We are on day 17 of Gabe's UCSF hospital stay when most patients names on the board have changed but Gabe's is still there. Name persistence is proportional to how sick you are, nobody wants that.
We meet other patients walking the hospital walk, we share stories. To feed the illusion that we are getting out really soon we don't use names.
Take Sonoma man, tall, determined, and strong. 30 days and two surgeries. He was told that walking was key to recovery and discharge. He walked the 5th floor day and night like the energizer bunny. The only names we have for him are Sonoma man and energizer bunny. It worked, three days ago he was all smiles being discharged. After walking for miles every day the mindless hospital rules had him pushed in a wheelchair to the street. Oh well. Good luck man! Did you walk 60 miles to Sonoma?
The ultimate anonymous patient has armed guards at his door. We call him the convict, his door only has a prisoner number, just like Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. We haven't spoken to the convict but Gabe has seen him walk with his IV column and ankle chains, and says you hear him coming.
Christmas and New Year at UCSF Mount Zion hospital, the holiday spirit is low. Patients don't want to be there at any time, and staff doesn't want to be there during the holidays. The only one happy to be there is the convict, Mount Zion is better than jail.
Our fearful leaders are arguing in Washington over a health care public option. Little do they know the public option already exists, unlimited tax payer funded health care, anybody can get it, regardless of preexisting conditions. The convict has it. All you do is a crime and you are covered. Next time we run into the convict I can ask about his copay, maybe his is better than my plan.
Three days ago a newbie went through Gabe's surgery and was brought to the floor. No names exchanged but resembles an adult Harry Potter, so that is what we call him. Gabe is his recovery mentor, and of course my wife Graciela who is everybody's mentor on the 5th floor. Well except for the convict she has shown care and advice to everybody. Not because she wouldn't, the guards don't let anybody close to him.
A silent Asian teenager crashes in the relaxation area computer. He is not ill, unless you think video game addiction is a disease. He has been there for weeks playing computer games, and reconfiguring the browser for chinese language and the baidu home page. We pitty him thinking his only adult relative is in recovery, but then again he may have no relatives in the hospital and discovered the public option of PC games and internet access. Just walk into the hospital and play for free.
It has been a long stay but Gabe was always a long distance runner, the longer the race the better he did, and he is walking fast and straight on the 5th floor. Walk Gabe Walk, don't let Harry Potter (or the convict) catch up with you.