I have always been afraid of being in a hospital.  I cannot explain why, but my wife has a theory.  I was born two months premature.  I had to stay in the hospital for three months to get back to my birth weight just so that I would be strong enough for the surgeries that I needed.  I was born with a half clef palate.  My wife believes that my fears are based on those earliest memories.  I can see no reason that she is wrong.

I don’t even like visiting hospitals.  It took all of my courage to stay with my wife when my children were born.  I had not been over night in the hospital except to visit others until last fall.  Sure, I had had several medical procedures including wisdom teeth removal, vasectomy and radial keratotomy, but all of these were out patient procedures performed at a doctor’s office.  This last September I had to go.

I woke up around midnight with heart burn, or so I thought.  By two in the morning, I could no longer lay down.  When my wife woke up at three and saw me sitting in a chair in pain she asked what was wrong.  When I told her that I did not know, she asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital and I said yes.  She moved very quickly, since she knew my fears.

The drive was only twenty minutes, but I begged her to go to the closest hospital.  This is rather funny as in my home town there are only two hospitals and they are on five blocks apart.  You can literally see each one from the other.  Since I am a 45 year old man, the emergency room nurse immediately hooked me up to see if I was having a heart attack.  As I sat there, the pain began to subside.  I notice this as my feet slowly settled down to the floor.  I had been sitting hunched over so tense that my heals were off of the floor.

After verifying that it was not my heart, they wheeled me back to hook up even more machines.  The attending doctor instructed the intern and left.  The intern probed, pushed, and questioned.  He got an ultra-sound set up to look at my internal organs.  By now, I was feeling much better, but I could still tell that something was wrong.  The attending doctor picked on the intern when he couldn’t find all of my organs.  I was sent off to a specialist.  That specialist found that my liver and my pancreas were enlarged.  So, I was spending the night.  They had no specific cause for this inflammation, so we wait and monitor.  I was officially checked in at 8:00 a.m.

I spent a very nice day talking with nurses, having my kids and wife visit, and eating Jello.  They wanted me for a full twenty four hours, so the next night I was still in the hospital.  I wanted to go home in the worst way.  I listened to the people in the nearby rooms.  I was allowed to wander around, so I got to see other families.  There was one older man whose only movement was to be moved into an almost sitting position in the morning, then back down at night.  There was an older lady whose cough sounded like she was choking.  Other than them, the rooms were closed, most empty, but some with people who really had problems.

I watched as much TV as I could stand, and finally tried to sleep.  If you have ever been in a hospital, there is one thing you never get; privacy.  I was awakened every couple of hours as the nurse checked on all of the patients.  She checked all of the instruments and was nice each time.  At about three in the morning, it started again.  I am an engineer, so I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and started detailing my sensations with time tags.  I held off pushing the button to get the nurse for as long as possible.  I was afraid that they would keep me another night.  I stood up and walked around to ease the pain, but finally, I had to call for help. 

The nurse took about ten minutes to get to me, she had much sicker patients to care for.  By the time she got to my room, the pain had begun to subside, just like the previous morning.  The nurse laughed when she saw my notes.  When the doctor arrived at five, he actually liked the write up.  He looked it over along with all of the test results from my twenty four hours.

The conclusion was that I had pancreatitis from passing a single gall stone.  The second flair was an aftershock, my body reacting to the major event similar to an aftershock from an earthquake.  I went home with no ill effects. 

So, I survived a whole day in the hospital.  I was so relieved to be leaving that I almost sang on the way out.  I never want to go back.  Am I still afraid?  Yes.  Why?  I still don’t know.

I am a grown man, educated and some what experienced.  I have unreasonable fears, just like everyone else in the world.  I have no basis to fear the hospital and I really appreciate all of the people who cared for me, so I do not want to get any health care people mad at me.  Over the years I have found it hard to criticize people with phobias, I have my own after all.  I can only hope for the same treatment from others as I deal with my fears.

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Martin writes about writing in his weekly column Ramblings from Martin.

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