It was late Saturday afternoon and my heart had been fluttering—afib style—for hours. The last thing I wanted to do was to go to the ER on a Saturday. So I waited, took my heart meds, and waited some more. My neighbor, a nurse, came by, looked at me, grabbed her stethoscope and declared my heart was flopping around like a fish.
As my husband and I hurried out the door I grabbed my phone and ear-buds along with my med list, and by the time I was in ER they were both being used. While I lay for hours amid the cacophony I listened to my music LOUD with eyes closed hoping to drown out the reality of what was happening….it was the finest music I’d ever heard. I was wheeled along on gurneys and parked on the sides of the halls like a slab of meat…waiting…waiting….while bells and ringers were going off and on as I wondered if my life would end at the sound of an alarm unattended to.
I didn’t die and I was extremely grateful for all that was done for me. I was admitted to the hospital for four days. And yes….I am extremely thankful… and yet …dare I say, it was a humiliating process. As I put on the hospital gown, removed my jewelry, and repeated my name and med list I become yet another patient in Room 5. Each time an injection was done or a new nurse came on the floor I was asked my name and date of birth. How ironic is it that when one goes to the hospital we repeat our names and birth dates over and over again—and then we’re treated—like bodies with no identities or souls. We become: the patient in Room 5 who rings the bell too much because there’s no bed for her upstairs, and she’s been here for 7 hours, and she’ll have to be guerneyed out to the hallway to wait.
Behind our heads, but never totally out of sight, one can see the heart monitoring screens reminding us that our life force is a matter of numbers. There are good numbers and bad numbers. There are the good nurses and doctors who come in to check…and then there are the bad times when no one comes in…is this the moment of death?
I know this sounds harsh. Many, if not most, of the nurses and doctors try to engage us with conversation so we don’t feel this de-humanization, but it’s as much a part of the hospital as the rules and regulations. And it probably has to be this way in order to avoid mistakes; so I’m not blaming.
Being in a hospital is a “spiritual experience”—really! We lose our sense of self/ego, and we are challenged to learn patience and acceptance. What at first feels like the safety and security of being cared for, eventually turns into the slow process of being released where the ritual is reversed in slow motion and the images of prison and freedom ravage the brain. Always another opportunity to practice patience…they say good patients are patient. Can't say I passed the test this time....