The Joys of Public Nudity

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From our earliest times, man has contrived hospitals wherein
the sick and injured could be treated. It can be tough to
maintain your dignity in these places.

Being a patient in an American hospital is innately dehumanizing. We try to keep it dignified, but that’s often more a voyage than a destination. It’s really tough to remain particularly decorous while delivering a baby, as an example.

Lots of folks, particularly the older sort, just go with it. I was once making my way through the crowded lobby of the massive Level I trauma center where I learned my trade. Right in the middle of the morning rush was this old guy hobbling along pushing his IV pole wearing one of those classic open-backed gowns, his ample butt cheeks flapping in the breeze. Our facility was smoke-free, so he had to trundle down to the smoking area whenever he felt compelled to burn a coffin nail. The fact that his butt was fully exposed bothered him not one whit.

And then there was the enormous woman who got up in the night to use the bathroom in Nature’s Own. She was too wide to navigate a standard door, so she had to turn sideways and squeeze through. In this ignoble configuration, she promptly had some kind of cardiac arrest. Suffice it to say, trying to do CPR on a naked woman too big to fit through a door while she is wedged upright is not something they routinely teach you in medical school. Trust me, it can be hard to unsee that.

Nowadays, modern American hospitals are frequently leviathan
things that have evolved to become altars to corporate greed.
However, the basic mission is nonetheless still pure and holy.

Closer to Home

I had my own awkward experience with being naked in the hospital. I was a third-year medical student enjoying some vanishingly rare family time. Trust me, trying to navigate med school with a wife and three young kids is an exercise in futility. However, I did maximize every fleeting opportunity to be a dad.

It was August in south-central Mississippi, and the day was Africa hot. My son and I, both shirtless and sweaty, were in the backyard workshop building a wooden truck. We had absolutely no money, so we often built our own toys. In this case, we needed to bore a relatively large hole in a piece of 2×4 lumber.

We were using the drill press. I clamped the work in the press and was holding my son in my arms so he could pull the handle. As he didn’t know any better, he pulled the lever down to make the hole and then simply released it. As the press recoiled under spring pressure, it pulled the truck body out of the vise and spun it. The edge struck my son twice in the jaw before I could yank him clear. Blood went absolutely everywhere.

Realizing I was a dead man if I presented my son to my bride so immersed in gore, we took a quick detour at the garden hose before heading inside. After the obligatory chaos, I determined that he likely needed a few stitches. Later in my career, I would have done that myself with my eyes closed. At this point, however, that meant a trip to the hospital.

I slipped into some hiking boots with those steel hooks that held the laces rather than eyelets. That will be pertinent later. In an effort to calm the situation, I pulled through a drive-through and bought each of us a milkshake en route to the emergency room.

When my family was young, we had very few resources.
We often made our own toys in the workshop.

Embracing the Chaos

We got into an exam room quickly enough, but a near-drowning rolled in that promptly shut the place down. I was stuck trying to entertain an injured three-year-old for two hours. I scored some tongue depressors and a Sharpie marker and made some ad hoc puppets. I stretched out of the bed, situated my son on my lap facing me, and proceeded with the show. Without realizing it, when I crossed my legs, the laces of one shoe got tangled into the hooks of the other.

My son enjoyed the show but then began to look a bit green. I struggled to stand but was confounded by the unfortunate hiking boot conundrum. It was in this configuration that I got reacquainted with my son’s milkshake … along with, conservatively, everything else he had eaten in the preceding six months.

By the time I got my son safely set aside, I was literally soaked to my skin in vomit. I had opted against underwear, a not infrequent occurrence, which was just as well. Literally, everything I was wearing was thusly and thoroughly befouled.

I peeked out the door and flagged down a female pediatric resident who looked, lamentably, like some professional NFL cheerleader. She took pity on me and scored me a set of hospital scrubs. With my injured/ill three-year-old sort of guarding the door, I proceeded to get buck naked and knock out a quick bath in the exam room sink, all the while praying that the cute pediatrician-in-training did not choose that moment to check on us. It all ended well, but I did make myself a mental note never again to feed a traumatized three-year-old a milkshake prior to a medical procedure.

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