Finding Patients

Anecdotal evidence and reports from my friends indicated that I am about a thousand years younger than the average hospitalized adult. And a thousand years leaves a lot of room for confusion.

The first time I had some explaining to do, for example, was on my second morning in the university hospital. There was an outdoor courtyard in the first hospital I was admitted to, but then I transferred to the university hospital, where I wasn’t allowed to go outside or even leave the floor. So I mostly limited my physical activity to my room. It’s also important to note that in the university hospital, the doors to the rooms had little windows, which are perfect for (maybe even intended for?) spying on patients.

I did not realize the purpose of the window, however, until I decided to get up and stretch my legs a little bit. I didn’t do anything crazy, just some hamstring and quad stretches. Then I bent over and touched my toes. ALERT! ALERT! Someone who I didn’t recognize rushed into my room. “Are you okay? Are you okay?” he asked desperately. I stood back up and stumbled over an awkward apology: “I’m fine, I mean I was…I’m sorry, I was just touching my toes. I mean, like stretching my legs. By touching my toes. I’m not like bending over in pain.” Is it common to bend over at the hips when in pain? I think not, but that’s not important, I guess.

Needless to say, I didn’t bend over to touch my toes after that.

The following day, I tripped the alarm again. I was out of bed, to get a fresh t-shirt from my bag. I learned early on that hospital robes are not a requirement for being hospitalized, so husband & friends provided me with comfy shirts, fantastically colorful leggings, and equally stupendous socks. I think I was the best dressed patient of all time. So anyway, I got up to get a shirt and my door opened again. In rushed a nurse assistant carrying a pitcher of water, which I had asked for a few minutes earlier. She looked very concerned, in spite of having fulfilled her duty of bringing me water. She stood in the middle of my room and looked around desperately in every direction.

“Where are they?” she asked.
“Where is who?” I replied.
“Are they in the bathroom?”
“…no one is in my bathroom, so I’m going to guess not.”
“Then where? They must be in the bathroom.”
“There is no one in the bathroom.”
“Then where?!”
“Where is who??”
“The PATIENT. Where is the patient??”
“…I am the patient.”
“Where is the patient??”
“I AM THE PATIENT. I AM RIGHT HERE.”
“What? You are the patient? Are you sure?”
“…yes.”
“Oh, ok then. Here is your water!”

She set the pitcher down on the table cheerfully, and with a hint of pride in having located the missing patient. I changed my shirt as quickly as possible and went back into bed, where I belonged.

The same nurse assistant came back a few hours later and asked if I needed help taking a shower. I tried to refuse politely, but she was so insistent that I had to shower now, and I must have help taking a shower, that things got awkward. I’m sure you can imagine. In the end, I won, clinging proudly to the final shreds of my privacy and youthfulness.

At least my bathroom door didn’t have a window.

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