Sunday, February 24, 2013

No one's favorite place

Hospitals are weird places. I find them compelling and deadening, comforting and scary. The big hospitals are labyrinthine, sprawling, ugly places lit by buzzing fluorescent lights and smelling of too much hand sanitizer. When I find myself inside a hospital, I always have an odd sense that I'm going to get in trouble, that I shouldn't be there, though it's perfectly normal to visit clients when they're hospitalized. I get disoriented and almost always have a hard time finding the right room, even in the hospitals I visit most often.

People in hospitals are dying, being born or very close to death, hooked up to an array of machines that click and beep constantly, and to bags of mysterious fluids. It's so creepy, like a horror movie just before something violent happens.

There are whole wings of hospitals devoted to the art of cutting into the living flesh of a person and fiddling around inside. While this is going on, the anesthesiologist is administering a cocktail of drugs that keeps the patient nearly dead, completely paralyzed. Surgery is bizarre. It is so unnerving! And yet I would love to sit in on a surgery some day. Brain surgery would be great. My dream is to fill the surgical theater with Reiki, let it pour into the room. That way, both patient and medical team would be bathing in Reiki. The plan is rather grandiose and probably will never happen, but I would love to experience that, even as weird as it is. Surgery is one of the compelling yet creepy things going on in hospitals. It's heroic and cold hearted in a way, too. Surgeons are very strange people.

It's no wonder hospital staff behave as they do. Most are as kind as they can be, under the circumstances. Some of them are mean as hell, understandably if you ask me. How would you feel if you worked in that kind of environment? Hospital staff works too hard or too intensely. Or maybe they are the way they are because of the never-ending atmosphere of emergency/crisis that is part of every hospital.

I experience most hospital workers, from lowly receptionist to the most high fallutin' surgeon, as burnt out. They're so fried, in fact, that they often seem blasé. I understand how easy it would be to shut down. Sadly, this does not benefit the patients in any way. It's a big problem.

That macho thing of working ridiculous shifts in medicine - 48 hour shifts with no sleep for instance - what the hell is that about? Seems like hazing to me, but what do I know?

Originally hospitals were more like hospice - a place to go where you could comfortably die. Then they became places of heroic rescue from the jaws of death. Later still it was thought that mothers in active labor should leave the comfort of the home to give birth in hospitals.

We trust hospitals. It's where people go in a crisis, definitely. If I broke my arm, I would not call my acupuncturist. But oh, they are strange domains.


tut-tut said...

Hindsight being what it is, I wish I had had my daughter at home.

Reya Mellicker said...

Giving birth is scary to many - as it should be. I think they feel safer in a hospital, and that feeling is important in childbirth. The worst part of labor is the car ride to the hospital. Everything about it is wrong, though I will say those are some of the best stories afterwards.

Rebecca Clayton said...

I've had many working nurses in my college classes--they are wonderful people, taking good care of everyone they can, except themselves. Lots of chronic health problems, as well as catching infectious diseases from their patients. Stress and more stress.

Reya Mellicker said...

Yes! Nurses are an interesting group. Always the best or the worst. They are the healers. To me the doctors are more like technicians, like IT people in an office. The nurses actually take care of the patients.

What a job!