Monday, August 7, 2017

Enema of the People

The Hospital (1961)
I was thinking about the whole health care debate that has been going on for the last eight years. What it reminded me of was what health care was like when I was a kid. We rarely saw a doctor back in the 1950's. For our school vaccinations, we were taken to the Back of the Yards Free Fair. A neighborhood carnival held every summer on the south side of Chicago. They gave away free vaccinations, hence the name of the carnival. Most of our medical needs were taken care of by my mother who bandaged us, made chicken noodle soup, or gave us a dose of cough syrup and sent us to bed, depending upon what ailed us. Anything less than a spurting artery, and we had to walk it off. Obviously not everything could be taken care of that way. Take for instance when I was eleven years old and I woke up one morning with a horrible pain in my side. Not an ache, but a searing, stabbing pain. That time Mom took me to the doctor. The doctor determined that my appendix that was about to burst. He determined that by sticking his finger up my butt hole and asking me if it hurt. I assured the doctor that it hurt. The doctor informed my mom that I would need an operation. There weren't too many hospitals around Tinley Park back then, so Mom took me to Hazel Crest Hospital, three towns over from us. I still remember that horrible little place. It was more like a motel that they had re-purposed than a hospital. It was just one story, it had a lobby very much like a motel, and it had only about twenty rooms. No children's ward. I was roomed with a man about forty years old. He could have actually been younger, or he could have been ninety, but I do remember them giving him an enema as I lay there horrified at the scene before me. Anyway, they operated on me there, removing my appendix. It was a bloody mess. They didn't have a post-op room, they just rolled me back into the hospital room with the constipated guy, and waited for me to come out of the anesthesia. I came to, ready to fight. I pushed everybody away, swinging my arms and screaming. As the nurses and some big men tried to hold me down, my stitches popped loose. Blood was everywhere. I guess they somehow shot me up with some kind of sedative and I passed out again. I woke up hours later, still laying on blood encrusted sheets. I was thinking about all this while sitting in my doctor's office last Thursday. It's a very nicely appointed office at Illinois Masonic Hospital, very high tech and modern. I was thinking about that nasty little hospital in Hazel Crest while looking out my doctor's window at a view of the Chicago skyline. Much nicer than that view I had of an old man getting an enema.

The view from my doctor's office


  1. Scary story. Illinois Masonic is a good hospital.

  2. Very scary! And back then, Hazel Crest itself was a really nice ‘burb. (My aunt, uncle, and cousins lived there.)