Hospital Humours

It’s true. My sense of humor, or senseless humor, helped me get through the hospital troubles. But I could also go too far.

I was on the gurney and had just been wheeled into my hospital room after spending 12 hours near an exit door in the emergency room that blasted cold air from the outside at me every few minutes and they were about to transfer me to the hospital bed by sliding the sheet I was on from gurney to bed, when I noticed the name badge on a very powerful black woman, and looked up at her.

Is your name really Velma? I asked.

She was in the middle of counting out the move, and just stared down at me, amusement in her eyes. Maybe. One, two, three.

And voila I was in the comfy hospital bed.

Yes, it’s Velma. She had a large blue mask on so I could only see her eyes.

And I’d be careful what you have to say about my name. As you can see, I’m a strong black woman.

And without missing a beat I said, and I’m a weak white guy. Velma is a lovely name.

Our eyes locked and she tickled my toes as she left the room.

We became great friends while I was there. She had a deadpan sense of humor and one day explained that her mother who was from the Caribbean mostly watched old film noir movies from a satellite dish was watching Murder My Sweet or Murder my Lovely, the Raymond Chandler story where Moose goes around looking for his old girlfriend, Velma.

So here was a real Velma in actual life, and when I knew she was nearby in the hall, I would always say: Have you found my Velma? Which is what Moose was always asking Marlowe.

That was the first stroke. Then to Cardinal Cooke for my rehab stint – more on that later – and then back to the Neuro Ward after the 2nd stroke and there was Velma who was shocked to see me, bent down to give me a hug, and whispered, what happened?

I said, I told you I’d be back to see you?

You didn’t have to get another stroke… and soon we were back to one, two, three. The 2nd stroke btw wasn’t as bad as the first one. The first one zapped a good part of the circuitry that controls the left leg.

2nd stroke, numbed my right hand. But only for a day or so.

One thing you have to realize if you’ve never been hospitalized: the nurses and the CNAs are the people that make the environment. Period.

This was a teaching hospital, so the Attending and a bunch of young white coats make the rounds usually once a day.

And they’re in no joking mood.

Can you tell me your name?
Do you know where you are?
Can you tell me today’s date?

Those are mandatory. From there they start to wander: testing muscles, sticking pins to see if you have feeling, memory tests etc etc.

After a few days of this, if you are cogent, you might start making things up. The white coats don’t appreciate this creativity.

Can you tell me your name?
– Elvis, Elvis Presley.
(Very funny. Your real name please)
Do you know where you are?
– Lots of good answers to this. You can stick with the Elvis motif and say Graceland.
Or start talking about how you were abducted by aliens who are studying you…
But eventually you do have to say Mt. Sinai Hospital. Neurology Ward 8 West or you will be in the Psych Ward.
– As far as the date goes. I wouldn’t fool with that too much because even in real life, pre-stroke, I rarely knew the date. And also because the day of the week and the date were written on the whiteboard behind the white coats and you just needed to glance at it.

And usually by the third question they’d get annoyed if you fooled around too much.

Besides, the guy in the bed next to me knew his name alright, but really couldn’t figure out where he was. So I guess this stuff isn’t so funny. But I still think Velma had the best sense of humor. She was like a female Stephen Wright.

For days we argued about whether a particular comedian was dirty or not…

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