’t my debut in having to produce a urine sample. Peeing into a tiny vessel isn’t a big deal. The tough part is handing it back in. I don’t want other people to see my pee, and so I try the best I can to conceal it from view on my way back from the bathroom. There were no pockets in either of the gowns I was wearing. Hiding my pee sample from the eyes of other patients, however, was a higher priority than worrying about my clashing attire.

I wrapped my hand around the vial as best I could and pressed it against my side, hoping not to draw any attention to the fact that my arms weren’t swinging as I walked. I had forgotten how warm pee is to the touch, even through plastic.

Finally I was able to lie back on my gurney to await the attending physician. While staring at the ceiling for what seemed an eternity, a nurse came to visit the elderly female patient in the curtained-off area next to me and told her it was time for her to use the bathroom. “Using the bathroom,” I quickly found out, was simply code for, “Here’s a bedpan and I’d like you to take a crap in it.”

Seriously? I was no more than five feet away from this woman, and the only barrier between us was a flimsy curtain. I had been hooked up to an IV drip a short time earlier, so there was nowhere for me to go to avoid this inevitable assault to two of my senses. With my left hand incapacitated by the IV hookup, I had only one hand available to plug my nose and cover both ears. I was going to have to sacrifice at least one of my orifices.

With my one free hand hovering above my nose, ready to pinch it at a moment’s notice, I grit my teeth while listening to a succession of “oomphs” and ugghs” and an assortment of other nasty noises as this woman was bearing down hard. The grunting finally stopped and the woman told the nurse she was unable to go.

“Saints, be praised!” I muttered under my breath. Don’t get me wrong. I felt bad for this woman and sincerely hoped she was able to overcome whatever ailment it was that brought her to the hospital in the first place, but the timing of her constipation was certainly appreciated.

A physician ultimately came to see me to diagnose my problem, but first he sent me to another wing of the hospital for a series of scans. A nurse arrived with a wheelchair to shuttle me over, but this chair wasn’t equipped with any apparatus for me to place my feet. Forced to hover my feet in the air for the trip down the maze of corridors, I was grateful to be wearing underwear beneath the twin gowns that barely reached my knees and billowed upward as the nurse briskly pushed the wheelchair forward.

When all was said and done, I was relieved to learn my condition wasn’t as bad as I had feared, and I was given the green light to go home armed with a couple of prescriptions.

It’s funny how a hospital can strip an individual of his dignity. He may enter the building wearing a business suit and moments later is garbed in a revealing gown – that becomes even more revealing when he’s pushed around in a wheelchair – and is asked to relieve himself into a transparent cup and pinch a deuce into a bedpan. I suppose things could be worse, and even a lot worse.

I cringe when I hear the words “catheter” or “digital prostate exam” or “colonoscopy.” It’s time to start eating better and exercising regularly. I don’t want to be hospitalized again for a long, long time.

Rod Perry, aka Duffer, is a Niagara-based freelance writer.

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