Hospital Bed Boogie

Published 9:40 am Thursday, March 5, 2020

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By Gene Gallelli

A bed by any other name is still a bed; at least I used to think so.

On board the USS Spiegel Grove, LSD-32, my “bed” was a stretched piece of canvas covered with a mattress that on better days was one inch thick. I spent more time making my bed to pass inspection than I did sleeping in it.

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In contrast, my bed at home is a bit more complicated: it’s a rectangular thing comprised of a thick mattress atop a box spring resting on the floor or elevated by the ubiquitous bed frame. But, unlike my at-sea canvas slab, I expect it to be soft, comfortable, steady and conducive to sleep.

Enter the Hospital Bed, a lurking, whirring, clandestine robot disguised in linen to look like a bed.

Imagine waking from a half sleep – “half” is as good as it gets in the hospital – to find your nose is almost touching the ceiling light fixture, making you wonder if you’re going to be asked by an orderly to change the light bulb.

The seemingly endless levels of high and low are designed for receiving shots, vital signs, meals and pills. Of course, the tallness or shortness of nurses, nurses’ assistants and myriad other specialized staff enters into the bed’s high-low formula.

Perhaps, the greatest challenge is trying to get comfortable enough on the bed’s linen facade to actually sleep. Patients wiggle, squirm, grunt and groan hoping that Mister Sandman might honor them with a visit. Unfortunately, Mister Hospital Bed whirs, wiggles and twists until you are back to the original uncomfortable position you tried to escape.

When it comes to bells and whistles, late-model SUVs are no match for the hospital bed: It talks, turns on the lights, calls the nurses and I wouldn’t be surprised if it had turn signals for wheeling from one test site to another along the hospital highway.

Of course, your “suite” has a TV, situated high in the right-hand corner of the room that can be “controlled” by a hand-held device that doubles as a speaker. Problem is, the magic bed is facing the front wall requiring skilled contortionist moves and dexterity to see the TV screen and hold the “speaker” under the chin for any discernible audio.

Obviously, most of us prefer our familiar, rectangular, and cozy home beds to drift off into the many worlds provided by our dreams, while being confined to the nuances of a motorized monster is nothing to wish for.

Actually, my aforementioned silly, satirical, exaggerations are in no way the absolute truth; far from it. Day and night, working around atomic beds, with little rest, but with remarkable skills, nurses defy endless obstacles to tackle pain with passion, sorrow with sweetness and the seemingly impossible with faith, hope and passion.

They are my heroes!

Gene Gallelli was Associate Superintendent of the Dare County Schools for eight years. He received his Doctor of Education degree from East Carolina University, where he taught and supervised students studying to become school administrators.



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