Warren Miller: Hospital isn’t Warren’s favorite place
Vail, CO, Colorado
In the past 10 years, most of us have had some kind of hospital experience or another.
Unfortunately for me, I have had more than my share with two shoulder surgeries, a badly broken leg that required a six-pack of screws and a 16-inch steel rod, two wrist operations, and a flu shot that didn’t work.
I’ve come to the conclusion that all of the hospitals I spent any amount of time in seem to follow the same pre-admission patterns, which appear to be fiendishly designed by the hospital board of directors to convince you to go somewhere else the next time you need medical attention of any kind.
The admission experience usually starts when you get into an elevator and are riding with three grown men wearing green shower caps, green face masks around their throats, baggy green pajamas and green slippers. You can tell easily whether they are coming or going from a surgery by the amount of blood on their clothes, or whether they are just hurrying to get outside before they light up the cigarettes they happen to be clutching between their teeth, savoring the aroma of unlit tobacco through a filter-tip.
Once you get off of the elevator down on the fifth floor of the basement, where incidentally the numbers go up while the elevator goes down, you finally find the pre-admission offices. This is where someone who speaks with an accent you’ve never heard before asks you enough questions to be able to write a 437-page biography of your life so far.
It’s generally a lady behind the computer keyboard and she usually weighs 314 pounds, including her corset and has a desk that is only three feet wide, which is barely wide enough to hide her just as wide body. Behind her is a calendar that is nine years out of date, but has a picture on it that she likes. The picture is the Taj Mahal, and you can now recognize her accent.
Then comes the time to start signing forms. There are 34 different forms to sign, by which you release anyone connected with the medical business or anything to do with it, now or in the future, yet to be invented worldwide or elsewhere, from any liability in the event that you die while the doctors or anyone else in that particular hospital are working on you to correct whatever you have stupidly done wrong to injure yourself this time.
Three hours have now passed and the papers are finally filled out and you remember that your wife has gone shopping while you have been filling out the forms and your car was parked in a one-hour parking slot.
Carrying 5 pounds of paperwork, you now head back to the elevators, where you do as you were told and get off at floor number whatever. In this particular instance of mine, it was 11. That is 14 floors above where I signed in. It was also the wrong floor. I knew that because in the hallway was a 50-gallon drum of lime Jell-O, 81 pounds of meatloaf, and 10 loaves of 3-day-old toast all waiting to be loaded on the luncheon trays for the nine floors of hungry hospital patients.
Retracing my steps, I found the nurses station on the floor that I was supposed to bed down on, before my wrist surgery later in the day.
Gertrude, the Weight Watchers drop-out, led me to my semi-private room. Semi-private in a hospital means you can sometimes have a curtain around your bed when the guy in the other bed is doing one or more of several things: snoring too loud; hollering for more morphine because he likes the drugs, not because he is in pain; or watching a re-run of a Super Bowl featuring Joe Montana. The curtain, of course, is not soundproof.
The nurse then asked me for my wedding ring and watch, and whether my teeth were real or false, before she handed me a miniature green smock that I am required by medical lawyers to put on backwards. It is impossible to tie the straps behind my back, and the mini-smock is about the same length as a mini-skirt on a Hollywood Boulevard hooker.
Since I played a few games of golf before my hospital visit, my tan legs ended where my alabaster white ankles began, making my feet look like I had on white, ankle-length socks. Once in bed, I was given enough shots and subjected to enough indignities to try and make sure that that was the last day I would ever spend in a hospital.
Finally, someone gave me a night-night shot and the next thing I knew, I was looking up at the ceiling going by overhead and hearing the thump-thump of bubble gum stuck to the wheel of the gurney taking me down to where they were going to do the cutting and sewing on my wrist.
I don’t like the conversation that goes on in the operating room, especially when it is me they are working on, so I prefer to be unconscious. That time, however, some swearing and screaming woke me up.
It was the familiar voice of my doctor, and he was talking very loud. “I don’t care if the machine is broken. I still don’t know how to fix it. Get an electrician and a mechanic up here right away so I can finish up what I’m doing. I can only keep Warren unconscious for another 20 minutes. And besides I have a golf game at 1:30. Now is it his right wrist or his left that needs the fixing?”
Filmmaker Warren Miller lived in Vail for 12 years, and his column began in the Vail Daily before being syndicated to over 50 publications. For more of Miller’s stories and stuff log onto Warren Miller.net
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