Reality Truck: The Ultimate Default
"No quack sawbones is going to apply his leeches to me." -- Mr. Burns, The SimpsonsMuch like President Clinton, I recently had an opportunity to experience America's well-oiled health care machine on an up close and personal level. It seems the primary issue for him was whether or not to summon Big Al to his side, in case any powers needed to be transferred temporarily.Not a worry for me. I have no powers, and if I did, I'm sure no one would want them. It's a good thing too because, also unlike the President, I had to be blissfuly unconscious for my Fantastic Voyage. It seems that the medical establishment finally concluded (after one too many irate patients complained I suspect) that most people prefer not to be awake if they're going to have a couple miles of PVC pipe (with attached camera equipment and Swiss Army knife) jammed down their throats.After reviewing all the potential complications for this mostly diagnostic procedure, I quickly realized that this situation called for high melodrama. Although death was "rare," that did not remotely alleviate my natural tendency towards hysteria. So, like any irrational patient, I began to systematically and morbidly prepare for the unlikely event of my untimely demise.I quickly appointed my friend Susan as informal executrix of the palatial Reeves estate. Said estate consisting of, on closer examination: a collection of *Spy* magazines dating back to 1989, a wide array of Pez dispensers (to be inevitably dueled over by my friends Elle and Kim), and an enormous student loan debt. By process of elimination, my friend Marj (the only other person I know who wears size 5 1/2 shoes) was the obvious heir to the collected works of Kenneth Cole and Steve Madden.One of my ex-boyfriends happened to call as I was pondering how to best dispose of the rest of my riches, so I asked if he wanted me to designate anything special before I checked out. As a testament that I think speaks volumes to the devotion all my ex-boyfriends feel for me, he responded, "Do I have to wait till Thursday?...'cause I could use a sofa now." He then reminded me that I might want to consider lingering for several days, because if I died on the table, my funeral could inadvertently coincide with the NCAA semifinals or finals.Next, still preparing for the worst, I parent-proofed my house. I can't imagine, for example, that my mother's grief at losing her eldest would've been mitigated by happening upon embarrassingly amateur nudie photos of my college boyfriend (he was gorgeous and all, but I feel sure that fact would be lost on my mom). So after destroying all embarrassing/incriminating traces of my past (of both a visual and literary nature), I was more or less ready for whatever modern medicine had in store for me.Susan was my designated post-anesthetic driver and hand-holder. Things got off to a bad start when the admissions staff broke the ice by asking if I had a "Living Will." Neither of us liked the sound of that. I am, of course, a responsible supporter of organ donation-except during the NCAA playoffs. Because I strongly suspected that if some basketball player had showed up in need of a new pituitary or something, that hospital would've sacrificed me in a Wildcat minute. Whiny writers are a dime a dozen, but somebody who can sink a three-point shot? Well, that's just a little slice of heaven on earth.Shortly after resolving the all-important vital organs issue, the health care professionals (and I use that term oh-so-loosely) arrived to install the IV. I can't go into great detail about the ensuing bloodbath (without throwing up), but let's just say I have stories that would put you off hospitals (not to mention heroin) for the rest of your life.In all fairness (to me), I did duly warn the nurses at some length about my "difficult" veins (just like my doctor had recommended), but that didn't impede their desire to use me as a pincushion.Realizing these women might have some measure of control over whether or not I ever regained consciousness, I actually managed to be a good sport for about the first three (excruciatingly painful) unsuccessful attempts.I even managed to tolerate their gruesome running commentary for what seemed like an eternity. Thoroughly playing on my fears and phobias, the chief Nazi (Ms. Ratched, I believe) glowingly narrated the entire procedure for the benefit of some aid who was along for the ride. "See, that vein just blew right out" and "look here, the blood's backing up into the tube-uh...oh, THAT'S not supposed to happen..."At this point, Susan was gamely trying to distract me from the carnage on my left. She was pointing out grammatical errors in the hospital's brochures, she was promising me ice cream, making shadow puppets on the wall...all to no avail. Eventually, after some gentle prodding on my part, a woman who'd obviously been present in class the day they covered IVs was summoned and had me ready to roll in about eight seconds flat. I'd never in my life been so happy to see a person in white shoes.I don't remember much of what happened after that, but I can tell you this -- I finally understand the charm of drug addiction. In fact, I even wrote a little poem, "Ohhhhhhh Demerol!" No I didn't -- the last thing I actually remember doing before passing out was to ask for a doggy bag of whatever they had in that syringe.Of course, despite my gloomy predictions to the contrary, I did pull through, and the eventual prognosis was nothing too dire. Aside from my usual detractors, my friend Greg's the only one likely to be truly disappointed. He eagerly awaits the day when one of us will finally manage to cheat Uncle Sam out of our government-financed educations. He just thinks of death as "the ultimate student loan default."