As a medical student I was curious, yet optimistic, about my opportunity to assume the role of the patient. How would the knowledge I have acquired in two years of study affect my experience as a patient? Much to my chagrin, I have arrived at the conclusion that ‘What you don’t know will hurt you’.
I arrived at the hospital at 8:30 a.m. scheduled for a 10:30 a.m. opening. After admissions I reticently traded in my street clothes for a loin cloth and hair cap at the Short Procedure Unit.
Out of surgery waiting I found a surgical bed made for one with the air-conditioning operating at maximum capacity. Seconds after transferring beds and undergoing my first full body exposure, a subtle intoxication floods my senses-the anesthesia is flowing.
After a brief stay in recovery I headed for my final destination — floor 8E, room 832. Upon arrival I transferred beds again but not without my second, and what seems to be requisite, full body exposure in the bed swapping process. To quell my discomfort I remind myself that vanity has no place in medicine.
The accommodations of 832 are modest yet comforting, a quiet room overlooking the historic Ontario garage with Center City as a backdrop. To sweeten the deal, a self-administered morphine pump is thrown in. Now life gets good…at least for the reader.
Around 9 p.m. the nurse responsible for my room, and seemingly not much else, announced her arrival. “Mr. Tunic I need to take your temperature and check your blood pressure.”
In a morphine-induced fashion I opened my mouth and lifted my arm. After several unsuccessful attempts to properly attach the blood-pressure cuff to my arm my curiosity was aroused. I opened my eyes to a horrific sight that I referred to as ‘the red lollipop’. With reflex-like action I spit out the thermometer and I threw the unit to the floor. “What the are you doing? The red thermometer is for anal temperatures!”
“Oh, I’m sorry Mr. Tunic.” My only recourse was to turn to the morphine in attempt to alleviate both my physical and psychological pain. I pushed the pain button like an overzealous Jeopardy contestant trying to ring in early on a $100 answer. I imagined Trebek at my bedside.
Answer: A person who does not know your mouth from your anus.
Question: Who is a person who is unqualified to work in a hospital?
Around 10 p.m. my nurse returns bearing gifts. She placed a urine receptacle at my bedside and informed me that if I do not produce within the hour, she will insert a Foley catheter.
The combination of urinary retention (induced by morphine) and the prospects of my nurse playing ‘orifice eenie-meenie-miney-moe’ was sufficient to induce experimental neurosis. For the next hour I set aside the ‘pain button’ while pleading with my bladder. At last, 59 minutes into the ordeal and an agreement was reached. I proudly handed over an ounce of urine in exchange for Foley immunity.
Despite my disappointment regarding these incidents, my diplomatic side asserted its influence. As humans we all make mistakes, which alone do not merit any sweeping generalizations regarding the individual or institution. Just when I am on the verge of concluding that I am receiving ‘special treatment,’ the conversation behind curtain number two draws my attention.
A new patient has arrived and his nurse is performing a mini-mental-status exam. He is an older gentlemen expected of having a stroke. “Mr. M, do you know where you are?” He responded, “Yes, Temple Hospital.”
“Mr. M, what day is it?”
Again after some delay he responded, “Thursday, the 15th.”
“No, wrong, today is Wednesday.”
Any respectable ‘Temple-ite’ knew it was Thursday because the Owls were scheduled to make their NCAA round one appearance the next day, Friday.
She repeated the question again, “What day is it?”
In defense of Mr. M, I spoke up, “Today is Thursday, do you know where you are?”
She looked at her watch and concurred, “Oh, today is
Thursday.” Exhausted with the charades, I turned out the light.
My nurse returned in the morning with great news, I was cleared for discharge in an hour. As I was wheeled out of the hospital, I could not help but wonder what passed for necessary healthcare for patients who had no knowledge of the medical field.