The Sickness Club

(Or why hospitals are horrible ideas)

Think about the concept of a hospital. It’s an ass-backwards idea when you get right down to it. Bringing sick people into an enclosed building with a bunch of other sick people in order to cure them of their sickness? That’s the polar opposite of how we’ve treated the diseased for most of recorded human history. Isolation used to be the norm, the main idea, one which makes oh so much more sense than its now normalized opposite, being to keep sickness away from well people and to keep sick people away from sick people of a different type so they won’t cross-sickenize each other. That makes sense. House calls make sense. Every city with more than 10,000 people having its own celebrated illnessatorium where we pay the collectors of infirmity outrageous sums of money, hope our daughters marry one of them and, on top of that, pay these sadistic affliction hoarders thousands of dollars for the honor of being poked and prodded by them makes much less sense.

a member of a sickness club

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of wrongitude that IS our modern health system. What’s baffling is that we really have made some amazing scientific strides in medicine and yet we haven’t figured out that hospitals are stupid. We’ve made progress in medical side of illness, while going backwards on the human side. We’ve cured polio, tuberculosis, and male pattern baldness. We’ve created Band-Aids with Hello Kitty pictures on them. We’ve allowed our doctors to ignore borders. We can now easily prevent children from catching measles and rubella. We’ve mapped the human genome. We’ve shared research across the globe and are well on the way to curing the dominant plagues of our time (provided we allow drug companies to bilk us out of millions of dollars first).

a group of sickness club members

And yet we still throw all the sick people into one building. We paint the walls white to fool people into thinking that it’s a perfectly sane idea to gather sick people together in the same place. We collectively fool ourselves into thinking that diseases could never figure out how to pass through cotton tarps.

Some hospitals have grown to the size of small liberal arts colleges. They’re so big that they need old lady docents to give mini-tours and guide us around the confusing labyrinth of segregated disease parks…not the happiest places on earth. They’re so big that they justify having glass-windowed walkways in the sky connecting various wings, so the sadists who prefer to torture our kidneys can have space enough to not have to see the sadists who prefer to torture our brains. They’re basically their own little towns: with cafeterias, parking lots, cops, elevators, lounges, TV rooms, exercise facilities, and Laundromats. In my local hospital there are people who aren’t sick and who aren’t visiting sick relatives actually coming to the hospital cafeteria for lunch. The food is that good and the other options are that bad. They hired really good chefs. At some hospitals they have little fast-food stands that serve Chick Fil-A or Subway, often without a trace of irony. I’ve heard they’re considering adding a moving sidewalk from Subway directly to the ICU. Hospitals are so big that they justify having their own government, with a president, and his army of financial advisors telling him how he can get away with passing local bond issues to get you to pay for his yacht with your taxes even if you’re not sick. They’re so big that they have to build the elevators to go not only above ground, but ten miles below ground, to accommodate the cavernous parking garages for all of the people who want to visit Sickney Land.

And the saddest place on Earth is even more expensive than the happiest place, if you can believe it. You either have to buy insurance before you even enter the door or go into debt. There’s no third option. You have to pay to park. You’re in the middle of having a heart attack and you have to take a ticket and then PAY to park your car before you can even get inside and then pay somebody to perform both necessary and unnecessary tests on you, because the sickness whisperers are terrified of being sued so they’ve increased their prices yet again, and all this is before they’ll deign to attempt to save your life in between rounds of golf.

I admit I’ve got an anti-medical bias. My father before me had the same opinion, and he wound up working for a hospital, a really good one. So, it’s family tradition to distrust doctors. The Craig family crest is a guy in a white lab coat with a stethoscope around his neck handing a piece of paper the size of a Volvo to an angry guy with gauze wrapped around his head and a shocked and angry expression coming out of his blood-dripping mouth. It’s one of the few family crests with dialogue bubbles. The doctor’s reads “Will that be cash or credit?” and the sick guy’s is a string of expletives where most of the letters have been replaced with $!@#E$!*& symbols. It’s an heirloom, so my ancestors wanted some degree of class. They failed in that quest, but they tried. So, by being skeptical of medical professionals I’m not just ranting. I’m desperately trying to make my father proud.