Room Service, Cable and Friends

This is the 13th in a series of articles about my recent trip to the emergency room, my intestinal surgery, and my recovery afterwards. Here is an index to all of the articles in this series.

At some point over the weekend they decided that I could switch from liquid diet to normal food. In previous hospital stays they always give you a little computer print out of the day’s food selections. Typically there is a choice of two main entrées and a variety of side dishes. There are generally a couple of desert selections and the usual variety of drinks. You have to mark your menu in its entirety for the following day. Your first day in the hospital you get potluck. You either get what the guy in the room before you ordered or they just pick something for you.

St. Vincent’s now has a new system that they call “Room Service”. They give you a permanently printed menu with a large variety of breakfast, lunch, and dinner selections that never change. You call them to place your order by phone. If you don’t call within a certain time they call you up and remind you that you haven’t ordered. They also ask you what time you would like your meal although there aren’t very particular about delivering at that exact time but I suppose if you ordered breakfast very early or very late it would probably make a difference.

I was worried that this was some sort of premium service just because I was in a private room and that when things were done with I would get some giant room service bill that my insurance would not cover. However I asked the nurses and they said the entire hospital was like this.

The first night I ordered grilled chicken, steak fries, and a Coke. The chicken and fries were delicious but for some reason the Coke tasted really funny. I couple of years ago after mom had spent a couple of months in intensive care she reported that Coke tasted strange to her afterwards. I couldn’t imagine that just one food would taste different. I could imagine if you’re entire sense of taste was messed up but why just Coke? I still don’t know why… but now I know what she was talking about. It took me a couple of weeks before Coke started tasting properly again.

I tried scrambled eggs for breakfast but they were pretty rubbery so I just had the toast and orange juice. For lunch one day I had a really nice tuna salad sandwich which is what I eat for lunch every day at home. Another evening I tried a hot dog but I’m used to pork hot dogs and this was a very greasy beef hot dog almost like a sausage or something. I didn’t care for it. I gave up on the scrambled eggs and had rice crispies for my final breakfast of my stay.

The fancy room service system isn’t the only amenity they have the hospital these days. A telephone has a jack on the side of it so you can plug a dial-up line to a laptop. The television also has some sort of Internet access built into it as well. You can request a wireless keyboard that lets you do limited Internet browsing and check your e-mail right from your bed. I doubt that I could work this system so I didn’t try it out. Again it wasn’t until my last day that I asked them if that was a premium service or if anyone could do it. They assured me that was part of the standard package.

Speaking of television… they have an extensive lineup of cable channels. Everything you would expect to find in a basic cable system as well as a few other channels that I would probably consider basic on a digital cable system. It included all the major news channels, ESPN 1 and 2, Speed Channel which of course is essential for race fans, and a couple of financial channels which I imagine are in high demand from some people. I was surprised however that Sci-fi Channel was not on the list. There were also some video on demand patient information and health information channels including some videos on how to deal with your new colostomy. I never did get around to watching those. I think they also had some sort of movies on demand but I never did check that out either. I guess the competition for patients among different hospitals is so great that they really have to load on the amenities to keep you coming back. I remember the days when they would charge you extra for telephone and television and all of your soft drinks were charged separately and not paid for my insurance.

Sunday afternoon my family held a high school graduation party for my niece Alaina. She had dropped out of school but attended night school for a couple of semesters before she finally got her diploma. She didn’t want to go through a regular graduation ceremony in June sent she really hadn’t been part of that class. So we scheduled a celebration later which ended up being in August. I was sorry I wasn’t able to go.

That afternoon I did have some other visitors. My friends Rich and Kathy Logan stopped by for a visit. They had just moved into a new house so instead of getting me the get well card, I got a really nice change of address card from them. “Hey… it’s the thought that counts right?” Rich said. I got to tell them all about my adventures the day I went to the emergency room and my goofy communication problems with the nurses in ICU. While they were visiting got a phone call from Judy who was checking up on me. She was out of town for the weekend and couldn’t visit. Rich propped the phone up for me and I talked to her for a few minutes.

In the late afternoon my Uncle Keith, Aunt Barbara, and cousin Nancy came to visit. They had been at the party for Alaina. Nancy is in a wheelchair as well because she was born with spina bifida. She has had a colostomy for many many years. I told her if I had problems or questions she was going to be my “go to” person. At this point my only question was what did she do about odor? The ostomy nurse had given us some drops to put in the bag that were supposed to cut down on odor. Nancy said she takes some sort of pill that helps quite a bit. Given my difficulty in swallowing pills I decided I would stick with the drops for the time being.

Mom and Dad showed up about suppertime and helped me try to eat my hot dog but like I said it didn’t settle very well with me. I wanted to try to sit up in the wheelchair again but after hanging in the lift seat to try to eat supper I was pretty wiped out.

I watched a little television and went to sleep early in the evening.

In the next installment we discover that morphine cures heartburn.

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