This is part of a series. You can begin at Part I and follow the link at the end of each installment to read the next.
When everybody around you is suffering, your own pain becomes less important. I quickly realized that my complaining and moaning weren’t providing any relief. I was only contributing to the overall noise in the gurney hall.
A nurse had taken away my bottle of ibuprofen and the painkillers that they had given me were totally ineffective. I was too stiff to move and the thin blanket covering me was not keeping me warm. I was in constant pain and felt helpless.
When another nurse came to check my vital signs, he noticed my distress and asked:
“How are you sir? Are you in pain? Can you rate your pain?”
I could not understand why nurses insisted on wanting me to rate my pain on a scale from zero to ten. I felt it was impossible to draw meaningful conclusions from such subjective impressions.
“It hurts a lot,” I answered.
“You were given a painkiller two hours ago,” said the nurse after looking at my chart. “Maybe it’s not pain you’re feeling but only discomfort.”
I was not in the mood to discuss semantics and I gave the nurse a spiteful glance.
|Pain is a reaction to an unpleasant stimulus. Tolerance to pain can vary deeply between individuals. The most common tool used to measure pain is a standard scale graded from zero to ten. The accuracy of this tool is questionable.|
“In that case I can help you.”
The nurse went away and came back with a warm blanket to wrap me in. I dozed off almost immediately.
During this first night in the gurney hall, my neighbour who had broken her back was transferred to an actual hospital room and I now had a new roommate who was retching loudly behind the thin curtain separating us.
When I woke up in the morning a tall slim man in a white smock was standing by my stretcher.
“I looked at your MRI results and saw that you have light arthrosis on two of your lower back vertebrae. That would explain your spinal stenosis and could be the cause of your paralysis.”
The hospital staff spoke in a strange language that I could barely understand. They also tended to show up unexpectedly and never introduced themselves. I found this extremely annoying.
“That’s interesting,” I said snidely. “Who are you sir and what do you do?”
“My name is Dr. Sharp and I’m a neurosurgeon. I doubt surgery on your spine would be beneficial. You don’t have severe arthrosis and I do not recommend this operation”.
|Surgery is too often viewed casually by patients and doctors alike in the Western world. However there is something creepy in having masked strangers performing mysterious acts with sharp objects on sleeping people, don’t you think?|
“No. I said arthrosis. Arthrosis is a degenerative disease of the bone cartilage. Arthritis is a swelling of the joints. Arthrosis is a wearing down of the bone cartilage that often occurs with age.”
“And what is spinal stenosis?” I asked.
“Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal where the spinal cord is located. In your case, arthrosis may be the cause of that narrowing but as I just said I don’t think surgery will be helpful.”
“I’m relieved,” I replied. “Spinal surgery sounds risky.”
Unimpressed by my comment, the doctor gave me a blank look and added:
“In any case, I will discuss this with my colleagues and we’ll talk about it later.”
I was never to see Dr. Sharp again. I often wondered if that hospital didn’t hide some kind of “Bermuda Triangle” that mysteriously swallowed up doctors.
my friend Lucide called me on my cellphone to see how I was and to find out if I had been given a room. I took the opportunity to ask her to bring me some ibuprofen to relieve my aching body.
While I was on the phone a man with dark hair and bushy eyebrows rushed in.
“So, are you ready for your surgery?”
“What surgery?” I said, startled.
“Well, the operation on your spine to get rid of your nasty arthrosis, of course!”
“I thought this procedure wouldn’t be necessary! But first of all, who are you sir?”
“My name is Dr. Backridge and I am a neurologist. Who told you this operation would be unnecessary?”
“Erm... It was doctor... Huh... I can’t recall his name but he was some kind of brain surgeon who came to visit me this morning,” I said, befuddled. “You’ll probably find his name in my file.”
“I never read patients’ files, they’re totally unreliable,” the doctor said with a twitch. “So? Do you agree? Can I book the operating room?”
I felt cornered. I am not impulsive by nature and, right at that moment, I did not have all the information to make such a serious decision and weigh its consequences objectively.
The doctor was rocking nervously on his heels while tapping with a pen on a clipboard.
“Dr. Backridge, can you guarantee arthrosis is the cause of my illness?”
“A 100% guarantee? No, I can’t say that for sure but it’s a possible cause.”
“Doctor, I hope you can understand how I feel. Right now I can’t walk and I’m afraid that if I get this operation I will never be able to walk again.”
The doctor gave me a fierce look.
“Listen sir, don’t waste my time. If you don’t agree to this surgery, I can see only one explanation...”
“You’re putting on an act! You’re faking!” he snapped.
He then turned and left abruptly, his white smock flapping behind him like the wings of a giant bird. He made me think of a seagull that comes out of nowhere, making a lot of noise, shits everywhere and leaves as he had come without ever accomplishing anything.
“I would not mind if this doctor got lost in the Bermuda Triangle,” I thought.
|Seagulls have existed for at least 30 million years. This bird with the obnoxious squawking can be found anywhere there is a lot of water. It will eat anything but seems to enjoy feeding on human garbage.|
To be continued in: Hospital Diaries VI: The Overflow