Five Things I Discovered about Humor
While Being in the Hospital, Being in Pain,
and Being in Bed


by Allen Klein

Since I was in the hospital on New Year's Eve, I tried to joke with some of the staff related to that celebratory night. When they changed my IV bags, I would ask them if that was the one with the champagne. A few of the staff would chuckle but others would not. I realized that some of the staff might consider laughing with a patient unprofessional, especially if they were from other countries where this might be the case. They were there to do their job and they took that seriously.

I realized that I too could not laugh at times either. When the pain was intense it was all encompassing. It totally took over to the exclusion of everything else. And even when the pain wasn't as intense and when I was in a drug-filled state, struggling to deal with one small thing at time, any humorous comment from someone else threw me off track and I had to start my thought processes all over again.
For example, when my wonderful and caring husband David, was making light of something I said, it threw me into a crying yelling tirade. Not because I didn't appreciate his caregiving or his humor, but with my lightheadedness from the drugs, and the pain from my disease, I could not handle one more thing at that moment, even it might have lightened up the situation.

If I looked for it, I saw that there could be humor between the bouts of pain. When my stomach was distended making me appear pregnant, I told people that I was going to name the baby after the hospital: Davies Sutter. From then on, the hospital doctor, who was fabulous and got my sense of humor, would joke with me on our daily encounters about whether the baby was born yet.
Once the pain started to recede the humorous thinking started to return. One of the signs that the medicine was taking effect and the colon was healing is that the bowels, which were blocked for five days, start to open up again. Everything comes rushing out, and I mean everything! In fact, I think I saw things that I misplaced around the house months ago.

People are going to repeatedly ask you how you are feeling. If you want to tell them about all your aches and pains, fine go right head. But I found it too draining. Instead, I came up with a few catchphrases that I could use over and over again with various people. My favorite was the more positive, "I'm better than yesterday but not as good as tomorrow."

A few other non-humorous things I learned from this experience.

First is that I am not infallible. I have been fortunate to live a long and happy life. Mostly doing the work I want to do and hopefully bringing joy to others. I would like to do that as long as I can but this experience, along with a recent heart arrhythmia made me realize that I am not going to live forever. Of course, I knew that intellectually but now I know it on a much deeper level. (And, considering my recent medical condition, this was truly on a "gut' level.)

Second is that pain is good. We tend to push it away, to avoid it. But without pain we would not know that something is wrong. It is a cry for help that needs to be heeded.
Finally, the third is that humor is complicated. It is there sometimes but not at others. It is there for some people but not for others. Some people will get it, some won't. But it is always there, no matter what.


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