Kage Baker once observed – during the long, Machiavellian saga of her mortal illness – that sick people need service brains.
Being sick is so exhausting, securing care is so complicated, everything you need is so specialized and yet so far apart, that one brain isn’t enough to deal with it. It wouldn’t be enough even if that one brain were the healthy one. And since it isn’t, you really need an extra one to manage everything that must be done.
I’m fairly lucky. Most of my health needs are met somewhere amid the ever-growing halls of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. But at the moment, it covers close to 4 square blocks; it rises a dozen stories into the air, and dives at least 4 below ground level. In some buildings, you can’t even reach all the floors on one elevator – you have to find the right portal to get from your car to wherever your doctor needs you to be that day.
It’s possible to wander amid the buildings for quite some time and never find the lab you need – I once spent most of an afternoon hunting through 3 different buildings to accomplish all the testing ordered for me. Most of that time I was under ground, and I know I went briefly through at least one RESTRICTED area. The trick there, of course, is to clutch your electronic device to your chest and look scornful; everyone assumes you are either a specialist or a researcher, and doesn’t dare question you …
And of course in Cedars-Sinai, you wander everywhere in the lambent luminescence of the aquaria. Long corridors open out into vaulted spaces all dappled with the reflections and shadows of fish. Waving weeds and bright corals guard all accesses. Somewhere are probably the tanks where they are storing alien bodies and regenerating organs; but I haven’t gotten lost enough to find those yet …
And in all this time, I haven’t found a single cafeteria. I do know where there is a cold drinks machine, and a snack machine – both on a floor of the Cardiac Pavilion (which is in no way tent-like) that cannot be reached from ground level. Should I ever lose my way completely, I at least will not starve to death – the machines, like the parking lots, take credit cards. Combined with change-making machines and the automatic deposit of funds into my bank account, I could contrive a successful life of medical nomadism there.
Just as I was Kage’s extra CPU, Kimberly is mine. As my exploration of all the testing facilities and cardiac floors of Cedars-Sinai goes on, Kimberly has formed the habit of coming with me. Maybe it’s got something to do with my getting lost in the Undercity that time … or her suspicion that, faced with some grisly test, I’ll simply go AWOL. The bottom line is that she gets me there and gets me out, and keeps much better track of my paperwork than I do.
It’s part of the phenomenon that you become incompetent at that, in particular. Health care paperwork is especially eccentric – it tells you either nothing or far too much; and what it does impart, it tells you in ICD-9 codes and jargon. The ICD-9 isn’t so bad – the whole point of the thing is uniformity – but jargon can vary wildly between facilities or even just departments. And the proliferation of computers in every examining room is offset by the fact that no doctor actually knows how the damned system works. Thank God Kimberly was there to make sure I didn’t lose my appointment record, my meds list or my mind.
Still, we managed. I am told that my heart is doing very well, considering the mess that it is; despite which, I get to go back for a stress test on Wednesday. I hope I do better than the last couple of those – I fainted and fell off the treadmill, and then when they shot me full of stimulant to fake heart stress, my heart was unimpressed and refused to speed up. It’s unnerving to have the tech fix you with an accusing stare and tell you you’re being anomalous.
I hope we don’t get lost trying to find the Nuclear Medicine Lab. I only know where one snack machine is, and I noticed today that they were out of beef jerky.
Though I guess we could always raid the aquariums.
They deliberately make the paperwork difficult so you just give up and say, “What the heck. I’ll just learn to live with this parasitic twin/extra pair of limbs/gills sprouting from my neck.”
But why on earth are they selling beef jerky in hospital vending machines? They might as well just put out a big salt block.
And it’s just outside the heart clinic, too. Jerky, chips, pretzels, diverse nuts, PayDay bars. Along with the ordinary sweets and choccies, of course. And since I haven’t located a cafeteria OR a gift shop, I’ve n idea what other suspicious snacks may be lurking.