Scott Hollifield: When you go there and don't want to be there (Tales from the hospital)

I don’t like to hang out in hospitals.

I know that sentiment isn’t unusual. Hospitals are like airports in that few if any people go there to have a good time. They go for a specific purpose and hope when done they or their loved ones come home without crashing, medically or aeronautically.

My dislike for hospitals in no way diminishes my admiration for people who work at hospitals – or airports for that matter – who have dedicated their lives to helping people who go there and don’t want to be there come home.

I do not remember my first visit to a hospital, which coincided with my first day on the planet. But I imagine I thought, “What in the Sam Hill is this place?” I didn’t cuss as fluently back then.

“I want to go back where I was or at least somewhere there isn’t a guy in a mask smacking me on the backside.”

I don’t know if doctors really smack babies on the backside but they do on TV and in the movies. That’s where I picked up most of my medical knowledge since, as previously stated, I don’t like to hang out in hospitals.

The next visit was just a few years later when I was “doing poorly.” For some reason, I wasn’t eating and not gaining the weight a little kid was supposed to gain. In the medical terms of that era I was “doing poorly,” so poorly the doctor said, “Since Vicks VapoRub and baby aspirin can’t fix him, I’m stumped. Put him in the hospital.”

The doctors there could not figure out what was wrong, but I did make a quick and miraculous recovery, one probably documented in the medical journals of the time, but I still to this day recoil at the smell of Vicks VapoRub and the taste of baby aspirin.

Skip ahead a couple of decades and a few hospital visits later and there I sat in an outpatient surgery waiting room as a loved one had a procedure. A procedure sounds embarrassing, like when someone finally has that extra toe removed, but this was just standard medical stuff.

The waiting room was packed and everyone seemed to know everyone else except for me and they had no problem discussing the intimate details of their loved ones’ procedures as well as other loved ones’ non-medical problems.

“The law came and got Ronnie last night,” said one of the waitees.

The other waitees agreed the law should just leave Ronnie the hell alone. Unfamiliar with Ronnie’s plight, I had no opinion on the matter.

Just the other day, my brothers and I were at the hospital for our dad’s procedure (it was his ticker, not his toe). There were complications and he had to stay longer than anticipated – kind of like a flight delay at the airport -- but, even without the aid of Vicks VapoRub or baby aspirin, the docs pulled him through.

As the nurses prepared him to step down from ICU to another room, he asked, “Now, is this the most critical part of this place?”

“Yes sir, it is,” one nurse replied.

“Yeah, Dad,” I said. “Any more critical and you would be in the basement.”

He thought it was funny but the nurse didn’t seem to care for my bedside manner. I wanted to tell her about my miraculous recovery from “doing poorly” decades ago and how it was probably listed in the medical journals of the time, but I just stood there and wondered if I would ever be as tough and brave as the old man.

Dad is home now. There are a couple more hospital visits in the near future to fix him all the way up but that’s fine with us.

While I may not like to hang out in hospitals, I am thankful for the professionals inside who have dedicated their lives to helping people who go there and don’t want to be there come home to their loved ones.

I bet even Ronnie would agree.

Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, NC and a humor columnist. Contact him at

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