Sunday, October 9, 2011


All five of our isolation rooms are sequestered in one hallway on our unit. I was walking back from helping woundvac dressing change and found myself stopping in each room to chat with the patients. I knew them all well. I chatted with Dean* (MRSA) about his kids; Ira* (VRE) shared his news about his UNOS status; Frances* (MRSA) asked me for a cigarette and we laughed together at the inside joke; and for a few minutes, Robert* (CDIFF and MRSA)and I competed to see who could get the most Jeopardy questions right. He won. Stupid "Sports Venues".

I headed back to the desk and, out of curiosity, checked to see how long my friends on the I-ward had been here. At July 7th, Ira was the newest admission. Three months. Like the others, he's settled in. He has his favorite snacks in the kitchen fridge, a mountain of pillows to burrow into, piles of linens, dressing changes and unopened Nepro spilling out of cupboards and closet. Photos of his dog are on the wall and an extension cord keeps his cellphone and nook within reach.

After her transplant, my mother lived in the hospital for 11 months. We settled her in as best we could with soft throws, poster-sized photos of family on the wall, homemade hospital gowns, radio, magazines, toys, anything that we could think of to make it more comfortable. She hated it. She had no interest in anything but getting home.

I don't see that with my I-ward friends. Both Robert and Frances have been on the verge of going home several times over the months but they got stressed, become enraged and argued with the discharge planners. Then they had relapses, Robert became septic and Frances' tissue flap reopened.

Over the weeks, I've learned bits and pieces about my patients lives. Ironically, the time they spend in the I-ward is less isolating than their home lives. They each have a different story but, without exception, they are lonely and enjoy the 'perks' of living in a hospital: constant company, all the food they can eat, any need/desire filled by just pressing a call bell button.

Over the last year, I've noticed a steady increase of 'social admissions' to our unit. I think it's due to the aging local population, the depressed economy and the cutbacks at the nearby psychiatric hospital. A lot of its inpatients have been reevaluated to outpatient status. The recent flooding also destroyed 2 nearby nursing homes and countless homes.

It's scary and sad to me, that the awfulness of being in a hospital is actually preferential to what awaits outside.

Though my mom never made it out of her hospital stay, she had something better to look forward to, to work for. We all, up until the very end, had hope and desire that she'd make it home. In that way, we were fortunate.

No news on the med school application front.

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