My wife’s knees buckled while she was taking a shower, and she crumpled. Getting her out and seated on her walker was too much for a scrawny old man, and after only a few minutes back on my oxygen and flat on my back on the bed, I said I was calling 911.

You might not suspect this of me, but in the privacy of our own home I have always whined about an aching this or an itching that. So years ago when I had a heart attack and said I was calling 911, my wife said that she was going to take a shower. This time, because she had just come out of the shower, she reminded me that it would cost $290.

Because I didn’t get to Europe or the Grand Canyon this summer, our topic for today will be my recent adventures in our local hospital.

While there, my greatest concern was for my wife, Marsha, who should not be left at home alone.

From the time I was carted off to the time a friend brought me home, I got first-class care – although our friends at the hospital are obviously shorthanded. Technicians who ran me through the machines often had no helper who would deliver me into their capable hands, but had to fetch me themselves. Everyone seems to be doing the work of two.

A hospital that is understaffed can be hard on patients who need rest to recover. At 4 in the morning, I was roused to be weighed. When I asked why it was necessary to wake me up at 4 in the morning to weigh me, I was told that it was the only time the nurse had to weigh people. And then she cheerfully scurried off, saying that she had to wake up a 95-year-old woman so she could weigh her.


To make this perfectly clear: When there is a shortage of personnel, the needs of the patient have to be bent to accommodate the needs of the overworked personnel, instead of the personnel having to be flexible to suit the individual needs of the patient.

When it takes some of us an hour to get back to sleep, we might not get any of that mysterious and essential REM rest that we’ve heard of.

So, after two practically sleepless nights, I asked my doctor if it was possible that some of us might benefit more by six solid hours of sleep than being roused every two hours just to see if we were still alive. After that, from at least midnight until 6, I was left to stew in my own juices.

Hospital personnel are human beings. A few, like me, have to concentrate on whatever it is they are doing. Others are more than willing to chat and, when asked, told me where they were from and where they’d received their medical training. Because housing is so hard to come by in our area, I wanted to know how they had found a place to live. Natives are lucky because after school, they simply came back home. One woman told me she had three places promised to her, and then pulled from beneath her feet, before she found digs.

You might understand that I felt very close to a nurse whose great-great-great-grandmother had helped deliver me 86 years ago. When I was a little boy, she always had a piece of apple pie for me when I’d visit. It reminds me that I once told my wife that 10 generations of my family had lived next door and that I knew seven of them. And she said, “Only seven?”

Two of my nurse helpers called themselves travelers. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe they move about the country, spending only a few weeks in shorthanded hospitals. For the three days a week they work, they earn more than a regular full-time nurse. They either live in their own campers or pay exorbitant short-range fees for housing, so I would consider the extra pay a wash.

Four nurses might chip in to rent a house or apartment. Fun, if you like the arrangement. Not fun if it is the only way you can make ends meet.

I mentioned that everyone seemed to do the work of two. One man threw my door wide open, stepped in and announced with pride that he was about to sweep my floor. He went out, leaving the door wide open, and I never saw him again. Could he have been an MD who was called to perform an emergency appendectomy?

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

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