Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Throughout November I will be selecting excerpts from chapters of my book HOSPITAL GOWNS DON'T HAVE POCKETS! to introduce it to a new readership. An original sketch designed specifically for this book by gifted artist Gail Waeber opens each chapter. 

She and I created two lovable fantasy animals to scamper through the book to add a bit of humor to balance the serious matters about which I have written. May I introduce GG the bunny who is experiencing the hospital adventure, and Miss Meow, his nurse? GG is pictured again at the end of each chapter doing a “jumping jack” to offer the reader thoughtful questions titled “My Personal Workout.” The questions are equally meaningful for personal reflection and for group discussion.

Today's excerpt from the chapter, “In the Admitting Room” is titled, “What's this about pockets?”

Are you curious about the title of this book? When we enter the hospital and shed our street clothes, we discover that most of the gowns we are to wear don't have pockets. Apparently we are not expected to need anything. A sheet of instructions given before admission spells out: “Leave your valuables at home. This includes money, watch, credit cards, jewelry, and contact lenses.” When I slip into my without-pockets hospital gown, it's obvious that I can't bring my personal, educational, or professional reputation with me. No place for credentials, bank books, investment portfolio, business cards, or property deeds. No place for credit reports or references documenting my character, accomplishments, or proficiency. I'm literally stripped to bare essentials. 

My “designer gown” is the ultimate leveler of humanity. Why is this article of clothing called a “gown?” We usually think of gowns as fashionable attire for formal occasions. Surgery is about as informal as you can get!

When I lie on the operating table, I'm a generic, equal opportunity patient. What the surgical team does for me and to me doesn't depend on who I am, what I've done, or what I still hope to do. My identity doesn't matter to them beyond checking, I hope, my plastic ID bracelet to see if I'm the right body to receive the scheduled surgery.

Gowns in doctors' exam rooms are usually made of paper and disposable. They remind me that all things in life are temporary. My physical distress, too, will pass. Some gowns are like large vests with no sleeves. Some have three sleeves—for patients with three arms? Sometimes the nurse tells me to put the unmanageable thing on with the opening at the back, sometimes at the front, depending on what the doctor wants to peer at or poke. Some are street-length paper gowns without fasteners. Never with pockets!

Hospital gowns are hardly more fashionable than exam room gowns, although made of cloth and more durable. Sometimes they are white, drab green, or blue. Some have a tiny logo of the admitting hospital in an overall design. Hospital gowns apparently start out with strings to tie, but more often than not at least one string is missing. I wonder who is being treated so roughly? In the shortie gowns I'm exposed and drafty on my backside.

I confess that during my periodic x-rays as an outpatient during recovery years, I wore a gown or two that did have pockets. Never mind—they weren't hospital gowns. A friend told me that her special issue hospital gown had a pocket right in front center for carrying a heart monitor. I'll concede that exception, but I didn't want to change my title as this book was going to press!

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