Hospitals are getting more efficient these days and have cut down the time it takes to get a bed for you. The reason for this is that there is a surplus of beds, and in order to survive a hospital must keep them full. This is good and it's bad.
I went to visit a sick friend at the hospital the other day. I had to go to the information booth which also handled the admitting procedure.
Before I could ask what room my friend was in the lady took down my name, age, occupation, filled out a slip and rang a bell. I was just about to tell her I was only visiting a friend when two attendants arrived with a wheelchair, placed me in it and started pushing me down the hall.
"I'm not sick," I yelled. "I'm just looking for a friend."
"When he comes," one attendant said, "we'll send him up to your room."
"He's here already," I protested.
"Good. Once we have you in bed he can come up and see you."
I found myself in a small room marked "Private. Check With Nurse Before Knocking." The attendant stripped me, gave me a weird, short nightgown that tied in the back, a water pitcher and turned on the television set hanging from the ceiling. "If you need anything, press the button."
"I want my clothesback."
"Oh, you can trust us," the attendant said. "Even if the worst happens we will see that your widow gets everything."
I was trying to figure how to escape out the window when Dr. Ward came in with several of his students.
"Thank heavens you finally came," I said.
"It hurts that bed?" he asked.
"It doesn't hurt at all," I retorted.
Dr. Ward looked worried. "If you don't feel any pain that means it's much more serious than we thought. Where did it originally hurt?"
"It didn't hurt anywhere."
Dr. Ward nodded sympathetically and turned to his students: "This is the toughest kind of patient to handle because he refuses to acknowledge that he is ill. He will never be well again until he gets over the delusion that is in perfectly good health. Since he won't tell us where it hurts we'll have to do exploratory surgery to find out for ourselves."
"But I don't need an operation."
Dr. Ward nodded. "No one does, but wouldn't it be better to get it out now rather than later?"
"There's nothing to get out. Everything is in order."
"If it was," said Dr. Ward, writing on a chart, "you wouldn't be here."
The next morning they shaved all the hair off my chest and refused to give me breakfast.
Two attendants arrived and placed me on a rolling stretcher. The head nurse walked along beside me. A minister brought up the rear. I looked for help from anywhere. There was no one.
Finally, I was wheeled into the operating room. "Wait," I said. "I have something to tell you. I'm deathly sick but I have no medical insurance, I can't even pay for the anesthesiologist."
The anesthesiologist turned off the valve on his machine. "And I have no money to pay the doctor," I said. The doctor started to put his instruments away.
Then I looked at the head nurse. "I can't even pay for the room."
Before I knew it I was back in my civilian clothes and out on the street, thrown there by the two attendants who had first wheeled me in.
I went back and ask what room my friend was in but the admitting clerk looked at me coldly and said, "We don't ever want to see you in this hospital again. You're sick."