Why do they keep knocking my desk plaque crooked? It’s a cool plaque, I think. Even if the hospital didn’t require it to be prominently displayed everywhere, in the cafeteria, gift shop, elevators, johns, I would always keep it on my cubicle deck, -- it’s like the deck between a kitchen and a dining room -- where patients sign pre-admission papers.
“We Care. Your Community Hospital.”
But for some reason it always gets knocked around. I’m forever straightening it. It used to be the shaky senior citizens with Parkinson’s disease bumping it. But we see fewer old geezers now, thanks to the Universal Enhanced Age-Related Societal Efficacy Oversight Panel Reform Act. Nowadays, with the new Freedom Health Care Universal Accessibility Reform Act, my hospital gets more young patients than geriatric ones. At my deck, signing in for liposuction or gender change, under the new Universal Equality of Diversity And Liberation Accessibility and Freedom Reform law, or for total-body tattoo by general anesthesia (Universal Cutaneous Freedom of Expression Accessibility Reform Act), the younger ones don’t even notice the plaque (unless to comment that it would make a cool tattoo), or what they’re signing, or that they are signing anything, so absorbed are they by iTunes and medical cannabis (Universal Enhancement of Inner Freedom of Expression Accessibility Reform Act), always rockin,’ never stoppin.’ Surveillance cameras seem to really get them jerking, and there goes my plaque again. Sometimes they’ll grab it and strum it like a guitar.
We do still get antiques. I just now had this old man come in, eighty-ish, clipped steel-wool beard, sharply trimmed moustache, scanty silky gray hair combed straight back, long saggy hairy ears, several scars from skin cancer surgery – as a hospital clerk I recognize those things. He was wearing ear buds too – nobody doesn’t wear ear buds. But his were Miracle Ear buds, off flesh-colored, not glittery fluorescent green and purple from i-smartPods or Pads.
Shoving the half-inch-thick stack of papers towards him, I glanced at the identification and personal data page and compared it with his photo ID, as I always do. “You’re scheduled for surgery on your prostate …”
“What? My what? I’m deaf. My hearing aids are squealing. Am I covered for a cochlear implant?”
“No,” I said, shouting, “Just gender switch, not hearing issues. You’re here for surgery on your prostate – that’s a large gland that impacts…”
“Oh, a TURP, yes” he said, cutting me off. “Transurethral resection of the prostate. I’ve been dreading it, absolutely dreading, dreading it.”
“I see -- it says here – that you’re a physician,” I said
“Was. Retired 16 years ago. A pathologist.” he replied in a whispery voice.
“So all this pre-admission business is old stuff to you,” I ventured.
“It was, in my day. But now..” he was staring at the 1-inch-thick stack of papers, “it’s more daunting than the TURP.”
“We probably do have a few more papers to sign nowadays, I suppose,” I said, “but there’s lotsa people in line already, you know, so we can’t take time to read every word. I’ll just tell you what it says and point where to sign. Ready, doctor?” He seemed to wince at being called "doctor."
“As ready as…,” he sighed, voice fading, still staring at the 2-inch-thick stack of papers.
“In the event over a dispute over charges, the undersigned agrees to voluntarily submit to negotiation by… That’s outdated, nobody pays anything, but sign anyway.” He ignored the hospital ball point pen and signed with his own pen. Odd thing, a fountain pen, I’m pretty sure.
“The undersigned consumer hereby voluntarily asserts (sign here) he or she has read the 83 supplemental pages of Advance Directive Guidelines, Health Care Dilemmas, Patient Concerns, Social Services, Pastoral Care, and the Hospital Mission Statement. We Care! Sign here.” He had to scratch his fountain pen on the paper a few times to get the ink flowing again.
“The undersigned has voluntarily read and understands the 128-page Patient Bill of Rights whereby he/she must receive, regardless of diagnosis or financial status of the hospital or defense budget, that of the patient not being a factor, a private room with 50” screen and 398 channels. We Care about your Rights.” I had one totally-tattooed consumer perk up at this point and ask whether he or she, it apparently hadn’t been decided yet, retains movie, creative, tweet rights in the event of a Near Death experience. That query is still being considered at the State level.
“The undersigned has voluntarily read the 140-page supplement dealing with Patient Privacy, and has voluntarily signed in the presence of a witness – as the hospital Admission Associate I am empowered to serve as a witness – a release whereby you permit all hospital personnel from caregiver to spiritual manager to proceed beyond the mandated yellow line into your assigned private space, to render care or assuagement as needed or as requested by the consumer, in a manner considerate of his or her dignity. In the event the private space inhabitant, aka patient, is deaf and cannot hear or otherwise comprehend the request being made for ingress, the matter will be forwarded electronically by SETI to JudgeJudy.com”
“The consumer, having voluntarily read the 40-page Guidelines, has tendered his or her Voluntary Advance Directive as impacts the application, in a manner duly determined to preserve the consumer’s dignity, of life-sustaining (but necessarily toxic) devices to the consumer’s person in the event of instability of vital signs, acknowledging that said Directive is subject to review, without appeal, by the current bipartisan Age-Related Statistical Societal Relative Value Assessment panels (EPA and IRS inclusion are mandatory) as regards the current definition of biological life and nontoxic devices. Sign here.”
“The following chemicals are known to the State of California to cause cancer and are found in, on, or near the products this hospital uses such as but not limited to (1) tubing sets, IV sets, drug containers, IV and bladder catheters, cannulas, stopcocks, IV admixture blood administration sets, warming transfer and collection devices, respiratory therapy and anesthesia devices, defibrillators, scalpels, hemostats, suction devices, colonoscopes, gastroscopes, peritoneoscopes, irrigation containers, feeding and drinking containers, protective caps, deodorants, breath-sweeteners, nurse-calling phones or devices, catalyzed-processed air, postage stamps; (2) gamma rays emitted by TV screens and CAT scans and iris identity detectors; (3) All amino acids and derivatives, all proteins and derivatives, all glucose- and lipid-containing leafy produce or derivatives; all nuts, legumes, ginseng, gluten; cottage cheese, sliced olives, chives, or thoughts thereof; (4) chondroitin, pheromes, fluorides, herpes vaccination, Bane Capital, every antibiotic and anti-cancer agent known or that can ever be known or unknown; all and every known and to be known medicine, parasympathetic or sympathetic, blockers, enablers, enhancers, hormonal, antihormonal, coagulants, anticoagulants, natural, organic, herbal, synthetic, currently in use or ever dreamed of (Note: the State of California has determined that marijuana is totally harmless and possession thereof a human right); (4) LEDs, lead, oxygen, ball point pens used to sign admission forms, admission forms, ID wrist bands, bedpans, and nurse’s smile implants. If cancer is incurred, or possibly incurred, or suspected, from contact or the thought of any of these, or psychological trauma, the consumer may tweet directly to… We care… How we doing, doc? OK? You OK?”
His eyes were closed, head bowed, fingers of both hands spread out flat on the table. He seemed to nod that he was OK. I read on.
“This gives permission to the EPA to exhume your body for analysis for any newly publicized possible toxins. We care about toxicity.”
“…acknowledges receipt of a list of state and federal appointed, certified, and subsidized activists, trial lawyers, known to have obtained judgments against this hospital for 20 or more million dollars, which list does not constitute in any way recommendation or sponsorship by the hospital. We care about lawyers’ rights.”
“Notice to consumers… All Physicians, whether MD, DO, or DOC, (shamans excluded) in consequence of historic greed, have forfeited all personal and professional Rights, and are licensed subject to weekly renewal, and regulated by (1) dedicated nanodrones, (2) subcutaneous implanted devices, monitored by the TSA, EPA, FDA, SEC, CIA, IRS and all other current and appropriate federal, state, and local agencies, bureaus, offices, authorities, boards, panels, blogs, and media, and interested parties not otherwise mentioned, to any of which any concern may be directly tweeted…”
At this point I’m on the edge of my seat ready to protect my plaque. Several months ago when I’d read this far, another old guy, a retired surgeon I think, was screaming and whacking my plaque. Security knew what to do.
But my pathologist was just sinking like a deflated vinyl snowman, his arms sliding ahead over the deck like a lava flow, carrying along all the pages, and shoving my plaque clear off the deck, onto the floor. That does it! I’ll have to hang it on the wall. Or rather, have it hung, somehow. Petitions to modify topography and walls must be submitted to the EPA and Mesothelioma-Prevention agencies, and the work done by Union labor as consonant with preservation of human dignity.
A Health Care System Fable
Signing His Life Away
By Karin Moore, Admissions Associate