I was in the hospital for a few days about six months ago. It was a good experience, as far as getting most of the roof of your mouth removed and being in the hospital for three days can be a good experience (hello Dilaudid!). It also gave me a better understanding of what it’s like to be a patient.
1. More than anything else, it’s overwhelming to be a patient.
From the time you wander in to the presurgical testing department and get the little bar-coded bracelet wrapped around your wrist, you’re bombarded with pieces of paperwork and requests for bodily fluids and information at a truly stunning rate. We nurses don’t think about that side of it, because we only see part of the picture. It starts early, though, and the overwhelming-ness of the experience doesn’t ever go away. Knowing the paperwork backward and forward doesn’t make it any less of a chore to deal with.
2. It’s also scary.
I wasn’t consciously scared during the prep for surgery any more than I was scared of surgery itself…but I still wrote out exactly what I wanted done if Something Horrible Went Wrong. I was frightened of pain, for sure. I was worried about how well I’d recover and if I’d be able to swallow. Since my surgery was one that’s not done very often, nobody could give me solid information on recovery times, and that scared me, too. Eventually, the fear that the whole situation caused turned into a low-level static that made everything much harder than it had to be. I wasn’t expecting that.
3. And good Lord, being in the hospital is exhausting.
I mean, nobody goes there in the best of health in the first place, but when you’re healthy, you have no idea how bone-tired, beaten-down, thoroughly exhausted you are. I used to comfort my patients with the platitude “Walking to the bathroom now is like running a mile when you’re healthy.” Little did I know that it’s actually true.
4. It’s also lonely.
For me, it wasn’t so bad: I had surgery in the same place where I work, so there were times when there was a line of colleagues out the door waiting to say hello. In the middle of the night, though, when you need or want something and there’s nobody right there? That’s a horrible feeling. I never doubted that if I had real trouble, there would be somebody there on the spot in record time; that’s the whole reason why I went to my home facility to get remodeled. But 3 a.m. is a lonely time in any case, and it’s worse in a hospital bed.
5. Plus, the beds suck rocks.
Remember that the next time you have a patient complaining of intractable back pain: The beds are horrible. The food’s not great, either.
Getting out, though? Best feeling in the world.