Al Cronkrite


In January of this year I had the misfortune of spending time in one of our local hospitals. .

I am in good health for an 86 year old man.  I keep my weight down, exercise, eat sparingly and work at staying healthy.  I do smoke one pipe of tobacco almost every day but that too is restrained.

Having gained a few pounds I went on my usual weight reduction diet of no sugar, no flour.  This diet has served me well by allowing a quick 2 to 5 pound weight reduction.  This time instead of losing weight I continued to gain weight.  My ankles which had always swelled slightly stayed swelled and did not go down in the morning.

I consulted the internet and found that my unusual weight gain could be a result of a serious condition and should be addressed without delay.

My wife and I went to the Emergency Room at about noon on Sunday.  Arriving at the hospital we were confronted with the welcoming committee which records your address, phone number, and insurance information while they take your blood pressure and ask questions about your physical condition. Sometime later we were called into a vestibule where more paperwork was signed and questions answered.

All this took about an hour.  We returned to the anteroom where we waited and waited and waited, sometimes impatiently, for about 7 hours before, with the help of a kind orderly, we were ushered into a small cubicle which was located in the midst of several similar cubicles all divided by cloth partitions.  The nurse inserted the inevitable needle into a vein in my arm and after waiting for another hour a doctor or medical assistant (hard to tell which) came and ordered a chest x-ray.

Lots of activity was evident in the cubicles on either side of ours.  On one side a sophisticated lady of 90 was being treated for fluid retention because someone had forgotten to provide her water pills.  On the other side a man with diarrhea was being helped on and off a portable toilet; putrid odors waft into our cubicle.  He was severely ill and waiting for a room.

They inserted some medications into the vein in my arm, provided a portable urinal and soon I was urinating profusely.  Several quarts of fluid were expelled.  Following these procedures the medical person returned and told us that I had congestive heart failure, fluid in my lungs, and pneumonia.    Also, my heart beat was irregular, I had a leaky valve, and Atrial fibrillation.  They were admitting me to the hospital but there would be a wait for a room.

Being admitted to a hospital is similar to being admitted to a prison.  Like the prison inmate, the hospital patient losses control of his or her life.  The patient gives up all clothing and belongings and is given hospital garb (an ungainly and uncomfortable gown).  The incarceration is in the hands of doctors whose directions are carried out by nurses who have little or no input.  Without consultation the patient is subjected to procedures that are often surprises; a trip for another x-ray, another blood sample, a new medication.  It is useless to complain to the nurses.  They are carrying out orders from doctors that the patient has never met.  Input from the patient is limited; most decisions are arbitrary orders from unknown sources.

Nurses come and go. Another vein was opened in my right arm (which was never used), pills were provided, liquid intake and output was monitored and blood samples were taken every few hours, morning and night.  Blood thinners were administered intravenously.  The object of the hospitalization was to bring the level of thinners in my blood to delay clotting time.

I quickly expressed my desire to be released and return home but since the orders were coming from a source above my station my requests were ignored.  No explanation was given.

Modern hospital beds are an engineering miracle.  They adjust up and down and the upper portion can be raised and lowered from flat to a 45 degree angle as needed.  A scale in the bed records the net weight of the patient.

Sleeping in the medical prison is a unique experience.  My darling wife (bless her heart) spent the entire first night trying to sleep in a reclining chair that was too close to the wall and would not recline properly.  We slept intermittently and conversed occasionally.  Having her with me was a blessing.

With all of their technical advancements hospital beds are still terribly uncomfortable.  They are designed for the benefit of the hospital rather than the comfort of the patient.  Blood samples are taken every few hours day and night adding to the discomfort.

The vein connection in my left arm was hooked up to a bottle of blood thinner that was hanging from a 5 foot tall metal rack that was on wheels.  There was no bathroom in the room a portable urinal was provided.  For additional needs there was a bathroom down the hall that I could use while wheeling my constant companion, the intravenous bottle of fluid hanging on the metal tree.

Lying in a hospital bed debilitates physical strength.  Following the first traumatic night I began hauling the metal tree around the halls to get exercise.

The nurses were very kind and helpful.  They told me that the objective was to get my PT- INR (Prothrombin Time and International Normalized Ratio) to a range between 2 and 3.  The intravenous connection and pills were being used to accomplish this.  Though they were giving me large doses of Coumadin my blood readings refused to go up.  Finally, after 5 days they tested above 2 and I was released.

During my stay in the medical prison my heart doctor visited my room two times.  Each visit was perfunctory, short, and of no benefit to me.  These visits result in a billing and quicker visits increase the money the doctor accumulates; they provide a clear example of the primary interest of contemporary doctors.

The adjustment needed to accommodate two new daily pills and a diet that is entirely foreign is almost catastrophic.  My 86 year old body seems to have made adequate alterations, my INR levels have stabilized, and I am back to my regular routine.

Finding salt free or low salt foods is a challenge and since my wife is Diabetic we are constantly reading labels to see if we can eat the food in the package – most of them I cannot eat.  Nevertheless, we have found some restaurants that will accommodate a salt free diet and I have modified my diet to stay within the bounds.  The diabetic diet is a little easier and there are more foods available.

A few weeks after my release from the hospital we received a telephone call that my 62 year old Cerebral Palsied daughter, who lives independently in an apartment in Connecticut, was in the intensive care unit on a ventilator in a hospital up there.  We were making ready to travel from our home in Florida when they told us she was sedated and unable to communicate.  We then decided to wait until that condition changed.  As I post the article, two weeks have gone by with very little change. She had expressed a wish to be kept alive as long as her brain was active; being allowed to die only when brain dead.

Since my daughter’s hospitalization, we have heard of several cases where patients have been on ventilators for more than a month.  We do not know how long this will go on.   Once life support is begun the patient is in the hands of the medical wardens being unable to communicate

It is common practice in many hospitals to allow young doctors to do resident work.  My daughter is being treated by a team of doctors.  I have talked with a couple of young female doctors who are residents and who are informed on her condition.  A number of people depend on me for information.  She has a circle of friends and her minister and the church she attends are praying for progress.

I pray several times a day for her.

As for me:  I am trying to regain my sense of well-being and settle into the new routine.  I have lost about 15 pounds and feel quite well.  We worship a wonderful God Who cares for us and knows us better than we know ourselves.  He and His people will triumph!



  1. AL, I will remember your daughter when speaking to our great YHVH; you and you wife as well.
    I can identify with your recent prison stay 🙂 most find it acceptable; makes one wonder what they might have done to the brain while there under there watch.


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