I was stuck in a hospital room first for ten days recently.......It was a pleasant stay after the initial surgery. Lived in a dual bedroom followed by a single room to ensure I could sleep through the night. Sleeping in the night can be a challenge in the hospital. Vital checks every four hours, respiratory treatments every six hours and withdrawing blood every morning through an intravenous connector.

And then I was released.

I was excited to get back to familiar surroundings. But this time there was a twist – I was to have an intravenous line that can deliver antibiotics at home. What a novel concept! Within twenty four hours I was back in the Emergency room with a new infection and had to go through a harrowing two days in the intensive care Unit.

But what was the purpose of my trip? I have been thinking......and I think I finally found the answer. This time I was not in an independent private room

Viola Gonzalvez:

Her mother named her Viola.....a pretty young lady in a violet skirt floating through the meadows of California. She was born in the 20's.

“Nurse My bed is wet again”....the Nurse came by and cleaned her up.....”Doctor when can I go home?” She had barely been at the hospital for 3 hours.

She lives in an elderly home for independent living somewhere about thirty miles from the hospital. The next day Robert her younger son came by.

Viola: “Why are you leaving me here?”

Robert: “Maa, I have to go out of town ….Nancy will be here tomorrow...you are not well...they need to check out your heart”

Viola: “@#$%^&* Let me go home....they are going to kill me here, my bed is wet again....Nurse”

Robert: “Maa let's have Lunch, Let me say grace ….I have to get going. And please be nice to the Nurse, they are taking care of you”, He was a good son reminding his mother of the etiquette she had taught them when younger.

For a tiny Lady in her late 80s, she packed a Sonic boom. Right after Robert left, it arrived.......it drove the others out into the corridor, well if we could run.

The next day Alex came by, a 50+ year old divorcee who lives with his dog and worked as a gardener.

Viola: “They are never going to let me go home Alex.....they are going to kill me here”

Alex: “Well you need to get well and please be nice to the Nurse”

Viola cooled down ….gradually.

Alex: “And you never come to my house.....you don't love my dog”

Viola: “Your dog hates me, I would never have to go through this if your Father was alive”

Alex: “ Well Maa, Dad has been gone for 20 years now and you never come and stay with us”

Viola: “Where is Nancy?”

Alex: “She could not make it today.....and there you go eating anything you want”

Viola: “Oh they made me wet the bed again.........Nurse”

Next day Nancy showed up with her two daughters

It was obvious she was the favourite of the kids. Viola was happy......listening to who out of her fourteen grandkids was going through middle school graduation.

Viola: “I am not pretty anymore”

Grandkid #1: “You are the prettiest dear Grandma”, it reminded her of the floating buttercups running in the meadows of California

Viola: “ How is your husband?”

Grandkid #1: “He is OK....good guy”

Nancy: “He wanted to come and see you Maa”

Finally it was time for Nancy to leave for the day......

Viola: “Doctor when can I go home?”

Doctor: “We have to check out your kidneys and your heart”

Viola: “You guys are never going to let me go home”

Soon came the Sonic boom.....followed by “Nurse”

That evening I decided to move into a double room.

Jonathan Rodriguez:

They moved me to the new room right after dinner. I had a new nurse called Marc, originally from Phillipines. A kind good hearted man. He was going to settle me in to the new room and then work on my IV line which had started to get stuck during flushes. The advantage is you can go both ways and putting in a new IV would have been painful....they last only 3-4 days.

As I settled in I noticed a brand new bed and asked if I could be swapped around. Marc said “Yes” and now I would no longer need to put up with a four feet high bed that puts your body at 270 degrees before settling into an angle. He also mentioned that I would have a new neighbor and he had been asked to give his best as a personal nurse to this new neighbor.

Jonathan Rodriguez was born perhaps in the 60s in a place like Tijuana or Cabo. As the drug trade hit the US in the 80s, new immigrants like Jonathan found border crossings easier to come and work as undocumented workers in the fruit fields of Central California.

He was named Jonathan perhaps by his Grandma. Maybe he had an unmarried sister, parents, maybe a few nephews. The money he sent back home allowed them to live a peaceful life.

Jonathan was a hard working, honest and honourable man.

Marc informed me that Jonathan had just received Chemotherapy for the cancer that was eating up his gut.

He lay in his bed crunching ice chips, drinking ensure, in a fast and continuous motion. I was starting to feel a little guilty - did I take away his comfy bed?

And for the next 3-4 hours Jonathan went “Crunch Crunch Crunch Sic; Crunch Crunch Crunch Sic”

Marc was taking good care of him trying to make him as comfortable as possible.

Social medicine for undocumented workers is funded partially by the state & partially by bumping up the billed insurance to full payers with private insurance......

“ Crunch Crunch Crunch Sic; Crunch Crunch Crunch Sic”

Then at around 2 AM in the morning the lights went up. In the room were three chaplains, Marc and the head Nurse Manager, a few social workers who spoke Spanish, and three doctors. It seemed there was only a point till which the Hospital would be responsible. Everyone wanted to do something but nobody had the power to do it.

After about 30 -40 minutes of discussion the lead doctor came up with a strategy. There were State hospitals in San Francisco where they could not refuse a patient like Jonathan.

At around 3 AM, the “Push” strategy was implemented

I went through all this while trying to close my eyes, feeling helpless.....suddenly Marc was nudging me “Mr. Gupta, Mr. Gupta, here is your breakfast tray”

I looked up and saw the usual Berry cup , each one of them with Jonathan's face etched on it.

Jonathan is a hard working, honest and honorable man.

Danny Boy:

I could hear voices next to my screened room from the other bed. Jonathan was safely in the county hospital. But within a couple of hours I had a new neighbour.

He may have been born in Louisiana or New York or Richmond CA. He had a heavy deep set voice with a positive attitude. His friends working at the hospital had checked him in after he complained of possible stroke symptoms.

As Marc asked him his health history, it seemed he had retired from the City services, been on probation, smoked ten cigarettes a day, drank frequently with friends and had a shot of Coke every other week. He walked around with a walking stick. Danny wanted to get better.

He said “yes” to almost everything the Nurse asked. He weighed about 280lbs and was a little short of six feet. He seemed a couple of years older than me – he lived with his parents, a sister and thirty plus children and grandchildren. In a different time and setting he could’ve been a replica of Freddie Hubbard playing Jazz in the night clubs of New Orleans. But the most important thing about Danny Boy was his grin from New York to San Francisco.

Over four days we gradually became good friends, ordering the same food, watching the NBA finals together and Danny wishing that the Lakers were playing.

He had no interest in the world Cup and his face lit up when his nieces, nephews , grandkids and friends showed up

The one or two day stay turned into four days......at the end he knew how to manage his sugar levels, understand why his blood pressure needed controlling and had started a patch program for giving up smoking. He agreed to buy medicines instead of Coke and clearly wanted to be with his family.

Marc did not come in for the last day and we were both discharged on the same day with him giving me a “Yo Bro” sign as I left the hospital.....


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