Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hospitals = The Twilight Zone


If you grew up in the USA during the 1950s, or were just a science fiction fan, you probably watched an episode of two of the The Twilight Zone. The TV show, often written by the host, Rod Sterling, had an iconic opening monologue: “There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle-ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area we call the 'Twilight Zone.”

To me, life in a hospital bed is the modern day equivalent of being stuck in The Twilight Zone.  While life outside moves on, life inside the hospital seems oddly independent of real life or the real world. 

In 2010, when I was in the hospital with a skull infection for eleven days, Chicagoland got hit with a major snow storm and biting cold. To those of us in the surgery ward, it was if nothing happened. I can remember looking out the window at gale-force winds and single-digit temperatures while walking up and down the ward in my flimsy robe as if it was the middle of summer.

The bland d├ęcor fed this feeling, this malaise, this separateness from the real world. The pictures on the walls were deliberately “vanilla” – neither offensive nor engaging. Every hospital room I’ve been in has the same feeling – distinctively indistinct.

If it’s Thursday and you notice that Dana, one of your favorite nurses, isn’t on the day shift, and Nerka isn’t on the night shift, you’ve been in way too long.

If you don’t need to look at the room service menu, because you have it memorized, you’ve been in way too long.

I was back in the hospital in January and felt trapped in that middle ground akin to a Stephen King novel where nothing good happens and you can’t escape. I am hoping to stay out. To stay connected to the real world and real people and away from a “dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity.”

I think the odds are 50/50 at best.

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