Hospital blues
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2008-01-20
As this is being written, it is also your Chair Wrecker’s third day of confinement at the Makati Medical Center. I decided to make the effort to write this column even if I already advised the STAR management that likely I’ll be unable to submit one.

Come to think of it — nobody really feels like doing anything else after one is compelled by health circumstances to be confined at the hospital. In my case, what started as a nasal congestion provided no indication that it was going to develop into a case of pneumonia.

A terrible intermittent back pain that is triggered by certain positions accompanied my bout with pneumonia. You’re able to sleep by assuming the position of comfort. Then when your body seeks to move to another position while you’re asleep — then POW! — the stabbing pain suddenly hits you.

One experience that I shared with our late Publisher, Max Soliven, is that we both underwent a kidney transplant. And if you recall what caused Max’s untimely passing was a case of pneumonia. By itself, pneumonia is potentially lethal. The odds against you increase tremendously when you also happen to live under a kidney transplant protocol.

It is not in the natural order for the human body to be carrying a transplanted kidney. Proof of that is the human body’s natural reaction to an organ transplant which is to reject it outright. Yes, the natural reaction of the human body to reject happens even faster than the Filipino nation will reject any suggestions of Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) that she delivers good governance, clean elections and a prospering economy.

It is our immune system that causes the rejection of all foreign bodies. When we receive an organ transplant, our immune system immediately detects and rejects the presence of the foreign body.

For the human body to be able to tolerate the presence of a transplanted organ, regardless if sourced from a very close relative like a son or daughter, it has to undergo immuno suppression or what is called the lowering of the body’s immune system. This immuno suppression is calibrated along a very narrow band which allows the body to tolerate a transplanted organ but not to the point that it opens the body to dangerous possibilities of infection. Transplant organ patients survive by the miracle of medical science.

Because of immuno suppression, the organ transplant patient becomes vulnerable to easy contamination and needs to avoid being in the midst of big crowds where a virus or a bacteria can easily be passed on by air conduction.

Those Ateneo-La Salle basketball games that fill the Araneta Coliseum to the rafters become taboo. So are crowded Sunday Masses where a sick person beside you, in front of you or behind you can easily contaminate you. In fact, one of the places you must try to avoid is the hospital where the most powerful germs and infections are being attended to.

Another place that the organ transplant patient will do well to avoid is the airport and also the aircraft. Not only are airports crowded places, they happen to be gathering points for many nationals. A plague in Egypt can easily be transferred to an organ transplant patient inside the airport or in the aircraft.

No matter how much they try to provide for your needs, even the hospital suite can be a cause of discomfort for the patient. For one, I still have to meet a patient who will claim that the food in the hospital where he is confined is better than McDonald’s or Jollibee.

Now that is comparing the hospital’s regular menu. Wait till you try hospital menu for diabetics or worse — diabetic and low salt diet. If they serve you pizza, rest assured cardboard will taste better than a diabetic and low salt pizza!

Another is the age-old complaint of Makati Med patients that the showers here can either burn you or freeze you and I kid thee not. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you’ve set the shower between your ideal mix of hot and cold water. At any point, that shower can turn schizophrenic and revert to its extreme cold or heat mode.

If you entered the Makati Med due to a severe cold, the shower’s sudden shift into extreme heat will bring you to the third degree burns section of the hospital. Subjected to the extreme cold treatment, your cold will easily upgrade to full blown pneumonia.

Since my first confinement at Makati Med in 1988, I must have occupied easily ten other rooms in this hospital due to various reasons for confinement. If Makati Med awarded “mileage points” like airlines, I am, by now, already nearing that level where an entire wing will be named after me for having contributed so much business.

Now, all those rooms I’ve had here had the same problem with their shower. Friends of ours who have also been confined here shared the same traumatic experience.

Another thing I noticed that has been overlooked is the absence of the steel assistance bar inside the shower room for patients who need to alternately sit and stand while bathing. There is absolutely nothing to prop yourself up or latch on to if you’re seated and you wish to stand.

This oversight is unforgivable. In a hospital, it must be assumed that those who are confined are sickly and weak rather than normal and strong enough to stand on their own.

Now under a new stewardship, one sees a lot of improvements being put into place in Makati Med. I hope the new management team will try to make their rooms and suites more consumer-friendly.

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