the water is rising

Promotional photo from the movie Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) produced by Bernard Woolner and directed by Nathan H. Juran for Allied Artists Pictures (fair use)An old Jewish curse says, “May Your Life Be Filled With Lawyers.”

Better lawyers than bedpans.

Unlike actors in televised medical fables, real people who work at hospitals, while sometimes angelic, are mainly natural-born Homo sapiens, just like the rest of us –- part devil, part saint, but all too human.

They mostly mean well, but many days, they just do not give a flip. And some, like former President Dubya Bush, obviously chose the wrong line of work.

The most frightening aspect of any serious illness is loosing control of your being to other people; creatures just like yourself. Folks who still think there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and a real lizard selling car insurance on TV.

Go to the hospital often enough and somebody will certainly yank your chain, along with your more intimate parts.

Like many gullible, put-upon Americans, I was recently processed though one of those new faddish cardiac stent factories. (Heart stents are the geriatric equivalent of teenage nose rings and navel studs. Seniors need them to stay in style.)

While I cannot complain about the treatment at the cardiac center, it was sorta like being run through a pit stop at the Talladega 500.

A fast-moving crew hit me from every side. My insurance card went one way; my drawers went the other, followed by my dignity.

After everybody in the hospital got through asking me if that was really my name on the wristband, somebody slipped me some sort of date-rape drug that put me in the mood for pretty much anything. I became a willing participant.

When I reached this heightened state of compliance and euphoria, a large black woman snatched the blanket off me and started shaving my groin. All the while, she was softly humming “Take my Hand, Precious Lord.” And trying not to laugh.

When I woke up it was all over. While I slumbered, the heart surgeon had come and gone, like a Blue-Cross version of Santa Claus or the Stent Fairy.

Overall, I would rate the heart stent procedure a success. Although I left the hospital minus three blockages and thousands of dollars, I no longer get chest pains while pacing the floor at night, worrying about my medical bills.

I will be the first to admit that modern American medicine is approaching, if not surpassing, magic. However, sometimes, instead of a cute bunny popping out of the hat, they pull out a polecat.

Among insults I have personally suffered, a radiology lady once got angry because I wore pajama pants under the hospital gown while walking from my room to the X-Ray department on the next floor.

Claiming they were too busy to wait five seconds while I took off the pants, she insisted I traipse down the hall wearing only the skimpy gown, with my voluptuous hindquarters shining like a full moon.

I explained to her that before I pranced around that nekkid, somebody would have to get me drunk. And play me some love songs. This lady frowned and fumed for the few seconds it took to take off my pajama pants. (I’ve always felt that women appreciate it more if you make them wait.)

But the absolute worst experience I ever had in a hospital was after being admitted to a beautiful facility on a hill overlooking the Chattahoochee River, seeking relief from kidney stones.

I wouldn’t wish a kidney stone on anybody. (Well, maybe Dick Cheney.)

After visiting hours, as I lay there in near-terminal agony, a large frowning fellow, carrying what looked like a five-gallon can and a garden hose, came into the room. Without so much as a howdy-do, he proceeded to give me a thundering, vigorous, state-of-the-art, world-class enema, in preparation for my kidney-stone removal the next morning.

This energetic, dedicated gentleman should have been named employee-of-the-year. He put his heart and soul into that enema. He pumped so much water through me the Chattahoochee River dropped six feet.

If there is such a place as the Enema Hall of Fame, they should vote this dude in on the first ballot.

Afterwards, he left me in such pain, I forgot about the kidney stones. My stomach was so flat I could have worn my old high school Levi’s.

(On the good side, for the first time in over twenty years, my sinuses were completely open.)

About thirty minutes after this vicious atrocity, as I lay there weak, barely able to raise my head off the pillow, there was a new knock at the door. It was another hulking black fellow, also carrying an ominous can and a sinister length of hose.

Reading from his clipboard, he said, “Mr. Strickland, I’m here to give you a pre-op enema.”

Do what?

He was leering in anticipation, like Hannibal Lechter the first time he saw Jodie Foster.

“You’ll have to fight me for it,” I screeched, leaping into a defensive karate stance on the bed. I hadn’t watched all those Bruce Lee movies for nothing.

The enema technician summoned the floor nurse, a skinny, excitable bleached blond, who also demanded I willingly accept the enema, as the doctor had ordered. When I refused, she went and got her supervisor, who, in turn, got her boss in on the fun. And so on, and so on.

It became even more crowded after several curious passersby – who had no business in the room — wandered in, attracted by the contentious commotion. It was like the ‘Gunfight at the O.K. Corral’ except with an enema bag.

Finally, after much yelling, storming grim-faced in and out of the room, and many phone calls, they realized that someone had made a mistake by ordering two enemas. The second enema-delivery guy was disappointed, but gathered up his fiendish devices and slunk away, pouting and mumbling.

I pitied the next fool he put the hose to.

Later that night, the head nurse, a silver-haired, older grandmotherly-type, wearing a gleaming white uniform, a starched hat and thick wire-rim eyeglasses, came to my room and apologized for the misunderstanding.

While patting me on the leg, she said sweetly, “You must understand, dear –- we are adrift in a sea of incompetence, and the water is rising.”

Truer words were never spoken. She said it, not me. I accepted her explanation without comment. Who am I to argue with a Registered Nurse?

Image: Promotional photo from the movie Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) produced by Bernard Woolner and directed by Nathan H. Juran for Allied Artists Pictures (fair use).
  1. Ken Peacock

    JL Loved the story. Reminded me not to make the doctor laugh while he is doing a prostate examination.

    1. JL Strickland

      Thanks, Ken.
      Do you actually know a doctor with a sense of humor?

      That’s great! That is a rare breed, indeed.

  2. Oh, my … great enema humor. Jody just got up after a fitful sleep following too much wine at dinner last night. Her sister, who is visiting, and she paused in mid sentence with mouths agape as I read them your story. They’re still on the floor laughing. In between laughs, Jody said she’d have to round up the garden hose and bring it inside next time I got sassy with her. The woman also said vaseline is for sissies. She asked that I thank you for her inspiration and she’s not even an RN.

    1. JL Strickland

      David —

      Tell Miss Jody that she is plumb welcome to the inspiration. Glad I could be of service.

  3. Will Cantrell

    Great article and VERY funny story…but you’re scaring me about what I might have to look forward to someday. Good piece. Will

    1. JL Strickland

      See my response to Lori above.

  4. Eileen Dight

    Enjoyed your humor! especially your choice of deputed kidney stone victim. Pictured your energetic defensive karate stand. Enemas might be classed as WMD. Fifty years ago in England an enema was routinely administered to women about to give birth. They assured us it was “strictly necessary” although it went out of fashion a couple of years later. They knew how to make childbirth a memorable experience.

  5. I’m only 25, but it sounds like I’ve got lots to look forward to.

    1. JL Strickland

      Lori —
      Forewarned is forearmed.

  6. Good tale, but why bring Bush and Cheney into it? For a private audience? It really made it cheap.

    1. JL Strickland

      Sorry you feel that way. I’m hurt…

      No, on second thought, I couldn’t care less.

  7. JL, that’s a good piece. Funny. I wanted to note that my doctor has a sense of humor. Too dry at times. I remember asking him about some disease and the mortality rate and he responded that it’s high but we’re all going to die anyway. He recommended I get more tests, from a specialist. “So you’re saying I need to see a urologist?” I said. He said, “Well, you won’t see him. He’ll be behind you.”

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