I’m told I was born in a hospital, though I have no memory of it. I do, however, have a brief newspaper story identifying me upon my birth as the 100,000th registered patient at Madison General Hospital, so I guess it really happened.
For the next 63 years, I was in good health and had no reason to be hospitalized. Then, in 2015, I developed a nasty bladder infection that triggered a four-day hospitalization for IV fluids and antibiotics. I received excellent care, but it was a totally new and sometimes confounding experience for this hospital virgin.
My guide through this unfamiliar terrain was a wonderful nurse named Jane. We developed a nice rapport over numerous visits checking vital signs, drawing blood, administering medications, and chatting on a wide range of topics. There was, however, one thing I had to learn the hard way.
I awoke in the middle of my second night with a strong urge to get to the bathroom. With impeccable logic, I unclamped the IV line from my right arm so I could make my way across the room.
In no time, there was blood everywhere. I pulled the emergency cord and Jane came running in. Once she realized what had happened and remedied the situation, we had a good laugh over my mistake. The guy who had to clean up after me, however, did not share our sense of humor.
Little did I know that the bond I formed with Jane would be rekindled a year later when I was hospitalized with acute myeloid leukemia. More on that frightening story later. For now, I’ll just say that having Jane as my nurse once again was very reassuring as she administered my first chemotherapy treatment and I lost my hospital virginity for good.
Steve Buechler is a recently retired sociology professor and cancer survivor. In 2016, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and successfully treated with chemotherapy, radiation, and a stem cell transplant. He has since become a big advocate of writing stories as a survival strategy in the face of life-threatening illness. His own story is available in “How Steve Became Ralph: A Cancer/Stem Cell Odyssey (with Jokes),” his forthcoming memoir from Written Dream Publishing.