I admit it. When it comes to certain aspects of doctors and hospitals, I have more questions than answers. Not about anything serious, you understand. I know as much as I want to know about the serious stuff. I try not to worry about it. My experience over the years has been that those who worry about their health too much often end up having good reasons for doing it.
Reminds me of an old story: Charlie and the Tofu. You ever heard that one, Johnny? No? You sure? The one about the fellow who could not stand his wife after they’d been married a couple of years because he’d gotten hooked on all that great health food and she refused to have anything to do with it?
No? Haven’t heard it? Goes like this...
Unhappy because Sarah insisted on serving up things that were recognizable during meals, Charlie talked with his health mentor, who shared a devious way of getting rid of a tofu-intolerant wife.
“The solution to your problem,” Charlie’s mentor told him as they sat chewing cress burgers, “is simple. All you have to do to get rid of a woman is make love to her every night for a year.”
And Charlie, thinking that was not an altogether unpleasant method of committing the ultimate crime, set the plan in motion.
Many months later, a friend of Charlie’s happened to stroll by as Charlie and Sarah sat out on the front porch. Shocked by the appearance of his old buddy, who sat there with shaking hands and haunted eyes, his friend asked, “Gee, Charlie. How you doing?”
Charlie leaned forward and spoke in a conspiratorial whisper. Eyeing Sarah, who had gained 10 pounds and was rocking back and forth and tapping her feet in time to music, he managed a smile.
“I’m okay,” he whispered. “B-But you better say goodbye to Sarah. She d-don’t know it, but tomorrow night she dies.”
The way I figure it, it pays to know a little something about staying out of the grave, but there’s not much point in worrying yourself into one trying to learn how to stay out of it. So I let the doctors worry about the complicated things, and I stick to the easy ones — like staying out of the hospital.
And getting back out of one alive if I go in.
That’s important. I went into the hospital twice when I was a kid. Once when I got hit by a bike, flew up in the air, and broke my fall with my head, and once when I had my tonsils out.
The first time, a nasty lump came up on my head, one Mom could hardly miss seeing because the neighborhood kids brought me home on a stray plank. There’s no hiding a lump when you’re out cold on a plank, Johnny, so Mom put an ice pack on my head on and off, after which the lump went away. Cured, right? Wrong!
No such luck. The lump, evidently not up on the rules of ice packs, came back. And this time it was soft.
So Mom took me to the hospital. And the hospital doctor eyed me for a while, frowned, and said he’d fix it, but Mom would have to admit me. The next day, having spent a cozy winter night’s in a ward in which the medical beliefs of the day were well and truly followed — by which I mean every window in the %$#@! place was wide open — I was rolled into a little room with my teeth chattering.
“Well,” the doctor said, showing me a God-awful large needle, “this won’t hurt us a bit.”
He lied, Johnny. He lied. But he told the truth too.
He told the truth about it not hurting him, but it hurt the living Beelzebub out of me! Anyway, after that they put me back in that same ward so the icy gale blowing through would help to cure me under my nice, warm sheet. As a result I won a free, two-week stay during which my temperature was taken a lot. Yeah, that way.
I have a question, but I’ll hold it for a minute.
The next winter, Mom took me in to have my tonsils removed, it being the belief in those days that what God hath wrought He got wrong — at least where throats were concerned.
Different hospital. Different ward. Same gale. Tonsils out — no problem. Icy gale — problem. I won another free, two-week stay during which my temperature was again taken a lot. Yeah, same way.
And now the question: With the Depression and all going on, how could they afford to give us kids all those free, two-week temperature-taking stays in the hospital? I never understood that.
Why not just shut the windows and save a bundle?
I did learn one thing during those two hospital stays. It does not pay to tell the nurses and ward attendants that there is no way anyone could make that hospital food worse.
Not unless you want to see them prove you wrong
Oh, I and learned something else too.
This was New York City, and I noticed that if you and your Mom are walking from the subway to the hospital, it’s not a bad idea to keep an eye on the sky.
No, dummy! Not because it may rain.
I saw vultures circling over that second place.
I have also learned that certain types of hospital insurance don’t cost you a nickel, Johnny. For example:
It does not pay to go into a hospital wearing one of those smart-aleck T-shirts that say, “There’s no use taking life too seriously, you can’t get out of it alive.”
That’s seems to rub them the wrong way.
It does not pay to share the old adage: “Live fast, die young and make a good-looking corpse.”
Bad idea when you’re in a place where that can be arranged.
Do not say, “I am never coming back to this place!”
That can be arranged too.
Do not say, “No one better try giving me an enema!”
Professionals love a challenge.
Do not say, “I know I’m dying! I know it! You can’t fool me!”
There’s such a thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It is wise to be nice to the nurses. It’s downright easy for someone to “accidentally” trip over a cord and pull the plug.
It is wise to keep your eyes open for men of the cloth. No matter how bad you feel, slip out of bed once in a while, take a look out in the hallway, and make sure there isn’t one lurking around out there somewhere. If there is, and the surgery you are having is elective, you might think about changing your mind.
It is wise to avoid asking questions like these:
“How many times do I have to push this %$#@! button?”
“If these backless gowns are so good, why don’t you wear one?”
Remember, the best way to leave a hospital is standing up.