AUGUST 13, 1962
CAMPOBELLO, NEW BRUNSWICK—This is written by a layman and for the layman. In this case you must imagine the layman as a reluctant patient, told by a firm doctor a few nights ago back in New York that the patient must go at that very hour to the hospital.
The patient in this case had a rather high temperature and wasn't looking very much at anyone, when two strangely gentle but rather large and solid creatures bundled her on a stretcher. Out they went and the patient, feeling like a fiery furnace (because it seemed as though at every minute another cover was placed on the stretcher) was placed in an ambulance.
Once in, all the patient could think of was the black hole of Calcutta. That was what it was like—air that could be cut with a knife. Begging for a little more air, the patient was told she might catch cold on the slow, bumpy ride through the New York streets. The patient thought of all Dante's infernos and decided that if it was possible to live in that heat perhaps Beatrice did not have such a bad time!
Finally a stop, and the stretcher was moved out. Another one came along, and the patient was wheeled into a room where she was told: "Slide over; we will hold the stretcher."
The patient slid, the stretcher disappeared. As it went out, the doctors came in. They went through the usual examinations. They had just finished and decided to go and talk to each other, when a nice young doctor with a tray carrying many articles of torture appeared. He went about his business very methodically, and in the course of the next ten minutes or so the various needles he was supposed to use had been used. "I've finished," he said cheerily. "Good night".
There was nothing the patient wanted more than to be left alone. And that good night sounded hopeful—but she was wrong. A nurse appeared, took blood pressure, pulse and temperature, looked at the patient cheerily and said: "Wouldn't you like some nice orange juice?"
The patient knew that orange juice would taste like everything else at that moment—white cotton batting. But she said, "Oh, yes, thank you. Perhaps a little grapefruit juice mixed with it, as orange juice is rather sweet."
The nurse agreed. But as she went out, a gentleman from the hospital entered and asked: "Sorry to bother you, but what were your mother and father's names?" These were given, when almost apologetically he asked: "And the date of your birth."
The door had hardly closed when another young lady with a tray full of articles of torture appeared. She went about her business, efficiently and silently. She finished, and the door opened again. This time the nurse just wanted a temperature, a blood pressure, a pulse. A few minutes later and the patient, who had allowed her eyes to close, heard a firm voice say: "Turn on your side," and a nice soft spot of the anatomy received two firm pricks.
Now, thought the patient, there could be nothing more. But she was quite mistaken. It would be so nice for the patient to have a cool alcohol rub—"we will just take your nightgown off." When it was over and the nightgown was back she knew that she was cooler, but this patient had developed a peculiar desire to be left alone and to go to sleep.
Vain was this hope. The doctors came back to say a cheery good night. When they had gone, the nurse said cheerily: "Now wouldn't you like something to drink?" Every time she turned, the patient had been given a glass of water because she found it easier to drink than anything else. But this nurse said: "How about a little cranberry juice?"
The patient vaguely remembered that once she had a particular liking for cranberry juice. But she felt sure it would taste like cotton batting when it arrived, so she said: "Let's try some, but let's add some water too."
The cranberry juice came, and it tasted like cotton wool. The patient added some water and finally swallowed it. Then, after a short interval, the routine temperature, pulse and blood pressure was gone through on the right hand side. Just as it was finished and the patient thought, "Perhaps I will now be able to sleep," the door opened again and an efficient lady entered and took blood pressure on the left hand side!
By that time the patient had learned not even to protest. Just let all the Alice in Wonderland people do whatever they wanted to do. Perhaps someday it would cease to be like the Mad Hatter's tea party, and she would be allowed to go to sleep. Midnight—and by dint of making believe she was asleep—she actually got three hours without interruption.
This was a night in a hospital. When the patient suggested to the doctors that it was not exactly restful, they looked at her in mild surprise. "What do we have laboratories for?" they said. "This is why we want you in the hospital."
Eureka, they have you there! You get well, but is it really worth it?