Saturday, February 07, 2009

the hospital

The other day, as dusk fell on an unexpectedly mild and sunny day in the Pacific Northwest, I felt eager to get back to work, to sink my teeth into something transformative. I wanted to find out what happened to Frances, and her sister, who I've just left in the ICU, in a coma. I was itching to return to Messmeier clan and all of their conundrums and escapades. Alas, I've been buried with work and a few real-life wrinkles, so Frances is frozen on my hard drive. Her poor sister, still in the coma.

As far as the nature of the aforementioned "wrinkles," in an odd art-and-life coincidence, this past week two people in my circle have been or are in the hospital. One good friend had a hip replacement, and now she's recovering at home, looking forward to increased mobility and lessening pain. The other real person in the hospital is my elderly mother-in-law. LOLFDGB is how irreverent doctors refer to her: Little Old Lady Fall Down Go Boom. Luckily, her children have been by her side every waking minute to advocate in her behalf.

Hospitals have largely become warehouses in situations like this. People, reduced to cruel acronyms and sporadic notes on charts. My mother-in-law's clinical profile has rendered her medication-dependent, and her meds have been given late or not at all. Her assessment by a physical therapist was delayed, and her food also delivered haphazardly.

My hip replacement friend had a similar experience. A candy striper answered her call to use the bathroom after 45 minutes, and then proceeded to assist her while conversing on her cell phone, and in the process ignored the fact that she was an orthopedic patient and swung my friend's leg off of the bed as though it was a door she was slamming.

The system, in a word, sucks. Nurses and doctors as individuals can be amazing, caring people, but the economics of our medical system are so grossly unbalanced and dictated by insurance companies, that "care" has been reduced to insurance codes, billing statements and pressure to free up beds for the next LOLFDGB.

Since TSTL has more than a few hospital scenes, and my main character is a med-student-turned-research-scientist who's husband is the senior cost analyst for a major teaching hospital, this ever-saddening reality of acute treatment is something I need to embrace, penetrate and make issue of within the novel.

It's heavy stuff, and universal. I am very eager to sink into the fictionalization of it all, for it is there, as it always is, that the undercurrent of humanity will begin to bubble up for me.

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