The infirmary blues


By Neil Offen

What I learned from spending several days recently in the hospital:

  • If you can, always bring your lunch with you, maybe your dinner, even if you need to make the ambulance wait a minute. (The EMT folks will surely understand if you explain calmly and clearly between gasps for breath and cries of pain.) Even if it’s only that leftover tuna fish sandwich in the back of the fridge that you almost finished last Tuesday, it’s still likely to be better than the breakfast burrito on the hospital menu.
  • You won’t sleep very much. According to rules set by the American Association of Nuisances, it is necessary for all hospital patients to be awakened at four in the morning to check to see how well they are sleeping.
  • No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to tie your hospital gown in the back so that it actually covers important parts of you. Consequently, it is necessary to always walk around the hospital backwards so you don’t embarrass yourself (at least not any more than usual). To make sure you don’t bump into medical personnel or other patients, set off a fire alarm so everyone will evacuate.
  • The large-screen hospital television above your bed will only be showing movies you have seen many times, movies starring Shia LaBeouf or reruns of “Celebrity Apprentice.” Go with Shia.
  • Understand that when the doctors do rounds in the morning, the resident physicians who come to see you may not be much older than some of your t-shirts. But always keep in mind that they probably have all gone to medical school.
  • The attending physicians accompanying the residents on their morning rounds are generally older, seem way more seasoned and act more grandfatherly, but be concerned if they are smoking a pipe and start reminiscing about FDR.
  • When you are in a semi-private room, the person in the other bed will usually be in the midst of an emergency situation of some sort sometime in the middle of the night, or engaged in a robust game of pinochle, just when you have finished watching a rerun of “Celebrity Apprentice” and are ready to finally sleep.
  • It is very easy to confuse the remote control buttons for the television with the remote control buttons for the hospital bed, meaning that when you think you are changing channels to watch a new episode of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” you are actually folding your bed in half and fracturing several of your ribs.
  • You can get as many pillows as you need to help you sleep, but you will never have enough pillows to actually help you sleep.
  • You will be given a lot of new medicines. If you think that one pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small and the ones the night nurse gives you don’t do anything at all, you have probably been watching too many old MTV videos.
  • Getting discharged from the hospital is a lot like getting discharged from the military. It takes forever, although it usually doesn’t require an act of Congress.
  • When you are finally discharged, your discharge papers will be only several pages shorter than Tolstoy’s War and Peace although you will definitely feel that you have been invaded by Russia.
  • During the several weeks you are home after having been discharged from the hospital, you will find electrodes still remain attached to different parts of your body even after they said they took off all the electrodes at the hospital. The best way to take off these remaining electrodes is to jump into an extra-large bottle of baby oil.

Carrboro resident Neil Offen has been a humor columnist for four decades and on two continents. He is the author of “Building a Better Boomer,”available wherever books are sold.

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1 Comment on "The infirmary blues"

  1. Fantastic short story. And so true. Hospital stays are a nightmare.

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