Friday, June 06, 2008

Home again

I am alive because of the miracle of modern medicine. This week, I have had IV antibiotics, oral antibiotics, a CAT scan and Lab work (I cannot help but think of the inevitable pun, here.) I'm better. Not well, but better. We may be able to travel somewhere tomorrow; time will tell.

If it weren't for modern medicine, I think I probably would be dead about 4 times over by now; childbirth, pneumonia, appendicitis and now diverticulitis. I cannot help but be grateful for this; I thank God for this. Whilst I was researching my new appointment, I found interesting things. Some of which was the 1870 Mortality schedule for Oglethorpe County, GA. What strikes me is the number of people who died of things that are so easy to treat today -- and the number of children. So many children. One guy died of a "conniption fit." So many died of things that we commonly treat now: "dropsy", pneumonia, an 18 year old and a 19 year old who died of childbed fever, rheumey, typhoid, diptheria, pertussis -- and the one that gets to me today -- bowels. Just that one word -- bowels. I had a g'g'grandfather who died of "bowels" while his wife was pregnant with their first child. My g'grandmother grew up in her mother's second husband's house -- not exactly treated as a child of that household (according to family legend) so much so that she married at age 14 to get out of that house.

We do indeed live in a different world; and for that I am grateful. But I also felt the dehumanizing and rather demoralizing effects of being in the hospital. It's one thing to discuss in a comfy CPE group (yes, I used the word comfy) or in ethics class the dehumanizing effects of our current medical system and another thing to experience it. You become your disease. Well, first -- you are a wallet. Before I could be treated in the ER, I had to fill out forms. I didn't feel like filling out a form -- my husband was out parking the car. Then you sit. And sit and sit. Until your name is called and they realize that you have a life threatening situation.

I know it's different when you come in an ambulance. Perhaps (if I ever do this again) next time I'll arrange for an ambulance. I hate the feeling of being in a cattle chute and being "herded" from one holding pen to another. And as soon as you get labeled with your disease, you get culled from the herd and put in a holding pen for your particular symptoms. I was actually placed in a trauma room for a while. I don't know what would have happened if there were a real trauma -- I might have been shoved off into the pile of medical supplies in the corners.

I hate hospitals; I hate emergency rooms especially. There is a different ethos in the ER -- rightly so, I imagine in most places. However a little room for human dignity would be so very welcome. At one point, I also was "abandoned" in a wheelchair in the hall as the radiology techs chatted about their weekend. Just a hunk of meat. I know that the techs meant no harm -- however they were not left without their clothing or their personal possessions; they were not draped with ill-fitting hospital gowns and abandoned in the hall.

There was a regular ward nurse in the ER -- she reported for duty, but as there was fewer people in the hospital than anticipated, she came down and assisted the overworked ER nurses. I could tell the difference. She had a listening attitude; she was the one who brought me ice chips, a blanket from the warmer, a pillow for my head. It takes a different kind of nurse for the ER, I suppose. This hospital also had no chaplaincy program. I felt that lack; I now know why parents and patients clung to me so hard in the ED. The Chaplain gives that humanizing presence; the Chaplain is incarnational. I will never take my role as Chaplain for granted again (when that is the role I am cast).

Yes -- that is a difference. The ER nurse ministered to my flesh; the regular ward nurse to both my flesh and my dignity, my spirit. She ministered to the image of God that lies within -- and it is as much as a calling as mine.

So, I'm home, I'm better and I appreciate the prayers. Keep them coming!

(P.S. I should thank Chaos for pointing out to me the dangers of the "remember me" check box.....)

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