The Old Man in the Hospital
Published by Screaming Weasel Productions
Distributed by Shakespir
Copyright 2016 Van Allen
The Old Man in the Hospital
Screaming Weasel Productions
Copyright Van Allen 2016
Follow on Twitter
Follow on [+ FaceBook/VanAllen+]
Shakespir Edition License Notes:
This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this eBook with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this eBook and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite eBook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
All rights reserved. No part of this eBook may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without prior written permission of the author/publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
All characters in this eBook are based on the author’s memories. Names have been changed. Essentially, these are MY memories.
The Old Man in the Hospital/Van Allen
BIO026000 BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Personal Memoirs
FIC041000 FICTION / Biographical
Table of Contents:
The Old Man in the Hospital
I’d been doing a lot of hard drinking at a critical point in my life. I guess I still had some issues to deal with after my military career ended, when I retired from the Marines. Maybe it was just the routine pressures of life or maybe I just needed to grow up. Nonetheless, I drank myself into bleeding stomach ulcers.
I bled enough internally that I had a really bad day at work, nearly collapsing at my desk. A trusted coworker drove me home and then refused to leave until I agreed to let her take me to the hospital emergency room. I thought I had the flu; instead I had ulcers and significant internal bleeding.
I was about 40 years old. The enthusiastic doctors and nurses on staff at the hospital checked me in and often each of them asked, “What’s a young strong guy like you doing in here for ulcers?”
They told me they would fix me right on up and I’d be good as new, but only after about a week or so in the hospital. They all wished me well and encouraged me to take better care of myself and to get some help if I needed it.
A week in the hospital for ulcers… I felt embarrassed on some level because I hadn’t been taking the best care of myself. I felt like being in the hospital for by doing things that had needlessly put myself at risk wasted valuable medical resources. This wasn’t a combat injury or a lightning strike. Instead I had let myself down and I had no one to blame but myself for something obviously preventable and avoidable.
The day I arrived at the hospital’s emergency room, there were several other patients there receiving treatment for injuries from a major multicar accident. Another woman nearby experienced pregnancy complications. Some of the people in the emergency room were in dire straits with horrific injuries and life-changing things going on. In comparison to those people in life and death medical situations, I felt like I didn’t belong in the hospital and I should have never put myself there with my careless drinking. I felt additionally embarrassed when the doctors came by to check me anally every twenty minutes for bleeding. Even though the doctors told me that bleeding ulcers were life-threatening, I didn’t feel my situation could compare to being in a car accident and needing serious medical attention.
Not long after checking in through the emergency room, nurses ushered me into a clean and quiet hospital treatment room for long term monitoring and care. I had a restricted diet of water and ice chips for the next two days. Then three days after that I could sip chicken broth. Two days after that they let me eat Jell-O. Oh yeah, I got at least two examination scopes, one down my throat and the other one, well… up the other way. They checked my digestive system for leaks. No coffee, no booze, no solid foods, and no fun, sitting in a hospital room.
I had the room to myself for a full day before they wheeled in another patient on a bed. The crew of nurses began attending to the new patient, a much older man. He was not happy with their work. He raised his voice, grouched, and complained about not having his own room. He also expressed anger because he wanted to speak to his private doctor and his family so he could be moved to the hospital of his choice.
I found out later the old man had been driving cross country to go somewhere and he had some sort of medical episode in route requiring that he be rushed to the nearest hospital emergency room.
While getting settled in to the treatment room, he gave the entire hospital staff all the hell and shit he could muster. I marveled at the hospital staff’s utmost professionalism, the way they ignored his irate insults and protests and still delivered only the best care possible to him.
His arrival certainly disrupted my treatment. The place was at first peaceful and I felt like I could rest before the old man arrived and then he was there in the room with me and my tension and stress stayed high until I left almost a week later.
Before the man arrived, I felt absolutely spoiled by all the nurses and doctors. They treated me with great respect and with a caring spirit. Each and every nurse worked with an incredibly caring, giving, and nice spirit. After the old irritated man finally settled in, that didn’t change.
I tried to understand of the old man’s circumstances. He was an old angry man, in pain, confined in a strange place. He didn’t want to be there surrounded by strangers, in the hospital. He didn’t want to be ill and dying. He didn’t want to need people to care for him.
In the middle of the night, his yelling woke me up. The night shift of nurses had come on. I heard the man yell, “I don’t want to be treated by no goddam gook nurse. Find me another nurse that’s not a goddam gook.”
The nurse, who was my favorite so far because of her extra professionalism and the obvious care she had for me as her patient, said to the man in a very calm voice, “Sir, I’m sorry if you’re not happy with me. I’ll notify my supervisor and we’ll see what we can do to help with your concerns.” She turned to leave the room and the man said, “Goddam gook.”
I felt so bad for her. I said to him, raising my voice, “That lady was one of the best nurses I’ve ever had attend me in my life. What you said to her was wrong and just fucking evil. If you intend to be an asshole this is going to be a hell of a long hospital stay for you.”
“You can mind your own damn business,” he said.
I stood up and pulled the curtain back just as another nurse walked into the room.
“Mr. Allen,” she said, “back into your bed. We can take care of this.”
She was a Black lady. I had met her the day before too and she was another great nurse and public service caregiver.
“You’re the supervisor?” the man asked disbelievingly.
“Yes sir, I am,” she said.
“Ah hell,” he said, “there’s got to be somebody else.”
“Sir,” she said calmly, “it’s the night shift, I understand you have preferences about who treats you, but there are only three of us on tonight and you’re going to have to accept that we will do our very best for you no matter how you feel about us, love or hate. We care for you and we are going to show you that. Now, I would like to ask that you avoid saying racist hurtful things to my staff. Try to accept this is all temporary since the morning staff comes on at 7am. Until then, let us do our job and just try to get some rest. Can you agree to that, sir?”
He replied with a scowl, “No gooks.”
The nurse replied, “Then that means I’ll attend to you.”
She treated the man, taking his vitals and doing what night nurses do and then she came over to my bed and checked some things. She said aloud, “Mr. Allen we could move you to another room if you’d like.”
I replied, “No, I don’t like to let assholes get what they want. I’ll stay right here and see how this plays out.”
The man said, “How come I can’t get another room?”
She said to him, “This is the only room we have available for you, sir.” Then she left our room, turning out the light and closing the door.
Later, I apologized to both of the nurses saying to each, “The old man had no right to say those things to you. You’re one of the best nurses I’ve ever seen.”
They thanked me and continued treating me like a celebrity and they treated him great too.
The next morning a long string of visitors began stopping by to see me: family, friends from work, old Marine buddies, and people in the community. They each brought plants and flowers and books, filling up my corner of the room. I said to them, “Why all the fuss? You’d think I was dying. It’s just ulcers. I don’t deserve any of this.” I didn’t know the old man was dying.
I felt embarrassed again to be hospitalized because of my own doing. I kind of didn’t want people to see me all laid up in a hospital bed with all kinds of tubes and things stuck in me and dressed in a gown with my ass hanging out. I didn’t want to be seen as human, weak, or vulnerable. But they kept coming anyway for about three straight days.
The most professional and tolerant core of nurses continued to attend to us with great carefulness. The old man on the other side of the room remained bitter and ornery.
After a long silence between me and the old man, a male nurse came in to check on us. Turns out, he was a retiree from the Navy, a Corpsman. We talked about the units we served with and found out we both served for a time onboard the USS Guam a while back during a combat tour in the Mediterranean. We had great passing conversations about service and deployments and war and even showed off tattoos and pictures on our phones during his shift. He’d say encouraging things like, “How you feeling Jarhead. Come on Jarhead. I need you to hurry up and get better so you can get out of here. You gonna faint if I stick you with a needle Jarhead?”
When the nurse left the room, the old man said, “I respect that you were in the Marines.”
I asked if he served. He said, “Hell no, I did everything I could to avoid military service.”
I got him to talk and found out he had some kind of cancer, terminal. He would be there until they could stabilize him and then transfer him closer home so he could be comfortable during his last days. Underneath his irritable demeanor, he sounded scared or sad, maybe both.
I also overheard him arguing with a few people in his family over the phone. No one wanted to come see him. He said he had a daughter who lived within miles of the hospital and she refused to come see him. He said he didn’t expect she would come. He hadn’t seen her in years. “That’s how it is with my family,” he said.
He said something about all the people who came to see me compared to how no one came to see him at all. He made a few comments about how his family only cared that he would die soon so they would each finally figure out how much money he was leaving to them.
I could tell he felt depressed about that although he tried to hide it. He felt miserable no one really cared about him. That was a sore thing that made him sullen and even more bitter. He even called old business partners and none of them seemed to have any time to talk to him on the phone, let alone to come see him in the hospital.
He said, “I don’t guess anybody is coming to see me. I don’t guess anyone cares. I’m not going to get any better. I don’t have long. I’m going to die in a hospital bed, soon.”
I felt lucky and sad at the same time. Lucky my illness was temporary and sad his was too. Lucky I had a lot of friends I needed to be nicer too and time to be that and sad he had friends to be nicer to also, but no time to do it.
I had an epitome then. There I was abusing myself with alcohol and with friends at every turn who cared about me and who needed me to do better. At the same time, there he was after a long life of business dealings and building wealth and at the end of it all, wealth and business deals and stock market prices didn’t matter. What mattered most were friends, family, and loving relationships.
On our deathbed, none of us will wish we had spent more time at the office. None of us will wish we had more money. None of us will wish we had more stocks and made bigger business transactions. However, all of us will wish we had been nicer to the people in our lives who matter. All of us will wish we had spent more time sharing love and times and being heroes and champions to our families and friends.
All the wealth you can gather won’t replace the value of having people in your life who genuinely love you and respect you for the very important person you are to them.
No matter how much money we collect in life, we will all end up one day in the same place: in a hospital room with strangers caring for us in our last days…if we’re lucky…and if we are even luckier, we’ll have friends and family there to tell us how much they love, appreciate, and will miss us.
I would hate to get to those last days regretting that I didn’t spend enough time sharing love and being a true hero and champion to my family and friends.
They deserve better from me. They deserve my best.
When they discharged me from the hospital, I could sense the old man felt miserable about his personal life. He said something else mean to the nurses as I left. I knew that was just his way of showing his sadness. I pitied him.
I don’t know what happened to the old man in the hospital, but I do know he died lonely, alone, scared, sad, wishing he had more than money to leave this world, and wishing he had treated people better. I know that.
I left the hospital knowing I needed to do better. I understood I needed that time in the hospital. I needed that time with the old man. I also needed that time to see those nurses professionally and caringly deal with hurting people at their worst times. I needed that time in the hospital to appreciate the nursing and medical profession. I needed that time in the hospital to appreciate true public service. I needed that time in the hospital to grown up and learn something about life and about people and about the way we should treat people.
So, maybe he did leave something more important than money with someone before he died.
The Old Man in the Hospital
This work is dedicated to my kids.
Thank you for reading my memoir short. If you enjoyed it, please leave positive reviews with your favorite eBook retailers.
About the Author
I’m a former Captain in the US Marines. In my 21-year military career, I developed expertise in both combat training and criminal investigations. While in the Marines, I also completed a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University and a Masters in Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Originally from Houston, Texas and currently residing in Frisco, Texas, I fancy myself a secret physics, statistics, and data nerd. I’m also known today for being a part-time tennis strategy and coaching genius…by my kids…sometimes. If you ever want to talk more about extraterrestrial overlords, zombies, conspiracy theories, combat tactics, war, guns, military service, human psychology, tennis tips, or who makes the best margaritas in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, drop me a line.
Email me at
Follow me on Twitter
Look for me on [+ FaceBook/VanAllen+]
Please go to my website to see my other published works.
Oh yeah, please leave positive reviews!
Short simple memoirs of my life. Sometimes horrible people come into your life to help you learn important lessons. This story describes my stay in the hospital. I talk about the old man I shared a treatment room with and what I learned after about a week's stay.