Friday, September 4, 2009

Love-Hate Relationship

Recently I spent a couple of days hanging around an emergency room and then a hospital room with a loved one. What an eye-opening experience. It's been a while since I was a "visitor", not a patient in a hospital, and it reminded me that I prefer to be neither-- a patient or a guest, that is.

Hospitals and I have a love-hate relationship. With a chronic illness, I love that I have three really good quality hospitals to choose from in my community. But I hate going to the hospital under any circumstances, unless I can hang out at the gift shop.

Have you ever noticed that hospital gift shops are loaded with a surprisingly great variety of merchandise? You could literally do all your holiday shopping at the hospital and the prices are terrific. Yes, the shop is usually jammed packed with stuff, but if you take your time and sort through it, you'll be glad you did. I'll have to remember that come December. It's a one-stop-shop and everybody can us a new pair of slippers, matching robe or a mirror and hairbrush set, right?

I've learned over the years that arriving by ambulance to an emergency room is really the way to go. Not for the "grand entrance", but because the paramedics help you cut to the chance. Paramedics do not leave you sitting in the waiting room lobby for your turn in admissions. Then again, here in Los Angeles, it's nearly a $900 head-of-the-line pass via ambulance so you might want to keep that in mind.

If you drive yourself to the ER, I strongly advise you arrive early, just like at Disneyland. Otherwise, the line to get in is really long; and once you actually get inside the emergency room, it's mobbed-- Patients are lined up in hallways, cubicles, exam rooms and next to the restrooms.

I seriously wonder if stacking bunk beds in an ER might be more comfortable for patients and more efficient for doctors-- ala "rack 'em and stack 'em". The gurneys patients lay on are not cozy. A forklift for actual stacking beds would be far better for the staff to keep folks moving and patients comfortable.

If you are admitted to a hospital room from the ER, it's a whole other story. I love that two of the three hospitals here have wireless Internet connections in the rooms along with 42 inch flat screen televisions. It's like spending time at The Four Seasons Hotel-- sort of. Of course, when you're "stuck" at the older hospital it's a bit of a let down watching the small portable television hanging from the ceiling with limited cable channel options, but sometimes you have to rough it.

As for Hospital food-- I yi yi yi, who comes up with those recipes? I hate the food in all three area hospitals but the "cafeterias" have a wide range of brand-name foods to choose from. Translation-- Fast food chains, so patients and visitors are sure to get something wildly unhealthy to eat. Then again, there's nothing like the smell of burger and fries when you're under the weather.

The valet parking at of our hospitals is a real plus. Yes, it costs a fortune to get your car out of any hospital parking garage, but not having to walk a few blocks to the parking structure and trying to remember where you parked your car after 24 hours in the Emergency Room makes valet a real pleasure for your visitors and family.

As a patient, I've never really noticed all the little "perks" hospital staff leave for you to enjoy. But as a visitor, I was more focused this time and noticed all the "little touches" I'd missed in the past. When I visited with Loved One, I noticed the wash clothes were folded into flowers, just like on a cruise ship. And a friendly, perky woman came into Loved One's room to "take his dinner order" just like it was a fine-dining experience.

The Swine Flu is definitely at the top of the hospital's priority list these days. All the elevators doors are covered in life size photos of happy, smiling, air-brushed patients looking very pleased to know the staff washes their hands frequently and visitors should too. The faint smell of Purell was everywhere-- so were the dispensers. I really hope that stuff works because everyone's hands were touching the same elevator Purell dispenser over and over and over again.

I was surprised to see the card left on the night stand from "the maid" assuring the patient if their housekeeping needs weren't met, they could call the phone number listed on the card. The "maid" signed her name with a smile face after it. It reminded me of the housekeeping cards you see in hotels-- The cards I always assumed were in place to remind guests to leave the maid a tip. Well, now the hospitals have them too!

As I pulled up to valet to take Loved One home, I noticed several other discharged patients all carrying their pink wash basin, puke tray and the likes-- You know, all the crap that's "yours" when you leave a hospital. I guess the old, "I paid for it so I might as well take it with me" theory still applies. Yes, I'll admit, I have a few of those at home stashed somewhere in the garage or basement. But I've never once used them and I've long since stopped bringing them home with me. Which reminds me, I should pull it out and drop them in the recycle bin.

Here's the thing that always amazes me when I'm in or visiting the hospital-- The nursing staff. They are true angels! Day in and day out these men and woman deal with the "BBGs"-- blood, butts and guts-- along with often sick, grouchy, nervous patients and their family and friends, and they seem to do it effortlessly. I take my hat off to each and every one of you and thank you for your kindness and caring.

I hope you never have a medical emergency.
Welcome to The Fifty Factor - Joanna


  1. hi joanna! hope all is well! besos-jane p.s. only you could write a 1000 word essay on a hospital visit. i love it.

  2. Joanna, it sounds like you have spent your share in hospitals. Medical emergencies are not fun are they. I also read about you having lupus, I never heard that about the tears before with Lupus.Good luck to you, I know how hard a chronic illness can be! We would not be good together. If we had a laughing spell as you described I would not be able to talk,stand, and the more you would laugh the worse I would get. Thats the worst part of cataplexy. We would be quite the pair. Heres to us living the best we can.

  3. You said Disneyland before I got a chance to coin the phrase Ambulance Fast Pass! And for $900 bucks a pop, what's wrong with a bit of a grand entrance now and then (kicking and screaming optional).

    And I love your "get there early" comment, especially since hospitals are 24-hour round-the-clock operations and there is no "early." LOL

    Your "Rack 'em and stack 'em" idea is brilliant. And they can do double-triage duty by color coding the bunk beds! Blue (as in code blue) = don't bother, already a goner. Red = hurry. Yellow = take your time. Green = ignore. Have you noticed there are a lot of "green" people in the ER?

    Sorry you had to make these observations at all, Joanna, because I want you and your Loved One/s as far away from a hospital as possible.

    Here's to your health. I love you!

  4. Sorry you even know any of this info, I hope to go a life time without being in a hospital again. Good health for you and yours.

  5. I´m with Frau, too bad you know so much about hospitals. Tells me you´ve been there quite a bit.
    But I agree on the nurses. They amaze me and make our stays bearable. Since my daughter is studying to be a nurse, I know first hand that they do it, because they love it. They deserve every penny they earn!

  6. I hope your Loved One is feeling better now. And I totally agree about the nursing staff. I was overwhelmed by the nurses' kindness when I was in the hospital for my second baby. They deal with such gross stuff with a constant smile.

    But still I'd rather go on a cruise or stay at a Hotel.

  7. Aren't you kind to say such things about Nurses!
    Blood, butts, and guts is about it!
    Sometimes my job (Hospice) is all butterflies and rainbows, too!

  8. I haven't often been a guest at a hospital (and I hope that trend continues to hold true) but I do visit pretty regularly when we have friends, students, faculty members staying there. Living in a small town means there is only one hospital. But every visit is like a class reunion because you see people you know that you haven't seen in a while. That is probably the biggest perk of our local hospital.

    Stay healthy!

  9. Great observations. Well said.

    I was last there as a visitor, and the time before that I was the patient. Either way, it's no fun.

  10. My mom used to be an RN. She is the worst patient EVER.

    I hope Loved One is on the mend.

  11. Hi Joanna, This time I read and reread each paragraph separately, looking for definite signs of sarcastic humor. Hmmm. None. I'm thinking the hospitals in your big town cater to a different clientelle than I've ever known first-hand! HOLY CRAP! I live in Small Town with our lovely hospital about 2 miles away, but it's Small Town Hospital, not even coming close to the animal of which you speak. I'm seriously floored!

    Hope your loved one is home now, where the real healing takes place.

    Yep, still floored!

  12. Luckily I haven't had to go to a hospital in years either as a visitor or patient.

  13. Like you, I hate hospitals. Whether I'm staying or visiting (although, I admit it much better to just visit), I hate them. I literally cried before having to go back in last time.

    Unlike you, our hospital does not have 42 inch flat screens and we're not allowed to take anything. However, I've learned to smuggle tylenol in because they charge $12/pill and it takes forever before they actual give permission to dispense one.

    I'm sorry you know your hospital all too well. I wish no one ever had to know their hospital (unless for birth of babies because that is a happy reason).

  14. Being from LA, I have a favorite hospital too.. in Pasadena! It's like a 5 star hotel. WOW. I gave birth to my last baby there and was treated like a QUEEEEEN! LOVED it.
    Hope your loved one is ok!!

  15. I feel like I just read a review in my newspaper of a great hotel! I haven't been in the hospital since my kids were born and I hope I don't have to go back, although I must say that it's nice to be waited on, even if you are sick/giving birth.

  16. You can put such a light spin on anything!

    Hope all is well out that a way!

  17. Health care is a hot topic right now. It has been a hot topic in my life for most of my life. As a kid we did not go to a doctor. Ever. When I was 5 or 6 and stepped on a can top and cut my foot almost in half an aunt washed it, put on some salve, and wrapped it. As an adult there were a few years of insurance until the big D (divorce) so for most of my adult life I have not had insurance. Just the idea of a $900 ride in an ambulance is so absurd to someone like me that it is unreal. I broke my arm falling off my bike, went home, next day got kids to school, then drove myself to a hospital. The hospitals you are describing probably have fast food because that is what lots of people are used to. I hope your Loved One is on the road to recovery and you take care of yourself too, Joanna.

  18. I too, have spent way too much time in hospitals and have made many of the same observations. I was actually thinking the other day, while sitting in a waiting room at another dr. appointment, about writing a post about all my observations in hospital and clinic waiting rooms.

    I love hospital gift shops. You really can find some unique things in them. The hospital in the town I live in is actually too small to have one. Darn.

    And you are right about the nursing staff being least most of them anyways...and like you appreciate their kindness and caring.

  19. Nice comments about the nursing staff - they are heroes.....and I know that often all healthcare staff are grouped into the nursing category, but as a former radiologic technologist, I'm hoping that you are amazed by my peeps in this department also, as well as the pharmacy, the lab staff, the operations, facility and security personnel - it takes a lot to run a healthcare facility...:)

  20. The pink wash basin is perfect for the at-home pedicure!

  21. My mother suffered with Fibromyalsia for 30 years. She made 2-4 hospital runs every year either by ambulance or with me drivng into emergency. I have spent an uncountable number of hours just waiting in the the little alcove behind the curtain. I have only been a patient once, 2 years ago with a burst appendix. I waited for 12 hours after they knew that, for surgery and I have Blue Cross. I needed your hospital I think.

  22. hey friend. sounds like you have had a fun couple days. hospitala are not my favorite place...butif i had to choose one...the one in Valrico, FL where we had Logan was pretty amazing. the food was almost as good as any restaurant...the nurses were amazing...if i had to look at BBG every day i probably would not be. hope your weekend slows down a bit. see you around.

  23. I had seven children so have been in the hospital seven times! The best experience was the brand new maternity wing, but then the nurse said, "It's good you are having the baby now while it is new - in a few months the patients will have ruined it!!!"

  24. I had seven children so have been in the hospital seven times! The best experience was the brand new maternity wing, but then the nurse said, "It's good you are having the baby now while it is new - in a few months the patients will have ruined it!!!"

  25. I have a strange fascination with hospitals. The atmosphere, the smell.

    Admittedly it sounds like hotels over the pond are much better equipped for comfort than in the UK. Perhaps because ours is "free" (don't get me started on that misnomer)

    On my last visit to the hospital when giving birth to my son I noticed that toilets had broken seats, strip light cases were filled with moths and flies, and although clean, there were definite signs of neglect. It makes me very sad.

    I hope your loved one is feeling better.

  26. Joanna, you can even add a smile telling a hospital story. I have a post tomorrow briefly telling my adventure of the hospital, but a different angle. You crack me up! I hope your love one is OK. Have a golden weekend! xoxo

  27. Hysterically funny. This chick has spent way too much time around the old hospitals. My daughter was once brought a TV and video game in intensive care after heart surgery. Intensive care-Mario Brothers??? Hummmm. Hubby and I often played games like elevator races. We were once charged $700.00 for nausea and vomiting after said daughter was overdosed on sensitives. In the words of my young'en "Ya mean I costs you seven hundred dollars for me to toss my cookies???

    Ya'll have a very blessed weekend and stay well!!!

  28. Oh yes I love the gift shops in hospitals you really can find anything for any occasion. But I really don't care for just going there without a reason.That place has Gems ;-) One of our hospitals have started valet parking. I was shocked because the is hugh parking lot right in front of the hospital...then I remembered I live in Mississippi and most people here are just damn lazy!

  29. The hospital is never fun, I've spent a great deal of time in there as well, as patient and guest. The nurses are all angels in my book. My oldest daughter is studying to become a nurse, god bless her.
    I hope your friend is on the mend.
    (that rhymed in case you didn't notice). xo

  30. I hate hospitals. Although I gotta say, the cafeteria at the small hosp. in the town I work in, actually has some half-way decent food and at a reasonable price. If you've got time for a sit-down lunch, it's not a bad place to go (and that comment coming from a very picky eater!).
    The gift shop prices reasonable? Not at the ones I've been in, talk about highway robbery!
    As for the "crap that's "yours" when you leave a hospital", the little wash-basin came in handy on a camping trip. We did swipe a blanket once, it wasn't too light-weight, nor too heavy, and the nurse did say "anything in the room you want". Too bad I didn't have a need for the heart-monitor or IV drip stand, too, they wouldn't fit in the duffle bag.

  31. My last trip to the ER was when Mr. D dislocated his shoulder and I was struck by the "emergencies" coming through the door. I was also dismayed at the lack of comfort in both waiting room and examining room, but the people working there were VERY nice.
    And your hospital gift shop is just like ours--and a percentage goes to the hospital so you can shop while feeling charitable:)

  32. Sorry you're so familiar with hospitals. Hope your loved one is okay.

    The fast food option is probably just a way to drum up business. Gotta' keep those coronaries coming.

  33. JJ: I have never heard that expression before Blood Butt and Guts

    so dang true though, so true.

    Yeah, I love being a nurse .. .:)

    (have ya visited the Nurse Wing in the Hall Hall of Fame?-lots of good nurse stories there ;)

    and DEAR GOD YES! the gift shops in hospitals? absolutely the best place to shop!!! word up!!!

  34. Short and sweet because everybody who loves you has already made some great observations and your writing covered it.

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. As a person who spent the better part of her career being the chief communications officer for a couple of large hospitals, thank you.

    Yes. The system is broken. Yes it needs modifications. Yes. But, no matter how broken it is or how it is not a product we ever want to utilize, thousands of health care workers go into buildings each day hoping to make a difference in the lives of others.

    Sadly for the patients, families, and workers, it's getting harder and harder to end the day feeling like anyone encountered a victory.

    So, saying thank you or recognizing them for the effort? It means everything. Everything.

  35. Fortunately my experience with hospitals has been mostly for children and grandchildren, but I have had a few other experiences with the hospital environment. I agree that the nurses are the angels of the hospital experience.

  36. I don't like hospitals. The last time I was in one, it was because our best family friend passed away.

    I hope you stay out of the hospital. I hope the nurses keep taking good care of you if you do have to go!

    Happy weekend and hugs!!

  37. I actually thought this was so interesting. When we lived in the US our little son broke his leg. The hospital and staff were wonderful, but our bill not so much... around $9000 ++ (there were bills coming 2 years after the incident). Now fortunately being Norwegain citizens we were reimbursed by our government (the joys of socialized medicine.)

    Our medical care here in Norway is free. No bills for ambulances or special treatments. But I can assure you that there is NO wash clothes folded into flowers, 42 inch flatscreeens, wireless connection or valet parking... That just sounds awesome. I wish a hospital visit could be equaled with a hotel stay. We do have excellent care, but there are nothing that reminds you of a hotel... and you want to get home as quickly as you can. Last time I went to the hospital I even had to stay in the hallway because they were SO full that weekend. It was just one night, but YIKES... awful.

    So I guess if you have a good insurance... the US is the place to get sick. No insurance... Norway!

    Have a wonderful weekend!
    P.S. the little princess requested a butterfly cake... we'll see what I can come up with!

  38. I've only had to stay in the hospital once, and that was for an appendectomy, 23 years ago. I wonder if the food is any better?

  39. Great prose as ever Joanna. I hope all is well now.

  40. Wow, if I am ever in need I hope that I can have such a grand experience.

  41. Unfortunately I didn't have time to read all the comments (how sad) so as a Canadian chiming in with tons of hospital experience I have to say I rather enjoyed reading your post. I spent a ton of time visiting my husband during his illness so it became my second home for several months.

    Funny now I am at our local hospital every day now because my new hubby works there. They refer to that hospital as the ER Country Club - no 42" TV's but its small and relaxed and he loves working there as opposed to the large hospital he was at previously. The fact its a 10 minute walk from our house helps too.

    PS so sorry for your chronic problem - I have a couple but they are so minor compared to your and some of my other blogmates I try not to complain.

  42. After working in a prestigious hospital here, my view of hospitals has totally changed. There is one whole section that has a personal chef, a read library, a living room and sleeping quarters for the patients families and more. It didn't resemble a hospital but more like a Hilton.

    You really said it when you described the 900.00 price tag on the ambulance driven drive. If I end up having to make that sort of entrance, I'd hope that the paparazzi would be there as well as a lot of dignitaries, congratulating me for donating to a worthy cause instead of being the one on the receiving in.

    Hope Loved One is doing better.

  43. All so true, especially the part about nurses. Not sure how they do it or why they would want to do it, but I am so grateful that they do. Great post!

  44. Yes chronic illness here also and due for another hospital visit next week...I wish I had you there to sure it would be much more fun! And I think you should contact the health department with the rack em and stack em idea!

  45. I haven't been a hospital patient since the 80s, when I had my tubes tied. But I've spent loads of time with family members, and it's my prayer to not be in another hospital, as a patient or a visitor, for a long time.

  46. I love nurses; they have been so good to me.

    I have a few of those basins I need to get rid of.

  47. this was cute to read; healthcare has changed so much over the years; years ago when we were born, mom was in the hospital for 10 days, now they are out and about in a day or two. (frankly, I'd take the 10 days to get caught up on sleep and meals brought to you)

    hoping your Loved One is doing okay and nothing too serious that landed them in the hospital

    thankfully, I've been spared any hospital time, but I'm sure my day will come (and funny, hubby works in a hospital in middle management and I do transcription, yet both of us abhor doctors :)

    enjoy the weekend


  48. i had a 13 week miscarriage in june, and i came away from my ER experience really grateful for the wonderful nurses. i wrote one a thank you note, i was so grateful for her compassion and care.

  49. I 'cheated' the last 3 times I went to the Hospital!
    1. I drove myself.. then proceeded to hemmorage all over their floors.. they saw me IMMEDIATELY!
    2. I hemmoraged after an operation and was taken to the public hospital in an ambulance.. straight to theatre! No waiting in lines for me baby!
    3. I got a blood clot in me lungs... back in an abulance and no waiting in line for me again!
    WAY. TO. GO.... just try dying on them... straight to the head of the line!

    But personally, I'd rather be a visitor than a patient!

  50. I've been in the hospital (as a 'visitor' or 'guest') 3 times in the past 6 weeks, one of those times was a 5 day stay with my 10 yr old. The nurses were amazing, all 3 times. Angels indeed. The food was...uninspired. We don't have fast food places at the hospitals here. Tho there is a McDonalds across the street.

    One time involved a start at the ER, where I barked at the people and took him straight in (broken arm, compound fracture, very nasty). None of that paper filling out silliness or waiting in line. 10 minutes later he was knocked out with a IV of Dilotid. It helps to know the language.

    So, I know more about the local hospitals (2 of them) than I'd like, but it is nice to know that the people who really count- the nurses and staff- really know their stuff.

  51. I only wish our hospitals here in Atlanta were as hospitable as yours in LA!

  52. $900 for an ambulance ride? Unless it's a heart attack or there's blood flowing, would be cheaper to hire a limo, I'd think. And all those hotel-like perks only drive up the bill. Better if hospitals would stop trying to be hotels and apply the money for such things (which no doubt have been outsourced to a hotel chain) to nursing staff pay instead.

    As for the fabulous selection in the gift shop, why wait until December to do your Christmas shopping? Do it now and then go back for the one-of-a kind holiday items that will magically appear right after Thanksgiving. Sounds like a plan to me. ;D

  53. This is a terrific post, Joanna. As evidenced by your 53 comments. I get four. You get 53. I really do suck at this game! (Note: Not a solicitation for a compliment. Just an expression of personal dissatisfaction.)

    First, my biggest complaint about hospitals is they won't leave you alone. It always seems like there is someone coming in to do something to you or your room. Like every hour. How is anyone supposed to get any rest at all?

    Note to Joanna. If you ever get me a Christmas present, there is nothing in a hospital gift shop I would like. Go to Best Buy please. :)

    The rack 'em and stack 'em is genius. I don't think patients would mind at all. They'd probably be grateful for the opportunity to lie down. You could even run them through that way on a conveyer belt system, like an automobile assembly line. One nurse checks everyone's temperature, on nurse does blood pressure.

    Other than that, your two "nicer" hotels... I mean hospitals don't really sound like hospitals at all. Valet parking, cards on the pillow, etc. etc.

    My sister is a hospice nurse and my BIL is a nurse administrator. And yes, they are better than everyone else. I don't know how they do what they do but I'm glad they are here to do it. Because I sure as hell couldn't.



  54. Is it weird that I'm even afraid to talk about hospitals? I don't watch Dr. shows either.Great post! xxx ooo

  55. Uh, I don't want to question your awareness, but are you sure you weren't really at hotel? That sounds pretty plush!

    My recent ambulance ride was "only" $398 - what a bargain.

  56. I'm with you, I hate hospitals! I hope your family member is okay.

    My husband works in a hospital (in a technical capacity, he's not a doctor) and I don't know how he stands it! He comes home with some pretty great stories about the morgue, the ER and the psych ward (a psych patient followed him around and took his phone when he set it down!).

    With the swine flu and untold number of other viruses going around, I feel like I should douse him in Purell when he gets home every day!


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