“Dad, it isn’t a hotel; it is a hospital.”
That is what son Matt told me, twice, while I filled our weekly telephone conversation with grumbles about a trip to the emergency room at Penn Highlands DuBois, formerly known as DuBois Regional Medical Center.
I grumbled because I was in some serious pain on Sunday when we decided the trip should be made; I was in scarcely less serious pain on Tuesday when I spoke with Matt; and for that matter, I am still in pain on Friday, while this is being written.
I can tolerate relatively high levels of pain. I have had a lifetime’s experience with pain. I nearly died as a 10-year-old when my appendix burst several hours before I got to a hospital. I endured a hospital-based extraction of impacted wisdom teeth, and the doctor’s subsequent decision to go home without approving any pain medication — which was the single most painful episode I recall. I have had a fractured skull, broken jaw (Why is a skull fractured but a jaw broken? I don’t know.), broken nose, broken fingers, broken arm (twice), broken collarbone, broken leg. I have had brutally painful sprains of ankles and wrists.
In sum, I am an orthopedic mess.
So I do endure pain.
What I do not do is endure pain quietly.
I believe in the power of groups of people praying for a common goal. So I do my part to get anybody who is near me when I am in pain to say, silently or out loud, “God! Will you please get that man to shut up?” Of course, the petitioners are asking for an easing of my pain, not for a sock to be stuffed into my mouth — aren’t they?
Anyhow, after having endured my endurance of pain for a Sunday morning, my wife said we should go to the hospital.
Now, I have had lower back/sciatic nerve pain on dozens of occasions in the past quarter-century. The memory of my first experience is seared into my consciousness. I had been tying up tomato plants in the garden in 1992. I reached behind me to gather in a stray branch of tomato plant, and twisted so my other hand could get a piece of torn-up sheet with which to anchor the plant to the wooden stake.
My wife, son and daughter half-carried me to the back porch. They wheeled a hassock out onto that porch so I could lie stomach-down across it and be wheeled into the house without trying to straighten up.
At the time, we lived less than two blocks from the West Sandy Fire Company station. Had its siren gone off while I was howling, the firefighters’ signal would have been drowned out.
As I said, I take pain loudly.
Matt knew that. Unhappily, Matt has had his own numerous experiences with hospital emergency rooms due to his autoimmune disease.
So when I began to complain about all the things I found worth complaining about during my recent trip to the ER, Matt offered his “not a hotel” observation.
“Why not?” I wondered in return.
Example: The door latches at the hospital are designed so they can be opened by the push of a gurney, yet be firmly closed without the need for a person to manually push the doors together.
I thought at first that someone had ratcheted a shell into a shotgun. No, wait. To my pain-sensitized ears, the sound reminded me of two boxcars being slammed together in the old Pennsylvania Railroad yard behind Grandma’s house. That is how boxcars were latched back then. Nobody complained. It was a railroad yard, not a hotel.
But hospitals, I believe, could benefit from occasional visits by hotel experts. Hotels must compete for customers. (Pet linguistic peeve: Neither hotels nor hospitals have “guests.” We all pay for the privilege of being there.)
Hotels whose hallways echo with “ Ka-CHOINNNG!” would soon be empty. Hotels have found ways to minimize such sounds, even though their housekeeping staffs do many of the same functions as are done by hospitals’ medical and housekeeping workers.
Yes, my grumbling was accentuated by the fact that I was in serious pain, measured by my reckoning at a 7 on the ubiquitous “scale of 1 to 10” used to gauge such things.
But if hospitals used hotels’ approaches to hallway noises, wouldn’t we all be better off? If hospitals used hotels’ approaches to those “complimentary” morning breakfasts (we also pay for those), wouldn’t we be better off?
I think so.
What I do know is that, as soon as the medical remedies and chiropractic treatments reduce my pain levels, my grumbling will cease.
In the meantime ... Why, Dear Readers, even though you cannot actually hear these words, I have shared my grumbles with you, haven’t I?
I feel better already.
❑ ❑ ❑
Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: email@example.com