(HOST) Medical care has changed considerably in recent years, and commentator Willem Lange marvels at how far we’ve come in improving a usually disagreeable experience.
(LANGE) I saw her face for only a few seconds fifty-six years ago: a middle-aged nurse in a starched uniform; green snood covering her hair; rimless glasses; mouth pursed in disapproval, muttering about “young people these days” as she cleaned up an awful mess I’d made in my bed. I felt terrible about it, but I simply couldn’t respond positively to her order to “clean this up yourself!”
What’d they expect? They put me to sleep for the operation with an ether enema, which had produced the two expected effects.
If I’d been a toddler, she’d have picked up one ankle and pitched right in. But I was fourteen, and…well, you really had to live during the first half of the last century to appreciate how far we’ve come from considering our bodies and their functions unmentionable.
My last experience with surgery, a couple of years ago, was by contrast like a trip through the Tunnel of Love. Clearly, in the past few decades there’s been a successful wedding of technology and people-sensitive considerations. There’s no way an institution the size of the Hitchcock Clinic could keep things straight without major-league computer programs. In addition, the staff – not just nurses and doctors, but Housekeeping, Transportation, and Maintenance – all of them act as if they’re just delighted to have you drop in. I almost wanted to stay an extra day.
Used to be, they shut you off solid food a day before you had to show up. Now you can eat till midnight the night before, and drink juice or even black coffee before you present yourself at dawn. And every desk you come to, they’re expecting you.
Surgical gowns haven’t changed since the days of the Roman Empire, but anesthesia has. The anesthesiologist placed something that felt like a warm baby-wipe on my back near
the base of my spine. That’s all I remember until, hours later,
a person in blue wheeled my bed into Room 326.
The next four days were lovely; the nurses were great. One of them heard me grousing one day that my bedside TV channel control operated in only one direction. A few minutes later, with
a conspiratorial wink, she slipped me a different one that’d go both up and down, and, I discovered, even control my roommate’s TV!
The night nurses pretended to believe me when I said I could shower by myself at five in the morning with no problem; but they hung around to dry off and put back to bed the quivering wreck that resulted. Friends came with books and conversation. The whole experience was fascinating.
How I wish that long-ago nurse in Children’s Hospital in Albany could have been here to see it. She’d have been amazed that the “young people” had in their generation made such progress in medical care, as well as in technology.
This is Willem Lange up in Etna, New Hampshire. I gotta get back to work.
Willem Lange is a contractor, writer, and storyteller who lives in Etna, New Hampshire.