fun facts about hospital stays in the time of covid-19

  1. Visitors don’t really exist. In the hospital Echo was at, most patients were allowed one visitor for one visit for their entire stay. That was it. For most of the patients, this was fine; they were cognitively fully functional and were, physically, ok on their own for relatively short 1-2 day stays. For one of Echo’s roommates, who had had a traumatic brain injury that she mentioned loudly in conversation at least five times per day, it was not fine. She could not make heads or tails of the medical and physical therapy instructions she was given, could not remember them, and could not relay them accurately to her husband. But that’s the rule: no visitors.
  2. If you are lucky enough to be or have an ’24 hour essential support’ visitor, then yes, you will be able to have that person by your side throughout your stay.
  3. But they will not be able to remove their mask for any reason at any time, including to eat or drink or sleep. They will be told to eat before they come to the hospital, and after they leave. Which is an interesting trick if you’re there for 24 hours or more.
  4. The family/visitor lounges are closed. Essential care supporters will be ‘sleeping’ in upright chairs in the room with the patient. Actually they’ll spend about 23 hours per day in that chair.
  5. You will not see covid patients. This is not because they don’t exist, dumb-ass; it’s because covid patients are in isolation.
  6. A large number of covid patients in isolation means that private and semi-private rooms exist only theoretically, and you will not be able to access one, no matter what you checked on the intake form.
  7. If the ‘essential support’ person needs to eat or drink, they will be told to leave the hospital to do so. You can try sneaking into the half-closed food court and buying meals there, but technically it’s only for hospital staff, and you will get a stink eye. Or you can try finding a fast food place that is serving food, but the city’s in lockdown, so you will still need to eat your food outside. In the cold, or the rain, or the snow.
  8. If you do sneak down to the food court for a snack, be warned that the posted hours may not be accurate; restaurants will open and close at odd times, some will never open at all, and your best bet is to eat something large-ish around mid-afternoon in case everything is shut at dinner time.
  9. Don’t leave for too long, because your kid can’t get any other visitors, so now they’re alone, and possibly in pain. And scared. And god knows that’ll be the fifteen minutes the surgeon will drop by to talk.
  10. You can’t eat, drink, or sleep in the hospital; you’re only allowed to use one bathroom down the hall; there’s nowhere to wash your hair or brush your teeth; but you will be put to work with bedpans, hygiene, transfers, and so on.
  11. There will be nowhere to buy socks, underwear, fresh clothes, books etc. if you run out.
  12. If you run out of clean face masks, you will not be able to get more from the hospital. Maybe you could buy some from the pharmacy?
  13. Until they change the hospital face mask rule literally in the twenty minutes you are outside the hospital looking for somewhere to buy clean socks, and now you will only be allowed back in the hospital if you are wearing a hospital face mask.
  14. There will be line-ups at the elevators due to the ridership limits. Those line-ups will be worst first thing on weekday mornings, and basically vanish on weekends. Time your snack or prescription breaks for mid-morning, mid-afternoon, evenings or weekends. Finding an elevator going down with space on it will take a very long time on weekday afternoons; just get on an up elevator and wait for it to turn around.
  15. Unaccountably, even in the hospital, there will be one person hanging right over your shoulder while you wait in the elevator line.
  16. You will not be allowed to wait inside the hospital during the surgery or immediate recovery, and it doesn’t matter if it’s pouring rain or below zero. Also, all of the local cafes etc. are closed–lockdown, thank you!–so there will be nowhere warm or dry for you to be. And no one can or will tell you about this in advance, so you will not have a hotel room on standby or any other plans.
  17. In normal times, there is a pre-operation Hip Replacement Class at the hospital. During covid, this class will not be held. They will not mail you the handout in advance instead. You will get it in the hospital, after your surgery, including the checklist of essential recovery items that you will not have had time to buy.
  18. Not that it applies to you, because it’s 99% for standard hip replacements, and your kid didn’t get a standard hip replacement. Thanks to their size and condition, the surgeon had to split the femur. They will not be able to put weight on that leg for three months, give or take. The only part of the booklet that does apply to you are the bed physio exercises that can be done lying down.
  19. That’s not really a covid thing, though.
  20. Everyone you talk to will have a different set of rules for you to follow. When you point out that the rules don’t match from one hour to the next, they’ll shrug and tell you that the rules are changing very fast and no one really understands what they all are. Eventually, you’ll stop asking and just do what you need to do and hope no one kicks you out for it.
  21. You will not be able to kiss your kid. Because, mask.
  22. There are so many people waiting for a chance to have their surgery done, though, that despite how challenging it is, that every so often, walking down the hallway or watching your kid sleep, you’ll be overcome by the thought that, holy crap, the surgeries have actually happened, and you’re not just waiting for a date and hoping it doesn’t get cancelled. Knowing that there are thousands of people waiting at home for the chance to be where you are will hit you at odd times for no obvious reason; in the middle of a paragraph in a book you’re trying (and failing) to read, trying to stay 2m apart from other customers while waiting for your tea at the Second Cup, doomscrolling through all the evidence that the latest lockdown isn’t working. Holy crap, it’s done. It’s done forever. We won’t know until March at least whether this will do everything we hoped, but they can’t put the old hips back in, no one can take the surgeries back.

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