Thursday, January 17, 2008

Notes on a Hospital Stay, and an Entrepreneurial Idea for Somebody Out There

Several friends mentioned that I must have been so scared when I had to take Pebbles to the hospital with pneumonia. I must have a heart of stone because I must admit that I was not. In fact, I was pissed off because I felt that she didn't need to be hospitalized. She just did not seem very sick, especially compared to how she looked over the weekend when she was home with us.

In retrospect, I definitely should have taken her to the doctor's office Saturday morning or the ER over the weekend. Well, now I know.

Instead of, "Oh my poor baby, is she going to die? Speak to me, darling baby..." my internal monologue went something like this:

The emergency room is such a weird place. Everyone's intimate discomfort and even body parts are laid bare right there in this long hall of cubicles. The sound of a woman barfing is the background music when a nurse comes into our cubicle to tell the doctor there's a man coming whose testicle has been sucked up into his torso.

"He'll have to get in here within half an hour," the nurse says. "Not that he has to go in front of everyone else. But we don't want to lose that testicle."

Indeed not. Next to us a police officer is guarding a sleeping patient. I watch the officer watch hours of TV. Everyone stops and coos over how cute Pebbles is and to tell me about their own kids. Originally we were in a little cubicle but now we've been moved out to the hall, and the hall is less boring.

Thank God I have the Tribune and a copy of The Atlantic Magazine in my bag. We got a subscription to The Atlantic for free with orphaned frequent flyer miles. It is full of long, intelligent, hard-to-read articles, one after another. Ever wonder how long it would take to read The Atlantic Magazine cover to cover?

Answer: About two solid days, allowing for interruptions such as answering the same qustions over and over to new nurses and doctors, playing with an increasingly perky baby, and holding that baby down while an IV is administered. And, of course, Oprah.

Without this magazine, I would surely have to abandon my infant and go home, because I just cannot sit around with nothing to read. I haven't had anything to eat all day. But nothing to eat does not compare in agony to nothing to read.

***

Which makes me realize a way that hospitals could make both the ER and regular floors so much more bearable for their patients. It would cost hospitals nothing and would surely raise patient satisfaction rates and even save the hospitals money on staffing:

Concessionaires. Sure, the hospital has a gift shop and maybe a cafeteria. But there are plenty of people who cannot leave their rooms (or hallway beds) to buy stuff. Especially in the ER, where you may be stuck for 8+ hours like we were and there seems to be a "no in and out" policy. Once in the room, I could have left Pebbles in the care of the nurses, but I was reluctant to leave when she was awake and besides I didn't want to risk missing the doctor who could spring us from that joint.

Seems like an independent contractor would do a lively trade if she simply pushed a cart from room to room, selling snacks, drinks, newspapers, magazines, puzzle books, toiletries, maybe even a few little toys. Am I wrong? I know that hospitals let some independent contractors in because in labor and delivery we were visited by a photo company. Even though I -- thank God -- had my magazine, I would have paid double the cover price for a copy of the day's Tribune when I woke up that morning.

Anyway, that was our hospital stay. Today Pebbles seems pretty healthy and is even losing that "abused dog at the pound" cringe when people other than Epu and I approach her. I'll take her back to the doctor this afternoon for a check-up.

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