I spent two nights in the hospital. The nurses for the most part were good and most of the aides were terrific. Compared to Brookdale, where I spent a week when Ethan was born, this is a much better hospital.
During the admissions procedure, we amused ourselves by grading the personnel on their sense of humor. The first lady in admitting got 0 for that but she gets a passing grade for getting me the material she wanted me to sign for when we wanted to know where it was, and for letting me fill in the blank lines when she wanted me to sign a form that said that all the lines had been filled in. Clearly the procedure was not usually followed to the letter, but she tolerated our insistence.
One of the things that stood out was the way everyone identified themselves on each first encounter. It’s amazing how powerfully that behavior counters the dehumanizing aspects of hospitalization.
Another marked contrast to Brookdale (and even Kings Highway when Julia was there) was the co-operation of the dietary department. If I wrote “no bread” on my menu, I got no bread!
The biggest strain of my stay was my perceived necessity to be nice. The simple requirements of basic social interaction are often difficult for me, and the biggest relief I felt once I was once more in “my space” (in the car to go home) was the freedom to take off my social face. It is an interesting commentary that the respect the hospital staff showed me demanded that I be equally polite to them.
It is another kind of commentary to note the rarity of this behavior in hospital staffs which makes this hospital stand out.
July 13, 2001
It’s fairly typical, I believe, for people who get devastating health news to spend a certain amount of time saying “why me” even though my rheumatologist had no patience for me doing it. So after digesting his “We don’t know” response, different ideas still floated around in my head. It’s useful to have information about the acceptance process as a person in the “caring profession”, but when it happens to you, it just seems like trying to make sense and order to your life. Left with no medical answers, my mind started wandering down other paths. Years ago I worked in a chronic case/rehab facility in Rochester. One woman there who was in the women’s MS ward had bursitis in her left shoulder, she said for twenty years. Her whole life was her pain. She wouldn’t get out of bed to do anything, and she spent her whole day moaning and whining about her misfortune and misery. “You have no idea how I feel” she would say whenever you tried to change her focus. As is still probably apparent, I had very little patience with her. With the months of pain in my shoulder, I wondered if it was a karmic justice for the way I felt about her.
Similarly, when my father remarried, one of my new sisters had serious health problems (from which she has since died). On top of that, she was an evangelical Born Again Christian, which manifested in her as an extremely tedious smarmy sanctimony. In this state of enlightenment, she “suffered her illness gladly.” We used to say she enjoyed ill health -- and sadly, that fit her precisely. She couldn’t wait to get into a wheelchair. Again, as is still probably apparent, I had very little patience with her. Often, she disgusted me and there was a lot of resentment we had to keep hidden over the special favors she demanded for her handicaps. As my mobility has decreased I have wondered if this was karmic justice for the way I felt about her. At other times I would fear I was going to turn into her. (There is a part of me that feels guilty about how glad I am to get into a wheelchair after so many months of painful walking. Some part of my grandparents’ Calvinist heritage says, anything that makes life easier is bad and you are a bad person if you want or enjoy it.)
A few years ago a neighbor was getting a divorce and because I was “on her side”, the husband got pretty angry at me. The fall that I mentioned at the beginning of this “diary” occurred after an interaction with him over his taking his kid from my house, where I was baby-sitting, without telling anyone, I suspect so he could enjoy the subsequent panic he had caused. After the incident I was talking to her, and she reported that he had said he was going to “fix” me. Laughingly I asked “What’s he going to do, put a voodoo curse on me?” and scoffed when she said yes. But sometimes lately I have wondered.
On the other side of the spectrum, though, is the “normal”. Often a severe illness is the stimulus for a person to “turn his life around.” Also the “passage” into old age (and wisdom, maybe) is influenced by changes in health and activity levels. If the process is becoming the question remains what.
I got my BWA today, and, doing a quick ego scan, I see many of you are concerned about my pain. Please be reassured. The pain I had in my shoulder is now completely gone -- so completely gone that I am eager to get the hip done. Even in the meantime, though, my hip has been not painful at least 90% of the time.
I was kinda surprised to find myself in this disty. I had talked to Lucy about including Gary’s report along with these notes I have been keeping. I wasn’t sure if it would be kosher to include such a large chunk of male written material, so I was asking to find out. Lucy had said it would be OK, but then I didn’t manage to get it put together. Imagine my surprise to find it is my whole zine. I think it makes more logical sense this way now that I think of it, but what a surprise.
August 8, 2001
Today we went to see the orthopedist for hips and knees. Not surprisingly he recommended surgery. I am now scheduled for a right total hip arthroplasty on October 4. I should be in the hospital 5 or 6 days on the orthopedic ward and if I am lucky enough to get insurance to cover it, 3 weeks or so on a rehab unit. The one thing that was a bit of a surprise, considering what all my other docs have said, is that the process in my hip is not AVN, but inflammatory arthritis. He pointed out where it is affecting my other hip as well, so, as Ethan put it, I don’t get to be special. *grin* I had been thinking if I had AVN in all these joints I might get into the Guinness Book or something, because it is rare to get it in more than one joint. (Aside to my sister: yes, dear, I know I’m special anyway. )
Now I have to start getting ready to leave for Worldcon. I’m having serious second thoughts about trying to go when I think of all the health-related crap I’ll have to cart with me. It was looking more likely until Gary, who is my main care-giver, decided he probably needs to stay and help his parents, because his Dad is sick. Anyway, I hope to see a few of you there, unless I talk myself out of it.
This has been Becoming
a work in progress of Donna Camp
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