Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hospital Duty

Spent the last three nights at Good Samaritan Hospital, sleeping on the floor next to an acquaintance's dog. The patient was the fellow homeless person K— I mentioned in the last post, whose lung had apparently collapsed Saturday after a fit of screaming at Portland Patrol security personnel (for whatever perverse dissident grandstanding reason). I ran into him at the Northwest neighborhood public library branch on Sunday, whereupon he told me about the collapsed lung and that he discharged himself against medical advice earlier that day because hospital staff told him that unless he could find someone to watch over and walk his dog it would have to stay at the pound until he's released. I sympathized with his refusal to let his dog go to a Guantanamo detention facility for animals where a simple mistake can result in his dog being lost or even put to death, so I agreed to help him out when he asked me to return with him to the hospital. Alas, I've never been good at refusing people.

I had NO IDEA what I was getting myself into, though I dreaded the certainty of it being an ordeal for me. This was confirmed by the charge nurse of the emergency ward, where K— had to go to be re-admitted. I was under the impression that I'd simply have to swing by three times a day to walk the dog (named Shorty), but she fixed her flinty Baba Yaga gaze on me and insisted that I remain in K—'s room all the time I wasn't walking Shorty, else the hapless companion be forced to sojourn x-amount of days in Doggy Gulag. When she went so far as to say that I wouldn't even get a cot to sleep on, I almost asked her if I had permission to stand in the corner at parade rest or would I be required to stand at attention the entire time! The reason I was needed was because all of K—'s friends that live indoors have dogs, and Shorty tends to forget that he's small and twenty years old in his Charles Bronson posturing with other — often much larger — dogs, which could easily prove disastrous or even fatal. Fortunately for me, leveler heads prevailed upon the whimsical winds of hospital policies when we were admitted upstairs in the intermediate care ward: I only needed to walk the dog three times a day and remain with him in the room overnight and when K— underwent surgery.

Shorty's a good little dog, and charmed the babes in scrubs to an enviable degree. (If you can put up with K—s confrontational ranting, here's a YouTube video that shows his dog.) Considering how anxious he was while at the hospital he certainly would have been terrified in a cage surrounded why barking and whining dogs! But, K—'s getting released this afternoon sometime, so my tour of duty is over and I get to gleefully divorce myself from human proximity, bask in my usual day-to-day selfishness, and return to less exotic and more familiar and (perhaps dismally) comfortable environments. Whatever good karma chits I garnered from this fit of nobility I'll just leave at a bus stop; I don't believe in that thimble-headed nitwittery, anyway, and it's not like it'll buy me any beer.

Isn't it funny how hospitals can be comforting when you're a patient but are almost invariably vaguely distressing to visitors? I'm reminded of when I was drinking with some neighbors back at my old place, how I glibly remarked once that I always had a good time whenever I went to a hospital. This must have been a recent development in my life. After all, I watched my dad die in a Veterans Administration hospital in Seattle at the tender age of ... nine? ten? Well, it's obvious that I stuffed that traumatic event deep beneath the cushions of the couch of my memory. But, yeah, I didn't exactly enjoy myself at Good Sam; apparently I need to have surgery done, liberal application of pain medicine, and delicious room service to properly enjoy myself in hospitals. Making my besotted assertion of at best only halfway true. I'd even go so far to say that if ever hospitals were to be run entirely by artificial intelligences and robotic machines, the vast majority of us would willingly succumb to injury and illness and end up dying on the streets or in our homes.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, the vagaries of street life, eh? (And I LOVE your description of Shorty as a geriatric Charles Bronson. Guffaw!)

    Also, thought you might appreciate this:

    Gimme that Z! ;-)