The hospital gown: an instrument of torture


I recently had the experience of being tortured, not by terrorists, but by that well-known fashion statement, the hospital gown. The hospital gown was originally an open nightshirt, designed for the convenience of nurses and doctors caring for the bedridden patient. The gown was traditionally worn with the back open to allow for access to the patient;  yet modesty was maintained as the patient’s backside was safely covered by the bed.

Today, thanks to our ever-growing plus-sized population, the hospital gown is a now a circus tent with armholes.  My gown was made from a thick, sturdy, rough-hewn cotton, akin to the same fabric used for flour sacks in days of old. The size was roughly that which Magic Johnson would wear comfortably, in other words, typical one size fits all. The various closure ties along the back were gnarled into an almost unusable state, as if kittens had been allowed in to “help” fold the hospital laundry. The front sported a slit to allow for EKG leads to be pulled through, but on me this fell in the right spot to be considered a wardrobe-malfunction flap. To top this off, the bed on which I was designated to spend the night was not a bed at all, but a gurney, the kind meant for temporary transport of patients. Instead a nice smooth sheet, the gurney was covered with a rough knit-type material. Add to that the ubiquitous blue pad that is placed underneath all hospital patients, as if it’s expected that all patients will start leaking from every bodily orifice, and you have the bed from the seventh circle of hell.

Here is how I spent that night. Despite my ability to eat and drink normally, the IV was going full-blast, so I found myself getting up to the bathroom at least every two hours. Unfortunately I was unable to coordinate this with the staff who came in to wake me up every two hours, so add sleeplessness to the night from hell. On each occasion of getting up, I first had to scoot to the edge of the gurney while wearing a circus tent and trying to hold my painful side. The rough fabric of the gown combined with the rough texture of the sheet made schooching nearly impossible. Once I managed to get to the edge, I had to make a little jump to get to the ground, as you might imagine one would from a gurney designed for giants. Once upon my feet, I used one hand to hold the IV pole, one to hold the back of the gown shut, one to hold the wardrobe malfunction flap shut, and wait, nobody has that many hands. Once back in the room, I had to repeat this process. When I finally managed to scoot myself back onto the bed, I discovered that I had become mummified in the voluminous folds of the gown. Trying to free myself from the folds wrapped around me was a painful and fruitless endeavor. Near the end of the night I found myself just flopping the upper half of my body across the bed, pulling my legs up enough so they weren’t dragging on the floor, and calling it good enough.

In the morning, after the night of torture was completed, the nurse came in and removed the IV and the blue pad from the bed. I dragged myself into the chair and put on my own cozy, well-fitting jammies, and for the first time since being there, sat comfortably, eating bad food and wondering why hospitals are incapable of making toast. But that is a story for another day.

© Huffygirl 2015

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