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Sunday, February 6, 2011

How Vital Are All Those Vital Checks




       By Ross Newhan

       It is Super Bowl morning and I won't be attending any parties this year. My prescription calls for a few more days of 90% bed rest after a surgical procedure last Wednesday.

      The procedure was done at Placentia-Linda Hospital, which has made several significant changes since we moved out of the neighborhood about six years ago.

      There is now a separate and spotless imaging center, an expanded surgical pavilion and beefed up rooms with flat screen TVs and new beds. An attentive staff deserves respect and admiration.

      Like all hospitals, however, Placentia-Linda and the doctors who operate out of it believe in that part of the Hippocratic oath which requies patients to be awakened every two hours to have blood drawn or vitals checked.

      How much are my vitals going to change in two hours? Wouldn't patient recovery be accelerated with four hours of sleep, even three?

     I mean, it is hard enough sleeping in those two foot wide hospital beds with 22 push-button settings, none of which relate to comfort. It is hard enough sleeping with a catheter tied to your leg, bandages across your abdomen and your roommate throwing up or moaning every 15 minutes. All there is to do is watch the clock and wait for the next two hour nurse's visit.

    Fortunately, I spent only one night hospitalized. I was still so tired when I got home that I slept for 10 hours straight, which is a personal record or a record, at least, since I stopped travelling with the Angels or Dodgers and all the writers thought it was part of their job description to close a bar every night and get 10 or 12 hours of alcohol induced sleep before waking for lunch in mid-afternoon and heading back to the yard (scribe talk for the ballpark) again.

    Was I an alcoholic during those years? I have to think I was.

    My drink was VO and water. I had my last one about 20 years ago. The winter baseball meetings were at the Town and Country Hotel in San Diego, and I was staying at a motel across the freeway. One morning I woke up in my room, drenched in sweat, and without any memory of how I had driven to my motel. It was a sufficient calling card.

    We still had several bottles of VO in the garage until recently when, noticing how they dissolved over time, we either gave them away or dumped them in the garden. The roses never looked happier.

    The first amendment to the Traveler's Constitution reads: Nothing Good Happens After Midnight. I paid a big price by ignoring it for so long.

    I had so many 2 a.m. cheeseburgers and one last VO and water at closing hour that I ultimately required a quintuple bypass 14 years ago.

   Now, I couldn't stay up until bars closed even if forced to. We observe the East Coast version of New Year's Eve, and will probably switch to the Australian time zone soon.

    But I have gotten off the track here.

    I'm just saying (one of the more over-used and absurd expressions in the current culture) that if I require another hospitalization I'm going to insist on a four hour window between vitals and blood draws no matter what.

   I may even request a private room. Do they take airline miles or hotel points?  

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