Kage Baker utterly hated hospitals – being a patient, anyway. She was a great visitor, bringing books, music, forbidden goodies … when I was 18 and having kidney surgery, she brought me stories of hers that had me laughing so hard I nearly popped stitches. She also smuggled me in milk shakes, somehow, hidden about her person; and pizza, folded into horrible, delicious origami shapes in her purse.
When we were 31 and 30, her tonsils and my gall bladder and appendix were removed on the same day – an unplanned coincidence that really screwed up our plans. Our dear friend Athene got up at dawn to get poor Kage into the hospital for her scheduled tonsillectomy, which was nearly derailed by my emergency surgery. Nonetheless, when Kage was released the next day (I stayed a week) she came in and acted out her goodbys in an hysterical mute pantomime that once again endangered my incision.
In her final illness, though, she detested her confinement in the hospital. I brought electronic candles, home-cooked meals, toys, books, music; read to her, bathed her, cooked for her – and finally, sprang her from the place to get her home against orders, when we both realized there was no more point to it. Weak as she was, she was laughing like a maniac as I ran her wheelchair down the corridors and out the front door, urging me on lest we get caught … they didn’t notice she was gone for close to an hour, to Kage’s triumphant amusement.
The only way to endure a hospital stay, she said, was to look for the funny stuff. Luckily, hospitals always provide weirdnesses for one’s amusement.
Cedars-Sinai, where I had my outpatient surgery Thursday, is a lovely place: don’t think, Dear Readers, that I am denigrating it. It does its very best to make a patient feel comfortable and cared for: but it can’t help the fact that it is, at bottom, not a spa but a hospital. But one can have some fun with it anyway, if one just keeps a proper attitude … a companion is also vital; Kimberly and I giggled a lot during our time there.
Someone in the decorating department has worked extremely hard on tasteful colours and attractive upholstery; all the waiting areas are lovely. Each one also sports an aquarium, evidently on the theory that it will relax people. But the one in the outpatient lounge has only three visible fish – last week, it had only two, both grey. (Grey tropical fish? WTF?) On Thursday, they had added a beautiful cobalt blue fellow as well, but the two grey ones would have nothing to do with him. As Kim and I watched sympathetically, something BIG and black and white came surging out from behind a big branch of coral – an unexpected fourth fish! It had what appeared to be a lacy white fan in its mouth, though, and only after it had vanished again like a local Leviathan did we realize … it was a detached fin. From something else. I guess there was a white fish, too. For awhile, Kimberly muttered.
We were not noticeably relaxed by this. It got us snickering, though.
My anesthesiologist was a tall, thin, gawky fellow who had trouble reading my cardiologist’s notes in my chart. Initially, he told me my congestive heart failure was gone. I was unaware it could do that, but was pleased … he finally decided, though, that it actually said that my heart was, for its battered condition, healthy enough for anesthesia. (That made me even happier, as I had no intention of going through with the biopsy without it.)
However, while setting the IV line in my arm, he accidentally knocked the cap off of it. As he scrambled for a line to attach, Kimberly observed that I was leaking … I could feel the blood pouring off my hand, actually. He had essentially stuck a siphon in my vein and opened it. But he got it capped ASAP, and assured me that at least it meant the line was clear … more puddles, though. I can’t seem to get through any part of this without puddles.
However, that was all that went wrong. And we really found it rather amusing. So did my gynecologist, who looked at the mess and said cheerfully, “Oh well, that’s nothing compared to last time!” (She was right, too.)
And in their devotion to the patient’s comfort, Cedars-Sinai has some great practices. Warmed blankets, fresh from a nifty little blanket-oven. The coolest royal-blue slipper-socks ever – I took ’em home and am still wearing them. They are a gorgeous colour, and have happy-face treads on the bottom. Surgical tables with mattresses! Padding for my poor old butt! And curtains everywhere in the recovery wards, to give at least a good illusion of privacy.
Also, they let Kimberly stay with me until the very last minute and let her back in as soon as my eyes were open. My doctor briefed her, too, after surgery – which was a good thing, as I reportedly had a detailed talk with her about which I remember absolutely nothing. The reports of my surgery so far are all from Kimberly, whose brain was still online … I wasn’t really present until a nice nurse asked me if I was ready to go home, at which point I was wide awake and eager!
Why does anyone ever wear a bra to the hospital, though? One never bothers to put it on again when one gets dressed and leaves. It always ends up wadded into a ball somewhere at the bottom of a bag, and then you spend 20 minutes at home thinking you left it in a changing room somewhere … and deciding that was a cheap price to have escaped, too.
But now I am home, comfortably and slothfully in my pajamas and slipper-socks, eating iron-rich foods and feeling better by the minute. Wednesday I go back to my doctor’s office for the test results and planning for Stage II. They have a huge aquarium in her waiting area, with enough fish that no one has to eat anyone else. In full colour, too. It’ll be much more entertaining.
You gotta go for the giggles, doing this. Kage taught me that, too. Look for the laughs, and cling firmly to them. You can get through anything, laughing.