Comedians often question if any subject, no matter how heinous, can be fodder for humor. For example, Hitler would seem out of bounds and yet Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” is sold out on Broadway for the next 10 years. Forgive the blasphemy, but Adolph and the gang have been comedy gold.
I’ll tell you what I don’t see any humor in and that’s heart attacks. Maybe that’s because, last week, I had one. The bad news is, it was major. The curious news is that it didn’t break my streak of 269 consecutive deadlines. (Whoops, perhaps a poor choice of words under the circumstances.) The good news is that I’m home and feeling fine (looking around for some wood to knock).
Last Thursday, I was at my doctor’s, Gregory Cohen, internist, cardiologist and mensch. The office is on Wilshire Boulevard, just east of Barrington, and I was about to take a stress test. But my EKG was so alarming that Greg, whose face was almost white, insisted that I go to Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center ER or, essentially I wouldn’t have to worry about any more columns.
Inexplicably, I was in no pain. I was also perfectly calm (I, with a morbid fear of hospitals, from when I was 7 and my father, at age 40, had a heart attack).
My friend, Robin, had driven me to Greg’s for the stress test. As the two of us raced to Santa Monica-UCLA, I kept thinking this couldn’t be happening. It was beyond surreal.
One reason I wanted to write about this was to thank the many people who basically saved my life, Robin being just one. Considerably less noble, I figured that if I wrote the details in a column it’d spare me repeated telling. When people asked about the details, I needed to only say, “Check Friday’s column.”
The bigger reason, however, is that I wanted to impart the message into the cosmos, or whatever: please don’t do as I did. Yes, I’ve worked out almost every day for the past 35 years, and assiduously avoided fats in my diet, but I also avoided doctors. So, odd as it sounds, I feel like I need to write this in case there’s someone out there as weird as I am about doctors or hospitals. It’s also a way to convey the immense gratitude I feel.
The scene at the ER was out of a movie with bodies hovering, undressing me, putting on the hospital gown and asking a battery of questions. Dr. Bawa’s reassurance (as much as reality would allow) was of great comfort.
Going beyond the call of duty, that first night Robin slept in a chair next to my bed. But much of the next four days are a blur of tests, ICU machines and wearing hospital gowns exposing my derriere. Add the word, “bedpan,” and I think it’s safe to say that being in a hospital is among the less dignified of human experiences. One example was when my sister, Brenda, and my niece, Erin, came for a visit at the very moment I was bending over to pick up a magazine. I wish I could forget the view they got. I bet they do, too.
The day before Dr. Rave Dave (pronounced Dav-ay) performed an angioplasty, a difficult procedure that took 2 1/2 miserable hours. And yet I remember, Susan, a nurse with whom I traded jokes. Yes, I was apparently doing “shtick,” even during a surgical procedure in the cath lab. There must be a 12-step meeting for that?
Everyone at Santa Monica-UCLA was remarkably courteous. I remember a few names but to the many that I’ve forgotten, I apologize in advance.
Alan, an RN; Seda, an RN; Eske, another nurse; Patsy, the charge nurse; Danielle, my first nurse; and an ICU nurse whose job, among many, was to take a six inch tube out of my leg, which was used in the angioplasty. (A feat that wasn’t terribly pleasant for either one of us.) I’m actually glad I can’t remember any more names or this would sound like an Academy Awards acceptance speech.
By the time this appears in print I will have had my first follow-up visit with Greg Cohen. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was nervous. After all, the last time didn’t work out so swimmingly.
On the other hand I’m trying to open myself up to the notion that this horrific experience will somehow turn out to have been a blessing in disguise. So far, that’s not been an easy sell.
Santa Monica-UCLA is scheduled to open their new hospital in 2011 where the majority of the rooms will be private. I wish I could have held out at least until then. It’d also be nice if soon someone designed a slightly more dignified version of the butt-exposing hospital gown.
So, how was your week?
Jack can be reached at Jnsmdp@aol.com.