Believe it or not, there are times when I wish I recruiting hadn?t found me. For instance, take this past Sunday; I was doing some yard work when out of nowhere, an excruciating pain developed in my torso and back. I?m thinking, ?Dang not another kidney stone? (another chapter). One hour later, the pain had only gotten worse upon which a called was made to a doctor buddy. A few questions later, I was on my way to the ER.
A benefit of having physicians as friends is that you can potentially bypass the slowness and rigidity of the ER in cases of need (not that it?s fair but pain doesn?t know fairness). What was becoming clear was that my malady was not a kidney stone but something more severe ? a linguinal hernia with an incarcerated intestine. When the attending ER physician tried to push it back in ? three times ? I politely (really) said, “If you don’t stop now, I’m going to rip your throat out” (of course, my friend who originally sent me to the ER laughed and said, ?Not feeling too tough now, eh Steve??). The surgeon, having walked in to my guttural screams, was not too happy seeing this fearing the intestine was strangulated?
Finally, I received the reprieve I was hoping for ? morphine (my first time and I can unequivocally say that the feeling was almost worth the hernia). So here I am, all morphed up waiting for an operating room to open, when I hear the folks next to me utter the name of someone I have lifeguarded with for the past 15 years ? and who is getting married to their niece (also a former lifeguard). And I?m going to this wedding. Talk about coincidence. But it gets better ? this fellow is a recruiter who specializes in healthcare and technology. Needless to say we had much to talk about and will be getting together when we?re past the hospital phase. Then the morphine wore off?
Surgery took place at 11 PM ?when surgery takes place near one?s privates, there?s always cause for concern. However, my surgeon ? and I know quite a few as close friends ? possessed the most comforting bedside manner I?ve ever seen ? even when peppered with questions from a cranky and hurting patient. This isn?t to slight the entire surgical team ? I just can?t imagine that Sunday evening surgeries are easy to perform. All had a comforting demeanor and great sense of humor (?Don?t worry Mr. Levy, we?ll leave your family jewels intact?). The truest of professionals I thought (and made a mental note of it).
Was under the knife for about one hour, recovery until 2 PM or so. In all my grogginess, as I was being wheeled to my room, I was trying to imagine which part of the hospital I was headed to ? left, left, right, straight, left?I felt like a rat in Tolman?s maze. In the room, was met by a younger nurse who exuded professionalism that even in my post-operative stupor I could recognize. Shouldn?t come to much of a surprise that I now have a great way to get past hospitals gatekeepers?
Monday morning, 8 AM, out of bed for the first of many walks today (walks are good because they prevent receiving shots of Heparin directly into the abdomen at 3 AM); was told that burping and farting are signs that my innards are on the mend (men, how often do you hear from women that it?s okay to burp and fart?). Great news! Being goal oriented, I now had my marching orders?so I marched up and down the oncology ward, a 24/7 visitation section that is very family oriented ? stopping in each room, comforting where I could (IMHO, a hernia is not being sick). My roommate was an equally outgoing fellow who also believed he wasn?t sick despite his potentially fatal blood disease with no known cure (HIPAA prevents me from talking about medical specifics other than my own). G. is an equally talkative character and the day and night nurses as well as patients would come to our room for laughs.
As a further sign that there was something cosmic hidden behind this hernia, during my second walk of the day I noticed a fellow wearing an NYPD boxing t-shirt. We traded names and I turned around for another lap of the ward (if it sounds as if I was obsessed with speeding up the healing process, you hit the nail on the head ? with goals in mind, I?m lethal?and in this case, very tired). On my return, he asks if I lifeguard at
Jones Beach; it was then we recognized each other ? he?s married to a woman whom I used to lifeguard with. Remember the couple I met in the ER? This woman once dated the very person whose name initially caught my attention when I was prone on the ER bed. Very, very strange.
But it wasn?t all fun and games; the NG tube was hurting my throat, I wasn?t allowed to eat and drink (drips do not count even though they produce the same result), I was bloated and sore from the operation, the TV didn?t carry MSNBC or the Comedy Channel, and it appeared as if I was destined to be unable to check or send emails for several days (a capital improvement program to make the hospital wireless is in the works). It was best to try and sleep (if having to urinate every 52 minutes was someone?s idea of happy dreams). 3 AM brought a call for a nurse and we spent 20 minutes talking about how she came to nursing, where she went to school, if she was recruitable (I cannot divulge the details if the conversation ? nurse/recruiter privilege)?true stuff ? death may take holidays but recruiting is 24/7 just like the ward. My drip level was reduced and I was now sleeping 170 minutes between pit stops. Sometimes the sun even shines at night.
Tuesday was better ? a was a little less sore. My surgeon came in and removed my NG tube (?Steve, you may experience a little discomfort?) ? incidentally, an NG tube goes through one?s nostril down to the stomach. With this out of the way and feeling less like the Elephant Man, I continued my walks. Keeping in mind the directives of my nurses and doctors that I needed to remove all operative gases from my system, I left the comfort of the oncology ward and headed to the outer limits of the hospital. I swear this is true ? as I walked pass the open door of the Administrative office, an involuntary flatulent left my body. It was then I noticed a woman standing in the doorway who was chuckling. I said, ?Linguinal hernia?; she smiled, ?I understand.? As the Executive Admin for the President of the hospital, I suppose she would. Then spent 20 minutes effusively praising my surgeon and nurses as well as talking about organizational issues in healthcare. I would stop in and chat on all my walks ? apparently few patients offer such feedback and conversation.
On the way back, I stopped in at what was a local I/T office and inquired about wireless access. My roommate G. had also been asking questions. I presented my case and was told that perhaps I?d like to write a letter to the head of I/T?said I wasn?t planning on being around for the response, smiled, and continued my journey. Back in the ward, I entered another room and met a woman in the ward who ran Training and Development for the Continuing Education arm of a great local university. To shorten this tome, we?re meeting sometime in the next two weeks to talk about ways to improve the breadth and scope of the her organization. Another word of advice: Always be certain you bring business cards to the ER ? just in case you?re admitted.
Rest of the day alternated sleeping, walking, drinking clear liquids (including Cream of Mystery soup; another headshaking moment: Dinner was COM soup, lemonade, milk, and tea ? it was called the Curdle Diet?please, I?ll even eat the hospital?s Beef Stroganoff), watching Bloomberg TV, and gabbing with any new person on the ward. Without work, I was relegated to Sudoka, wondering how Jason Gorham was doing down in Florida, and if there were any more enfeebled ethics threads populating the airways (remember, I?m in the hospital so some may qualify me as sick).
Wednesday! Solid food and a jailbreak. After nearly three days without food, my breakfast took me two hours to eat- which included several walks to motivate the food downward only to find my tray removed from my room and me offering a loud and obviously mock anger cry for the head of the person who was responsible. Eat mouthful was chewed 45 times ? I counted ? because I heard stories of the downside of the first meal after a hernia operation. On one of the walks, I ran into the same I/T person I spoke with yesterday and reiterated the need for Internet access; once again, I was rebuffed.
Back in the room, G. was being discharged – we?re going to get together to do some Internet sourcing for info on his disease. His numbers have dramatically improved with his new treatment; he?s fighter and I?m positive he?ll win. Our last laugh in room 114 was when the dietician came in looking for meal orders. When told that Beef Stroganoff was the main course for lunch, I told her that I had a joke about Beef Stroganoff but it?s a little off color. Would she want to hear it? Initially she demurred but kind of timidly said ?Sure.? Ok, what does one call a herd of masturbating cattle? Beef Stroganoff. She turned red, laughed and said, ?I have to tell that one to my husband ? he?s the head chef downstairs.?
After G. left, my day was walking, chatting with patients, family members, and nurses, occasional BP and temperature measurements, but no more drips or injections. Around 11, the I/T guy walks into my room and ask me if I?d like to participate in an experiment. A network name and key later, I was online. Dang there?s been quite a bit of activity the past few days. I was pleased I only had 173 emails to parse. I could read my favorite liberal newspaper, The New York Times, everything on ERE and Recruiting.com, the Hiring Revolution blog?information overload! But I was enjoying every second.
My surgeon signed the discharge papers around 2 PM. Said my ?See you later! Be well? to the nurses, patients, the President?s admin, family members, and assistants. I left quite a bit behind – a piece of my small intestine, five lbs – but gained so much more. I was a bit sad to leave because the friendships made in a hospital just seem to me to be very strong. Normally, telling someone that I feel their pain has muted meaning; in this case, rather than be scared alone, two scared people who talk with each other somehow become a little less scared. One thing for certain, I?m signing up as a volunteer at the hospital this week.
Winston Churchill said, ?The further backwards you look, the further forward you can see.? A few days in the hospital just confirmed that I am a recruiter in all it’s glory and while technology has the potential to make us more effective, recruiting is still about pressing the flesh. And if it takes emergency surgery to make this happen then sometimes you do what you gotta do.