When was the last time you were in a hospital, either overnight or for a few days or just an out patient center? I bet it wasn’t an experience you’d like to have again. I know my seven hours in the UCLA out patient center was definitely not a walk in the park.
The good news is that I didn’t need to use my last directives. You know, that form indicating how you would like to be treated at the end of life should something go wrong. Some doctor by accident nipped at your gall bladder while trying to find your appendix and you went unconscious and you explicitly desired not to end up on life support for more than a day.
I entered the UCLA out patient center at around 11 am on Friday morning. I had not eaten anything nor had a drink of liquids since 8 pm the night before. I was scheduled to have the laparoscopic operations around 1:30 pm. At about noon, I was ushered into a small room to strip and put on a gown. I got my Cleopatra book out and began to read. About 12:30, a male nurse came in to check me and ask me the same questions that were asked me upon admission. He stuck a needle into the top of my hand and my vein collapsed. Then he stuck a needle into my arm and tried to draw some blood.
“I’m dehydrated,” I said weakly. “You won’t be able to get much.”
“Really? Why is that?” he asked without a trace of irony.
“Because the last time I had water was nine last night? It’s now one o’clock. I usually drink water all day to hydrate.”
“I can’t seem to get any blood,” he replied.
“I just told you I’m dehydrated and now my blood sugar is falling.”
The nurse took the little bit of blood in the vile out of the room. I waited about fifteen more minutes and walked into the hallway. The nurses were all talking around the station.
“Hello,” I called out to anyone who was listening. “Can I talk to someone, anyone?”
A nurse came over and I told her I was dehydrated. I went back to bed.
Several minutes later, a nurse came into the room with an IV hookup. On her heels came the anesthesiologist all perky and oblivious.
“Hi, how are you? I’ve just got a few questions?”
“No questions. I’ve got low blood sugar and am going to faint in a minute,” I shot back.
It’s very difficult to use my nice voice when I feel I have been ignored, and especially when the operation was to have taken place at 1:30 and it was now 2 pm.
“Where’s the doctor? He’s late.” This time I was using my hostile voice.
“Well, you don’t want the doctor to rush through his last operation. I was just with him and it took longer than expected. I’ll get you some glucose.” He wasn’t smiling now.
I became sullen. Suddenly, I felt totally alone. I wanted an advocate.
Next came a barrage of other questions – the same questions asked me many times before by many other people in the hospital.
“How long is it going to be?” I asked the anesthesiologist in a slightly more polite voice.
Another half hour or forty-five minutes.
My head was about to explode. The once faint headache was not becoming a thumper. No food or water for almost eighteen hours.
“My ride is coming at 6. He can’t come later. I have to be out of here at 6, downstairs ready to go. You have to put me in a cab if I can’t get out of here at 6.
My doctor walked into the room. He was full of good cheer.
“Hi, how we doing?” he asked but didn’t really want a response.
The anesthesiologist told him I had to be out by six.
“We can do that,” my doctor responded. “My last operation was similar to what wer’re dong with you. I’m having plenty of practice today.”
Did he really say that?
I don’t know what happened after that because I think the glucose was laced with anesthesia.
I woke up at 5:15 in a room without a nurse in sight. Where was my doctor? Where was my advocate? I was completely alone. It was having a pity party.
It was pouring rain outside when the nurse wheeled me out of the entrance. Water was hitting me in the face. The nurse had no clue that I was getting drenched. I spotted my ride, my savior, my knight in shinning armor.
“How did it go?” my wonderful friend asked.
“I dont’ know. Never saw the doctor afterwards. Never saw a nurse. Don’t know.” I started to cry.
As soon as I saw my apartment building, my mood changed. I was never so happy to be home. I practically crawled up the stairs to my apartment in the pouring rain and realized that for the first time that day I wasn’t lonely, for the first time I didn’t need an advocate. My pity party was over.