Mom’s surgery went well. The radial nerves in her arm had to be moved, which is a bit worrisome and resulted in more post-surgical weakness than the doctors would have liked. But she’s not in too much pain, and she says she can already feel that her arm is better-aligned than it was. Everyone’s optimistic that with work, patience and perhaps another procedure she’ll recover her full dexterity.
This is no great revelation, but: hospitals are depressing. Everyone is just so helpless. The medical staff perform a strange pantomime of patient-empowerment, offering treatment options as if they’ll be met with thoughtful consideration rather than endlessly rephrased versions of “what do you think we should do?” You’re at the mercy of fate, the insurance company and your own ignorance.
It’s worse when you watch it happening to someone whom you arrogantly identify as less-equipped to make informed decisions. Although they do so gently and respectfully, the nurses’ approach toward their uneducated, unhealthy and generally unlucky patients resembles nothing so much as that of an adult who unexpectedly finds himself babysitting the lost child of lawyers. They’re very deferent, but their respectfulness comes from protocol, manners and professional fear rather than, y’know, respect. It’s hard not to wonder what these exchanges accomplish.
Of course, a paternalist with even a little self-awareness (a title to which I aspire) can’t look at this interplay for very long without realizing that he’s just as enmeshed in it as any of the people around him — it’s just that he has the problem of being an insufferable snob, too.
So I tried to put aside my pretensions and abjectly surrender myself to the situation. I stopped judging the wheelchair-bound smokers in front of the building. I watched Wheel of Fortune with interest. I listened to a sweatsuited manchild complaining to his elderly mother that the hospital firewall didn’t allow him to check Britney Spears’ MySpace page for news of her new album. I listened, identified, despaired.
Then I resumed doing what the doctors told me until I could return to a place where it’s easier to forget about free will.