Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Down Low on HBO

My kindergarten* best friend B asked me to explain to him in more detail what HBO was like. I wrote him several messages. Then, I realized I had a Tumoriffic update in the making.

My verdict on HBO? It could be worse. It is--if I think about it when it's happening.

It takes place, as I have described before, in a sealed, horizontal, clear acrylic cylinder. Lengthwise, I can just touch either end of the tube with my arms stretched up and my toes pointed. Width/height, I can sit at a 45 degree angle. Much more, and I would bump my head. However, the acrylic is clearer than glass, and, especially if there is a good movie on, I mostly don't notice.

I lie on a stretcher, which is annoying, because the mattress is plastic, and even through the sheet, it makes me sweaty. At the same time, I am often a little cold. They have increased the blankets I take in with me, though, and that helps. On my wrist, I have a bracelet that is wired to the chamber to prevent static buildup. If I wish, they will also send me in with a water bottle and, for urgent situations, a urinal. They do not have a stoolinal for the truly bad situations, which makes the plastic mattress worth the annoyance.

Because of the risk of fire, I must not bring anything in with me except my glasses, but including my clothing. I wear nothing but a johnny. I have to insist on getting a long one, or my butt hangs out.

Everything else is forbidden. My iPod or a book could light the 100% oxygen on fire, as could deodorant, hair gel, skin creams, earrings, nose rings, nipple rings, and mustache wax. I'm not kidding about that. There is a sign that lists all of these and more in the dressing room. I can imagine how each was discovered. For instance, at some point, some Salvador Dali look-alike got into an HBO chamber and spontaneously combusted. Or maybe that's how Dali died. I'm too lazy to look it up.

The stretcher is not great for sleep, but I can watch movies on a TV that is attached to rails on the outside of my chamber. I bring my own movie or watch one of theirs. They have a limited selection. I'm on episode 4 of my own copy of 'I, Claudius' right now. I suppose I should be a responsible doctor and watch continuing medical education videos, and maybe I will watch a few. Despite the potential for HBO puns, I don't think I will watch A Game of Thrones there. The every-other-scene nudity would be a bit awkward with the nurse sitting two feet away on the other side of the acrylic shell.

I do not get to use the remote. If I want the volume changed, or anything else, I have to wave frantically at the nurse. She can speak to me on an intercom with a speaker and microphone in the chamber. Incidentally, other than the TV and the intercom, the sound isolation is practically complete.

I am a little tired afterwards, but they say that gets better.

Frankly, I like most people, would gladly pay my lunch money just to be in an acrylic tube for 2+ hours watching movies every day, but the kicker is that I don't get to wear my bling. No, actually, that's not true. Aside from my wedding ring, I have no jewelry. I gave up the tiara last year. I find the nearly four hour time suck of driving there, waiting for preparation, being inside (a.k.a. diving), waiting to be cleared to leave, and driving to my next destination to be highly inconvenient.

I can imagine what my dear friend G** would say, so I will preclude her objection. It could be a lot worse. It's not hemodialysis after all, and, unlike hemodialysis, it will end in five more weeks. Best take it philosophically as yet another tourist ride into chronic illness where I get to return to something resembling home afterwards. Then, I will be able to tell my patients what it will be like for them--this is the value of involuntary experiential internal medicine.


* We were best friends in kindergarten. He is no longer a kindergartener. That would be weird no matter how you read it.

B is the only one of my close friends my own age who can give me a run for my money in medical adventures. He is currently recovering from a cardiac valve replacement, the latest of his many heart surgeries. (He's all heart, I'm all head.)

** G is not exactly my age, but can go toe-to-toe with me any day on premature health nightmares.

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