I had a baby. OK, that may not be entirely accurate: My wife, ever the stickler for details, likes to irritatingly point out that she had the baby and I just stood around, unearthing innovative means to get in the way while nervously asking inappropriate questions seemingly aimed only at annoying the hospital staff.
A baby was had, nonetheless.
And while that is remarkable, the really notable story is what happened during our hospital stay.
An Inauspicious Start
It’s hard to read a newspaper, view a television news program, or have a conversation in public without knowing the situation: The U.S. healthcare system is in shambles—nearly 50 million uninsured, 16% of GDP spent on healthcare, and a World Health Organization (WHO) overall ranking of 37th in the world based on multiple health indicators. And, of course, there’s the thorny data suggesting that as many as 98,000 patients die annually from hospital-induced medical errors.
As such, I was prepared and ever vigilant for this admission. This was my chance to see, from the patient’s perspective, this massive, impersonal, error-riddled, sputtering system. I would expose it for what it was, and take names.
We started our odyssey a bit early, as these things are wont to happen—two weeks early, in fact. A somewhat inauspicious start, some would say. Admittedly, that’s what my buddy grumbled as I called him 90 minutes before the first pitch of Game 4 of the National League Divisional Series to tell him he’d have to watch the Phillies play the Rockies without me.
The Death Trap Beckons
My wife went to check in while I parked the car. Well, sort of park the car. It turns out this unwelcoming beast known as “the hospital” actually employed valets to park my car. “Parking is the last thing you need to worry about right now,” the attendant said. I, however, saw through this ruse. Aaron—according to his nametag—is up to no good, or so I thought, counting the pennies in my ashtray.
After checking in, the first person my wife and I encountered was Jane, our nurse. She came in all bubbly, effusing that “things will go well and you’ll be with your new addition very soon.” All heart-warming encouragement and smiles aside, she actually appeared unaware of this death trap cavorting as a hospital—a jumbo jet’s worth of patients dying from medical errors every day is no laughing matter, missy. “I’ve got my eye on you,” I whispered conspiratorially to no one; a knowing smirk appeared as I took down her name.
Later, this Jane would interrupt my attempts to make my wife laugh through expertly executed 1980s dance moves. Jane implored her to just “let it out and cry for a few minutes—then you’ll feel better.” Somewhat embarrassingly, this automaton was so caught up in her own medical world that she misinterpreted my wife’s tears of laughter for tears of apprehension. Oh, how misguided these medical personnel can be. “Stick to the nursing and I’ll comfort my wife,” I thought to myself. My wife, meanwhile, was in the process of “letting it out,” after which she did indeed report feeling better. Oh, she’s good. If I didn’t know her so well, she would have led me to believe Nurse Jane’s advice was sage, caring, and spot-on. I wasn’t fooled; my wife’s a sucker for my dance moves.