Seven Days In Hell

Posted on Sun 06/27/2021 by


By Burt Prelutsky ~

My hospital ordeal was so multi-faceted, if I hadn’t kept notes, I would have forgotten some of the details.

To begin at the beginning, I thought I had caught a cold. Then, when the coughing got bad, I thought I had caught a really bad cold. By the time my step-son, Tony Deni, stopped by, I had a bit of a fever and he convinced me to go to the emergency hospital. That’s when the surprises began.

It seemed I had blockage to my heart and they inserted two stents. They still want to insert a third, but decided to wait a while. Early on, they thought I had pneumonia. They also considered Covid, but after sticking me in the isolation ward for a day, they ruled out the Chinese flu. Mainly, those 24 hours served to let me know that no matter how awful life in the regular hospital was, they could always send me back to solitary confinement if I squawked too loudly.

Never having been confined to a hospital for such a long time, I hadn’t realized that all the things that comedians make jokes about are true. The food really is as awful as they say. And although everyone in the medical profession contends that sleep is the great healer, there is a conspiracy at the hospital to make certain you never sleep more than an hour or two at a time. No sooner do you finally doze off than nurses start popping in to draw blood or check monitors, although nobody explains why they can’t wait a few hours before collecting blood and why, in this electronic age, they can’t monitor a monitor from the nurses’ station.

The staff did let me feel a part of the conspiracy when I would refuse to eat the slop prepared in the kitchen. I would eat a banana or a pudding cup — anything the coven of witches in the kitchen hadn’t had a chance to overcook, undercook or just plain cook — and when the nurse would come to collect the tray, she would notice I hadn’t touched the entree and would just nod sympathetically.

The odd thing is that every so often, a lady who would identify herself as the floor director would stop by and ask if I had any complaints. I would bring up the meals. She would ask what I would prefer, and I would tell her I wanted anything the kitchen staff couldn’t ruin, such as yogurt, berries and bananas.

My request fell on deaf ears until the day I checked out. I finally got yogurt as a parting gift.

The seven-day ordeal was so multi-faceted, if I hadn’t kept notes, I would have forgotten some of the details. For instance, you would have thought, being pretty much bed-ridden, I would have gotten a lot of reading done. Instead, I may as well have been stuck on that desert island with Tom Hanks with nothing but a soccer ball for company. The problem was the lighting. There were only three settings: Off, Dim and Brighter than Broadway. That third setting lit up the page so much that trying to read was almost like squinting at the Sun.

Life in a hospital is so boring, you would think that TV would provide a much-needed form of escape. But even there, they have you at their mercy. There are only a few stations available, and Fox News is not one of them. CNN is. There were no sports stations, so I had to depend on my in-laws, Tony and his wife Lisa, to let me know that the New York Yankees were playing like a team that required hospitalization. My friend Trudy Sargent found the time to stop by a few times, usually bringing sustenance in the form of large containers of water and, once, an entire roast chicken. It was an act of charity, but the smell of a whole roasted chicken was nearly enough to send me back to the Covid ward.

I should take a moment to stop whining and give a shout-out to the best support team anyone could possibly imagine. Tony and Lisa were the two gifts that Yvonne left me and for which I bless her every day. One or both has been in the house ever since I was released. They see to it that I take all 14 pills, some of them twice a day, some of which I am destined to take from now on. Nothing like heart meds to remind you of your mortality. In fact, because I had always gotten over my aches and pains so quickly, I used to tell my rheumatoid arthritis doctor that I was convinced I was immortal. The other day, I told him I was thinking of hedging my bet.

By now, you all know how invaluable Steve Maikoski has been. He has been my tireless conduit to all of you. In one of the emails I received, Steve was referred to as my employee. It knocked me for a loop. For years now, although I have depended on his help when a glitch has popped up, interfering with my ability to get occasional articles posted, I have regarded Steve as a very good friend, hardly as an employee.

And, finally, let us not forget Angel, who I suspect was a tad conflicted when I magically reappeared after a week’s absence. She seemed glad to see me, but I have to believe she had grown happily accustomed to being spoiled by her indulgent step-parents, Tony and Lisa, and wasn’t exactly looking forward to a change in the oh-so-sweet status quo.

Now, back to whining. Hospital life bounces between being tedious and humiliating. Because someone decided I was a Fall Risk, I was required to ring for assistance any time I needed to go to the bathroom. This was further complicated because I was connected to a drip-bag of antibiotics, which meant avoiding becoming entangled in tubes and wires. It also meant you couldn’t really shut the bathroom door, knowing that the nurse was lurking just barely out of sight.

The tedium was so great that when it was determined that I would be required to undergo a bronchoscopy, a procedure where they insert a tube and vacuum out your lungs in order to determine which of about 120 different forms of bacteria was causing me to cough incessantly, I looked forward to it as a break in the monotony. They initially scheduled it for a Sunday. Then they moved it to Monday, and finally did it on Tuesday. That was a week ago, but the Petri dishes still haven’t coughed up the answer. And, so, I keep coughing. Frankly, I’m amazed at how exhausting it is to cough.

Normally, if someone told me that he was going to send a vacuum cleaner into my lungs, I would have run screaming from the clutches of the mad scientist. But in a hospital, you are so bored that just about any activity that doesn’t involve having blood drawn by people who can’t locate a vein because “yours are so rubbery” makes for a nice break. The thing is, they give you so much warning that, whatever the procedure, you get at least six or eight hours to fret about it. You wind up just wanting to have it over and done with. By the time they roll you out of the room, if they told you, “This is a revolutionary breakthrough. We call it the Realignment. We’ll be rotating your limbs so you will have an arm and a leg where, before, you either had two arms or two legs. We feel it will provide you with better mileage in the long run,” your reply would likely be, “Whatever! Let’s just get this show on the road. Oh, and could I have some berries for dinner?”

Burt Prelutsky is a columnist at The Patriot Post, and is a former humor columnist for the LA Times.

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