Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Charge Nurse: My Struggle, Part One

As many of you know, I recently underwent total knee replacement surgery for my right knee, destroyed while working for the Transportation Security Administration. For various reasons, not the least of which is the haste with which it was formed, the TSA has the highest injury rate of any federal organization, outside of the armed forces. This is one of the factors responsible for the extraordinarily high attrition rate among TSA employees. At my home airport, only 19 of the original 150 screeners hired remain on the job after less than four years. But that's another post. This post is about my historic struggle with the medical establishment following the completion of the surgical procedure.

The first indication that my treatment would result in a war of wills came at the pre-surgery consultation with my surgeon. Not only was I informed that the procedure would require a three day hospital stay, but it was to be performed at St. Joseph's, that most militant of hysterical anti-tobacco hospitals.

"You expect me to go three days without smoking?"

"Ideally, yes."

"I'll be honest. That's not going to happen."

"I understand, but you'll have to work it out with the nursing staff. I'm not a big anti-smoker, myself...sometimes, when I have a drink on the weekend...but if I sign a smoking order and you get an infection, it would leave me open to a malpractice suit."

"I'm shocked, shocked, that you would admit to a dalliance with the demon weed, but I won't report you to the tobacco enforcers at the AMA. And I've never sued anybody in my life."

So the battle was on. I had been in St. Joe's a few years earlier for an overnight stay to remove part of my cancerous thyroid. At that time, I managed to get outside to smoke only by threatening to check myself out AMA - Against Medical Advice. It was a titanic struggle. Foiled in their authoritarian machinations, the nurses were glad to see my back.

But this would be a longer, more complex campaign. I would be encumbered by an unholy trinity of diabolical medical devices, all designed to bar my ultimate escape: the on-demand morphine drip, the hideous powered knee exerciser - surely a device that would have warmed the cockles of a torturer's heart during the Dark Ages, had he had the electricity to power this engine of the Devil. And last, most intimate and insidious...the catheter.

To Be Continued, Next Time: The Plan Unfolds - Misdirection and Bluster

Cross-posted at The Jawa Report and Vince Aut Morire.