Monday, January 15, 2018

Stuff in a Hospital...

Mrs. Overlord has contracted pneumonia. Already a dangerous condition, it is even worse for someone who has a respiratory system compromised by muscular dystrophy. Thanks to the good people at New York Presbyterian Hospital (the most awesomest hospital in the Solar System) she is expected to make a full recovery. We thank you for your good thoughts and expressions of support.

Having spent the better part of two weeks in a couple of hospitals, I've noticed some things that occur in them that mostly go unnoticed, and largely unremarked upon.

Let's start at the beginning.

When Mrs. Overlord's Odyssey began, it did so in a hospital which has the word "University" in it's name.

 (I won't be revealing it for obvious reasons, but just to let you know, both hospitals here in Staten Island, New York have the  word "university" in them, and NEITHER is affiliated with an actual "university". Both are private hospitals, as in New Yorkistan, the Forgotten Borough doesn't rate a public hospital, most likely because there's too few minorities here to farm for votes).

This would indicate to the average person that this hospital a) would be a place where doctors were being trained, and if so, would be trained by the best of physicians, and b) would be associated with the research facilities one usually associates with the word "university".

I want to state -- for posterity -- that on the two occasions in the last four years that I have taken Mrs. Overlord to this particular Emergency Room, they have failed -- both times -- to diagnose a case of pneumonia. Mind you, this is a modern American Hospital with scads of diagnostic machines, where they have taken chest x-rays, drawn blood for tests, where doctors and nurses have stethoscopes -- which, I'm told, can be used to actually hear pneumonia in a patient's lungs -- and on one occasion, even performed an MRI.

No diagnosis of pneumonia.

The second time around, despite the fact that Mrs. Overlord came into the Emergency Room attached to an external oxygen supply, you would think someone would have thought to themselves "this patient has a compromised respiratory system...I'd better check that out".

But no.

I have to wonder why this is. It cannot be a lack of funding; Staten Island is pretty wealthy place. It can't be a lack of facilities; this place has every machine that beeps, rings, buzzes, and so forth, and I've had friends and family be there for everything from the birth of a child to a knee replacement surgery.

So, we have to assume two things:

1. The people who work there in the Emergency Room are fucking incompetent. That even with a blood test, a chest x-ray, and a patient who presents with a rapid heartbeat with a compromised respiratory system, they couldn't diagnose a pneumonia if you led them by the nose to it. Incidentally, and this could be entirely a coincidence, the majority of the staff I've encountered in this particular Emergency Room, including the doctors, broadly fall into two categories: a) non-Caucasian, and b) foreigners.

Just sayin'.

2. Assuming the staff is marginally competent, she didn't have pneumonia when she walked in, but she sure as hell got it after she walked out, which means she might have caught it there. Considering the filthy and crowded state of the ER that particular night, I wouldn't doubt it (they were slammed by the usual weekend warriors; heroin addicts with phantom pains looking for drugs, Mexicans getting stitched up after engaging in broken bottle fights, the circling-the-bowl elderly lady who's been admitted for the fifth time this month because Medicare pays, the typical Urban Aborigine who was shot multiple times despite someone else being the target).

As for the second "University" hospital...we don't go there.

Why, you ask, My Minions?

Because when we did, and they admitted Mrs. Overlord with her first dose of pneumonia, the Chief of Pulmonology announced, quite clearly and directly to Me, Mrs. Overlord, and her entire family, that she wasn't getting any better (he was treating her as if MD wasn't a factor), and we should start thinking of our "options". These included drilling a hole in her throat and keeping her alive artificially for as long as we wished, or, stopping her treatment that day and then just stand around and wait for her to expire. But whatever choice we make, we'd better make it quickly, because "I might need this bed".

We chose to send her to a better hospital.

The stupid fuck just wanted her off his ward. Too high-risk a patient. Ask around, though, and people will tell you he's "the best". Considering the level of care you get around here in "university" hospitals, you might just want to skip the middleman and reserve your slab at the mortuary, and "the best" are happy to send you there, so as to not fuck up their record.

Now, I'm going to tell you about two things that left me puzzled about the last week in the GOOD hospital, and then follow that up with a heartwarming story.

The first concerns this fucking addiction people nowadays have to their phones. When you're standing outside a rest room awaiting your turn (this hospital eschews the typical mass-use urine collection rooms you see in most places for the single-user access, standalone toilet), and the person in there comes out, phone in hand, head buried in it, and you didn't hear a) a flush, and b) anyone washing their hands after a flush, then you have to wonder.

Then you find a floater, and the mystery is solved.

Incidentally, that person as well fell, broadly, into two categories: a) non-Caucasian, and b) foreigner.

The second head-scratcher is hospital food. Or, rather, what is advertised as food.

I get it: it has no salt, it's all low-fat, low-carb, etc, etc, because health reasons, but does it all have to LOOK like roadkill? And does it all have to TASTE like you've just licked a chimpanzee's ass? Why isn't anyone who does this sort of thing to food put in prison? Or is that where they got their culinary training?

Unfortunately, I've been eating a lot hospital food lately. The nurses keep ordering it for me because I spend entire days at Mrs. Overlord's side, and it puts something like the ringing of tiny, silver, Christmas bells in their vaginas. They as much as say so every day I've been there (although not in those exact words. usually something along the lines of "You're so sweet..." or "I hope my husband is like you , if I ever needed him..."). They bring me all sorts of shit; newspapers, candy, drinks, anything laying around the nurse's station they think would either be useful or interesting. It's also because I offer to help them go about the more mundane and disgusting parts of their job, like bedpans, or cleaning up puke.

One of them today, watching me lift Mrs. Overlord from the bed while she went about changing the linen couldn't stop making remarks about my strength.

If Mrs. Overlord kicks, I've probably got 10 nurses looking for a date the next day...and I'm a chubby slob.

Anyway, hospital food...

I will give it SOME credit, for it does have two virtues, if nothing else:

1. Yes, it will fill you up.

2. You will be both amazed and entertained at the fascinating Day-Glo orange color of your stool.

Now, before I get accused of being stuck in the Freudian anal-retentive stage, let me just say this in my defense.

I would not know, nor care to know, what color my feces are. Ever. In fact, I don't particularly care, since I'm quite keen to get rid of a turd quickly and efficiently, rather than prone to standing around, admiring it's aesthetic properties, like it was a day in the Guggenheim. The only reason I know this particular batch was Day-Glo orange was because of the nimbus that lit the room up.

I swear, had I had an automobile accident on the way home, I wouldn't need to deploy caution cones to warn the other drivers on the road to exercise care: I could drop trou and pinch a Day-Glo Orange loaf on the roadway, and it would be visible for miles...maybe even from the air.

It's fucking disturbing.

I think this means I should refuse the salmon in teriyaki glaze from now on.

And now the heart-warming story.

On Mrs. Overlord's first day in the hospital she had a roommate in the Observation Ward in the form of a very frail, very shaky, pencil-thin woman of about 300, who has an outrageous sense of humor and who is sharp as a tack.

A nurse would ask her "How do you feel?" and she would respond "with my hands, Dahling..", and much more in this vein.Very quick, and she could reel off some wonderful quips.

Anyhow, we began to have a conversation, during which it was revealed that I am a history buff. Turns out this lady was too, especially about a time that was very important to her, the Second World War.

You see, Elsie (that's her name) was a German Jew from Cologne when the war began. She and her family escaped Germany by crossing the border into Belgium, which several months later would, likewise, be overrun by the Nazis.

Her family -- mother, father, two older brothers and an older sister -- were trying to escape Belgium, too, before the Germans took it all, but to no avail. Short of money, and time, the decision was made to buy passage for the two girls on a freighter leaving Antwerp for America. There, an elderly relative would be waiting to take the two girls, then aged 10 and 8, in.

The freighter never made it across the Atlantic. It was torpedoed by a U-Boat. Elsie's sister was never found, and was presumed to have drown. Elsie was rescued by members of the crew, and they drifted in a lifeboat in the North Atlantic for several days before being rescued by an American warship then engaged in "Neutrality Patrol" between the American coast and Iceland. Elsie did make it to America, only to find the elderly relative was also dead.

Granted refugee status, Elsie was placed in an orphanage. When the war ended the Red Cross discovered that her parents and her brothers, and many members of her extended family, were all gone or missing, victims of either the Holocaust or lost in the shuffle of millions of European refugees shuttling to and fro across post-War Europe. She was adopted by an American Jewish family in New York, her new father being a judge in the New York City judicial system.

She married, against the family's wishes, a Subway train conductor and they lived happily in wedded bliss for 60 years. He died last year, a victim of bladder cancer. They have one son who was "too busy" to visit her in the hospital for the week she was there, and she was being discharged that day. No one had made arrangements to ensure someone would be home when she arrived, and she had no house keys. The ambulette driver was reluctant to take her home not knowing if anyone would be there to receive her.

So, I offered to call her son to ensure the arrangements were made. He was an arrogant piece of shit, and had we been in the same room I might have kicked his worthless ass. He couldn't leave work and couldn't "they" just keep her there until he came for her? Considering it's mid-January and the hospital is jam-packed with respiratory cases (Mrs. Overlord waited three days for a bed in the respiratory ICU), the answer was going to most certainly  be "no", and besides, I'm not the person who makes those decisions; I was just doing a favor for a delightful old woman.

So, I lost my temper.

I told the little fucktard that I found him to be disgusting. That his mother was more important than whatever it was he was doing (turns out he's a finance guy. I know the type), and that he'd better get his ass home and be there for her. Otherwise, I would find out where he worked and personally curb-stomp his despicable ass.

He relented.

Elsie was in tears when they rolled her out. But very grateful.

I think I'm going to remember her forever.

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