Not all Fridays — let’s face it — are fun, games, leisure, and license. Some suck. Not unlike a very recent one, a several-day visit to what I will call Palomino Hospital in the horse country in North County, where your columnist has found himself spending more and more time. Now some criticism has been leveled at “T.G.I.F.” for being sometimes a tad depressive. I have an explanation: my thyroid. It’s shot out, like much of the rest of me, and that is why (in part) I found myself in the care of the sinister Dr. W.
But this is about a patient next to me — quite mad, as it turned out. He was attempting to call 911 from his hospital bed. Darren, we’ll call him, suffers from multiple liver problems and alcoholic dementia. Wet brain it is sometimes called. He is maybe 32. And, oh, yes, this was a Friday night.
Darren was convinced that Dr. W., a tall man of some Asian descent (not suggesting anything here), was intent on cutting out his very compromised liver. The good doctor seemed to mistake bullying for reason and upbraided the poor loon for his “social irresponsibility in drinking to excess.” Naturally the M.D. had no intention of surgery. His suggestion was a locked mental ward. It was, in fact, his first suggestion, instead of, say, sedation.
Darren, a diminutive and pudgy young man, was easily bullied by the tall and well-built Eurasian physician. Doc W. upbraided him for his moral failure at sobriety. “This is the second time I’ve seen you in here this week! What’s wrong with you?” It would seem this was a question the good healer himself should be considering.
W. went on in this vein for some time before he called security. While no threat from the patient seemed evident, it appeared that the doctor had missed the meeting of the AMA where it was determined that alcoholism was a disease, considered much like diabetes or, say, psoriasis. To W., it was a moral failure, such as pederasty or kleptomania.
A beefy, pleasant security man was posted next to Darren while the patient went on over the phone to his mother about how the staff was trying to murder him. At no time did Darren pose any physical threat. Still, two other security guards stood over him for some 45 minutes. Meanwhile the nurses tittered a little about the absurdity of calling 911 from a hospital room but were mostly far more sympathetic to Darren than his doctor-on-call.
The nurses said that your narrator’s blood tests had come back indicating a badly functioning thyroid. This, they said, would account for much lethargy and depression — if, in fact, I were experiencing any such thing. It was agreed that this was the deal.
Not to dwell on my case, but I too received a ration of much the same kind of thing as Darren from Doc W. “Why do you suppose you’re depressed? Hmm? You haven’t taken your L-Thyroxine, have you? What did you expect?”
“Hah!” was his only response, his head thrown back in contempt.
“So. You get depressed and you drink. Is that right?”
“Well, yeah. Not always, but, you know...”
“That doesn’t help, does it.” It wasn’t a question.
“Well, at first, a little, but then, you know. I guess I take it too far.”
“I guess you do.” And then he repeated himself in a contemptuous tone, “I guess you do.”
The doctor also suggested a mental ward for me. A locked facility to prevent any further folly on my part. The bedside manner of a pissed-off tarantula was a phrase that occurred to me.
Darren spent much time on the phone to relatives, declaring the homicidal intent of his caregivers. Beyond this he did nothing threatening except express a will to leave. Nurses, security, and Dr. W. all stayed him with warnings about leaving, which Darren took to be some sort of legal charge. His message to relatives then became “I’m being held against my will!”
A nurse I had not seen before (of the Nurse Ratched type) appeared at my bedside and accused me of smoking in my room, threatened me with discharge, and calling security. I had done no such thing, though I wished I could have. I had nothing to smoke anyway.
Spending much time in hospitals might lead one to think that the subject enjoys the experience. Angiograms? Stress tests where one is forced to remain conscious but unmoving for six hours? Quadruple bypasses? Pacemaker implants and replacements? Hour-long attempts at IV implants and blood samples when one is a hopeless “stick,” as they say? The only enjoyment involved may be watching the television show House, which sometimes airs on Fridays — or used to.