There was a time when I was young and naive. During this time, my parents and care team were able to sell me on hospital stays by calling them “sleepovers.” I wasn't a particularly bright child, so this relabeling worked. However, as I hit my stage of disillusionment, I began to notice some key differences between sleepover rituals and hospital stays:
- Comparatively, there are significantly more bedpans in a hospital than at a sleepover. It's a subtle difference, but it should be noted.
- At a sleepover, one typically wears pajamas. The usual attire for a hospital stay is a gown that is loosely fastened by ties in the back which cannot be reached by the patient. I recommend that you either bring clothes from home or request some scrubs to wear if you find yourself confined to the hospital. Really, a hula skirt would be more comfortable than those gowns.
- "Junk food" is eaten at sleepovers. I put quotations around junk food because that description suddenly seems like a gross exaggeration once you've consumed hospital food. Pop-tarts, popcorn and gummy worms are all easier on your system than hospital food. I once dropped a hospital cupcake onto a table from a height of 8 inches -- there was a resounding thud. (For any amateur bakers out there, one's cupcakes should not have the consistency of a kidney stone.) I advise anyone who's staying in a hospital to schmooze a friend into bringing you takeout during visitor's hours. It will give you a reprieve from the hospital cuisine. Plus, the word on the street is that if you share with the nurses, you'll be well taken care of.
- The noises at sleepovers and hospital stays also sound very different. At a sleepover, you can hear giggly teenage girls and bad movies playing. Nighttime at a hospital plays host to all kinds of unique sounds: the chirps of IV pumps; the bustle of nurses; the rumble of rolling beds; and the often unintelligible shouts of the post-op patient next door who's on a generous morphine drip. I always bring a white noise machine with me to hospital stays. It works wonders. Not only does it block out some not-so-soothing sounds, but it can also make you feel more comfortable. The main reason hospital noise is disconcerting isn't because it's a racket (though it is), but really because it just reminds you that you're sick and in a hospital. Blocking out the noise can make you feel like you're in a more homey setting and one that is more conducive to getting sleep.
- I suppose that one could also note the conspicuous lack of medical staff at a sleepover. Meanwhile, there is an abundance of health care professionals in a hospital. I've always found it interesting when doctors and nurses tell you to "get some rest" when you're sick. This advice makes sense of course, but in a hospital, people wake you up just to see how you're doing and how well you're achieving the whole "resting" goal. These check-ins are oftentimes either to check your vitals or interrogate you about the last time you peed.
I should point out that I love nurses. They are dedicated, medical powerhouses. But I must comment on their troubling fascination with urine output. If I had a dime for every time I was asked if I peed, and how much, I'd be a rich woman. (Richer still if you counted the number of times I've been asked outside of a hospital ... but that's another story.)
There are also rounds, almost exactly like what you see in medical shows: an attending followed by a gaggle of residents. What's funny about rounds is that when it's done right, they won't make the patient feel too uncomfortable (other than making you feel like one of the pandas at the zoo, being spectated by a crowd). However, sometimes the attending will ask a question regarding treatment and a resident will give the wrong answer. I remember looking at these people and thinking to myself, “I know there's no such thing as a wrong answer, but that was wrong!” There's just nothing like a group of doctors who don't know what the heck to do with you. But rest assured, the attendings are keeping a vigilant watch on the residents, who will one day memorize their medical textbooks.
So, that concludes my comparison of sleepovers to hospital stays. Now you won't confuse the two. And hopefully, you've also picked up a few survival tips that you can use at your next “sleepover.”