Which wishes all of you a printable New Year
January being the first month for “free”mailing, (free being used in the same sense in which the government speaks of free medical care and free education) it is at Association expense the Walrus and I say we are not at all grateful for it. For us, publishing is primarily a means of self-expression. To be sure we’re happy if people like what we express, but it is doubtful we could stop if they didn’t.
On the other hand, strong as is that desire for self-expression, we question whether it could survive addressing hundreds of envelopes, licking hundreds of stamps, and then carting the whole mess off to the post office. And it is unlikely any amount of talk about what N.A.P.A. owes its publishers will ever change our minds.
In short, we regard the mailing bureau as a privilege we are willing to pay for. Nobody has to outfumble us for the check. We’ll take it and gladly.
Why Patients Are Impatients
All hospitals are divided into three parts: doctors, personnel (nurses, aides, orderlies, cleaning women, etc.) and patients. Never having been a doctor or personnel, I have no idea what they are told regarding patient psychology. But having been a patient, I am ready to tell them how it looks form the underside of the bedsheet.
It is a rare patient who is not an emotionally disturbed person. He has come for diagnosis or treatment of what may be a minor ailment or of what may have the smell of death about it. No matter how much he may have been assured it is the former he often finds it hard not to detect a whiff of the latter. Under the circumstances his unsympathetic nervous system is likely to express itself in one of the following fashions:
1. He retreats into himself and broods in sullen silence. There may be tears but no explanation of them. If the world has seen fit to treat him in such a way, the world should know what it has done, and not have to be told.
2. He is bad tempered, critical of everything, and unbelievably resourceful in finding things to complain about.
3. He chain smokes, or bites his nails, or chews gum, or picks at hangnails, or gnaws his lips, or peels the paint off the bed. A man has to do something.
4. He wants the T.V. or radio on. The program doesn’t matter as long as it’s loud. He talks too much, laughs too long at too little. Anything to drown out the somber rattling of his nerves.
Now what all patients need is a hand to hold and a shoulder to lean on, or even to weep on. But the problem is, who is going to supply them?
It would be unfair to demand this of the hospital personnel even if they had time for it. To have their emotions constantly rubbed raw by the chaffing of disturbed personalities would be unbearable. A cheerful friendliness, surface type and briefly expressed is the most a patient has the right to hope for. But he shouldn’t have to expect or receive less. If patients have to be statistics – and they do – they would at least like to be halfway vital ones.
I suspect, moreover, that a Hippocratic Oath, Junior Grade, not to discuss the patient with the patient must be sworn by all personnel. This was probably administered in the first place to eliminate time consuming speculation and restroom diagnoses. It also gives added importance to the doctor as the only individual qualified to dispense information.
But if doctors are going to play God in the hospital, they need to learn a little more from the Original. Omnipresence is impossible for them, but they could show up regularly. Eternity is not theirs but if people are their business, they ought to devote some time to their business. Omniscience is given to no man, but a patient would like to have a few opinions anyway. And if all of a patient’s petitions cannot or should not be answered immediately, God, at any rate offers sympathetic understanding.
Obviously, however, what anybody around a hospital can do for a patient’s emotional state is going to be limited because of that selfsame emotional state. Patients should accept this and be grateful for tranquilizers. Personnel and doctors should also accept the fact that patients are not normal, not only compared with other people, but also with themselves. Most of them do, but it would help if the rest didn’t act as though the patient’s whole performance was a pretty shabby show he could rewrite if he wasn’t too cussed to bother. “It ain’t necessarily so.” Some lines a patient might manage, but a complete revision is too much under the circumstances. When you put the pressure on a duck you get pressed duck. And when you put the screws on a patient it shouldn’t be surprising if you end up with a screwball.
Published now and then by Louise Lincoln and A. Walrus at Columbus, Ohio
and printed by Alf Babcock