The Goddess Speaks
Surgery does nothing to cure hospital phobia
DEPRIVED of sleep. Denied food and water. Subjected to glaring lights and loud noise. Poked and prodded. Immobilized by tubes and wires. Forced to wear revealing clothing.
Abu Ghraib? Gitmo? Nope. Just an ordinary American hospital.
My motto is: "Stay out of hospitals; that's where diseases are caught, mistakes are made and lives are ended." But on a dark and stormy night, after hours of searing pain, an emergency room was my only choice.
The doctor ordered a CT scan and found that a huge gallstone was causing my agony. She called a surgeon. Soon, for the first time in my life, I was a hospital patient.
A woman asked if I had my living will and organ donation papers. I responded, "Are you kidding? I don't even have a toothbrush."
She wanted someone from Social Services to fill out a power of attorney. I said, "If I don't survive, call my contact person, not a government agency." I told her they could have my organs, but only after I was good and dead.
That encounter did nothing to reassure me.
I went into surgery. In my next conscious moment, I was in a big, empty room. A morgue? I kept asking, "Where am I?"
Then came the torture. I had visions of restful sleep after two agonizing nights. But I got a hard bed and a pillow like stone. I was hooked up to an IV and a variety of tubes and wires. A bright light shone into my eyes. Loud voices, beeping machines and gongs assaulted my ears. A curtain separated me from a snoring roommate, who had a lot of visitors.
I asked for earplugs. They brought foam things that kept popping out of my ears. But it didn't matter. Each time I felt as if I might fall asleep, they took my blood pressure or temperature or drew blood or checked the machines. When my machines weren't sounding off, my roommate's were.
My mouth and throat were as dry as the Sahara Desert, but the nurses said no water for another day. I got violent hiccups.
They told me to call when I needed to use the bathroom, but I learned how to unplug myself and wander about with my rear hanging out. Whoever invented hospital "gowns" ought to be shot.
The next day I got my first food, if nauseatingly sweet cranberry juice and sweet Jell-O are considered food. I threw it up. They also brought a mug of coffee. Coffee? I needed sleep.
I was clamoring to go home. When they said I could go, I was dressed in a flash. I chuckled at the form that says you can appeal if you think you got released too early. No way. Lemme outta here!
I hobbled to my car. Oh, yes, I had broken my foot in trying to get to the ER, so I had a cast and brace up to my knee, but I had made my getaway so I was happy.
Although I am enormously grateful to the diagnosing physician, anesthesiologist and surgeon, I will still avoid torture chambers (uh, hospitals) as often as possible.
Charlotte Phillips is a former Star-Bulletin copy editor and current hospitalophobic.
The Goddess Speaks is a feature column by and about women. If you have something to say, write "The Goddess Speaks," 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210,
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