Notes from the torture chamber.
Marcia took me to chemo on Friday (thanks, Marcia!), and she said I should write a blog entry about the infusion center (aka the “torture chamber”). I haven’t written about it previously, other than to remark about the awful blue recliners, so it was interesting to see Marcia’s reactions because it is a bizarre place in many ways.
First, this particular torture chamber is not very private. There are nine of my favorite giant blue naugahyde recliners (I always spell that wrong… naugahyde rather than nogahyde). Friday seemed to be a popular day to be poisoned. The chemo nurse came to the waiting room and called several names at once; she usually calls only one at a time. I was the only torturee who was under 75 and not hobbling.
In the chamber there is one small recliner that I like to sit in if I can. It was purchased in the hope that its small size would let them wedge yet another torture station into a small room. I missed getting my favorite chair when a frail old creature headed for it. I couldn’t bring myself to knock her over for the good spot, so I ended up in a giant recliner looking, as Marcia pointed out, like Edith Ann. After a few moments, though, the frail old thing simply vanished from the small chair, leaving only her chart behind. I have no idea where she went — screaming down the hall maybe — but I was able to switch to the human-sized chair. I’ll take any little victory I can get at this stage.
The torture stations consist of a recliner and an IV pole and all face each other in an L — four on one leg, and five on the other. Other torture chambers at other medical facilities have private rooms, which would be nice in some ways, but a little isolating in others. I mean, in a private room I would miss out on so much. For example, five years ago I ended up sitting frequently next to a woman who knew so much about her fellow torturees that she was able to detail for me which ones had died recently and who was about to kick the bucket. I changed chemo days before she could add me to her list.
I also would never want to miss out on the loud conversations about everyone’s blood counts and who’s constipated or not. I especially enjoy it when the nurses shout my blood counts across the room.
The best thing you can say about this torture chamber is that it has windows and they give out on a rather nice greenbelt. Private rooms don’t usually have windows. There is also some a grim camaraderie, and I get some sort of twisted satisfaction when I see someone in there who’s younger than I am. I don’t feel quite so singled out and picked on by fate. Bad of me, eh?
The nurses are quite nice, though harried, and the room itself has an “us versus them” setup — a large, long, desk that walls the nurses off from the torturees. I don’t know how else they would set it up and still do what they need to do for all the hours they’re there during the week, but that’s just my perception from the other side of the wall.
So that’s a brief look at a chemo infusion unit. I’ve talked a little about the private rooms, which I’ve seen when getting second and third opinions. There are many advantages to them, the first being that they usually have a bed — quite a bit more comfortable than the recliners — and they have a place for guests to sit. They also afford some privacy, and are usually decorated very nicely.
In fact, one problem I have with the more private facilities is their poshness. The only comparably posh facility in my direct experience is the “breast center” I go to for mammograms. In the waiting room you can have tea in china. The place is decorated very nicely and professionally, likely in an effort to compete with the latest House Beautiful edition you can read in the waiting room, and the whole “experience” is designed for the patient’s comfort.
I feel for the men who balance tiny tea cups and thumb through women’s magazines while they wait for their wives in the prissy pink waiting room, but that’s not my main problem with the over-poshness of that particular facility. I also am concerned that the money my insurance company pays for my mammograms goes for an interior decorator, but that also is not my main problem with the over-poshness.
My main problem is that they’re putting lipstick on a pig or, to use another metaphor, they’re putting the lobster in the lukewarm water before turning the heat to boil. You go there to find out if you have a deadly disease and somehow fluffiness, pinkness, and china tea sets are supposed to make that better? I think not.
On the other hand, I don’t advocate making you sit on a hard wooden bench in a room with no windows for hours and hours.
So, I’m not really offering suggestions for improvement or change, I’m just observing from within, asking questions, and wondering why certain decisions are made.
Other than that, I’m feeling tired this week and require frequent naps.