The Secret Language of Hospitals

You don’t want to be in the hospital—you would rather be home. But remember that the hospital staff doesn’t want you either. You increase their workload and add to the financial burden of providing food, electricity, and clean linens. So to make the hospital transition easier, I am decoding the secret language of hospitals. I can do that. I’ve been here for weeks with an infected hip replacement joint and may continue here for several more months.

Once you are installed in your bed, room, ward—or whatever term is used in your part of the world—you will be handed a “buzzer” and told to ring the nurse if you need anything. Keep in mind that the person who told you this made no promises. You will ring the buzzer and for a long time—no one will come. Eventually, someone from the lower echelon of nursing will come—to turn off the buzzer. Don’t expect this person to solve your problem. Their rank means that they are only allowed to bring towels, and water, etc. The buzzer-minder will fly into the room, turn off the red button, ask you if you need anything. When you reply—he or she will say, “I’ll ask the Nurse.”

Maybe the buzzer minder does ask the nurse. Maybe he or she forgets in their hurried flight around the corridor turning off red buttons. In any event, Nurse will not show up to fix your problem until it fits into Nurse’s schedule.

Now a word about time in the hospital. It’s relative. Here is a basic guide: when someone says, “I’ll be back in one wee second,” it actually means five minutes. “Two wee seconds” usually translates to within 45 minutes. Usually. If someone says, “I’ve told Nurse. She/he is with another patient and will be here as soon as possible—rip those lines and tubes out of your body and flee. The other patient takes priority over you. They all take priority over you.

When you are told, “a wee scratch,” grab the bed frame and hang on. It’s gonna hurt.

When you are told, “Someone will be here after we hand off the patients to the new shift”…keep yourself entertained by eavesdropping. Don’t worry about stealth—no matter how late at night or how early in the morning—they won’t be quiet. Each new shift begins with a party as the old-comers greet the new comers. You can pick up some fascinating stories just by listening. Maybe even about you.

Please don’t take this as a criticism of any hospital in any country, and certainly not the one in which I’m residing at the moment. The staff is busy and overworked and the patient load is heavy. That’s actually to your benefit. See, if you are as naïve and trusting as I am—when someone promises or says they are going to do something—you believe them. Shame on you. Wise up. A hospital stay is the perfect vehicle to teach patience and skepticism. When you live long enough, you will realize that people seldom mean what they say. They don’t always keep promises. After a hospital stay, those truths will become engrained. You will be amazed when someone does follow through on their words. It will make you thankful. It will create in you new levels of appreciation. And we can all benefit from a grateful heart full of appreciation.

Pray and have others pray for you. You’re going to make it. Perhaps not on your timescale, but God loves you. You may not feel like anyone’s favorite at the hospital or like you rate first place—but you rate first place with God and He will never leave you or forsake you. And He will come alongside you during those long dark nights in between the boisterous parties at the nurses’ station and give you strength and peace. Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Christmas Carrots

When as many meals are needed as the amount for a large hospital, it is easy to understand bulk purchases. Still, we will not be having carrots for Christmas at this house.

I just got home from spending six days at the hospital following a knee replacement. The surgery went well. The care level was exceptional. The meals were… torture. A person came around each day with choices for the evening meal. One seldom received the choice they had given—but as a bonus prize—there was a generous supply of diced, boiled carrots. Lunch, mystery meat with carrots. Dinner, mystery meat with gravy and carrots. Every. Single. Day.

The ward I was in had no toaster, so toast for breakfast was not an option. It was either cereal or porridge, neither which I eat. Not to worry. Day or night – carrots were always an option.

One patient seemed perky, bouncy, friendly, and likeable. She was. As long as she got her way. When anything crossed her—she threw such a hissy fit with a tail on it that extra help was recruited from other wings to calm her down and bring her under control. I don’t blame her. I blame… carrots. She just got tired of diced, boiled carrots. And if she remains in the hospital through Christmas, and for anyone else who remains in that hospital for Christmas—she will have diced, boiled carrots for Christmas Day Dinner.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds with visions of carrots dancing in their heads…

Nope. We are done with carrots at this house until sometime after Christmas. I’m thinking of re-introducing them in 2023.

Things to Remember; Things to Forget

view from Hillfoot Street Dunoon

So at some point in this blog about my recent hospital stay, I should write something funny about the food. I can’t. It wasn’t funny.

Scotland’s National Health Service is under attack from every angle. Criticisms, some justified, are as copious as rainfall, and for those who have never lived here – it rains nearly every day. My surgeon was skilled, hospital employees were caring and competent, and the facilities were outstanding. No way would I bash the health care system which literally saved my life. Chronic, agonizing pain is a killer. Cauda Equina Syndrome is synonymous with killer pain.

As a title of respect in the UK, surgeons are introduced as “Mr.,” not “Doctor.” So it is with upmost respect that I thank my surgeon, Mr. Bhattathiri,” not only for his skillfulness in surgery, but for his genuine compassion. His name may be spelled with a “B,” but he genuinely put the “care” in caring.

I believe the Bible, including 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “I everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” And I know that I know that I know that, “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord.”

I don’t know why this happened to me. I don’t know why I had to have major back surgery. But I do know that I’ve been blessed by all the years of good health that God has given me. Soon, Cauda Equina Syndrome will be merely a memory.

The food? Not so much.

Scotland robin #2