“Excuse Me, Where Do You Keep Your Coma Patients?”

Awhile back I wrote a post about purposely getting arrested so I could see the inside of a police station and accurately portray it in my novel. Click here for that post.

Don’t worry, this isn’t an update about how I got myself arrested and Hubby-pants had to bail me out so I could continue my dream of becoming an author. I did however visit the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) because — you guessed it– I needed to know what the inside looked like in order to accurately portray it in my novel. How much all of these minor, but accurate, portrayals mean to the readers I’ll never know. Still, I don’t want to offend the staff of the ICU by stating their department is on the 8th floor when it’s really on the 12th floor. People have gotten hate mail for lesser transgressions, I’m sure.

So Hubby-pants and I headed to HUP yesterday among our other errands. Why did Hubby-pants accompany me, you ask? Two reasons. 1. He’s a much better city driver. I would have gotten into a fender bender, freaked out to the cops on the scene, let the words “serial killer” slip as I tried to explain where I was going,  and gotten myself arrested. (But then, at least I would’ve seen the inside of the police station, so I guess all would not have been lost.) 2. Because he is level-headed and even on the walk from the car to the hospital he said to me “You might want to not say words like ‘murder’ and ‘serial killer’ while you’re talking to them in there.” Very useful advice.

We entered HUP and there was a young woman security officer sitting behind a narrow little podium of a desk. I gave her my spiel:

ME: “Hi! I’m writing a novel and a scene takes place in this hospital, do you mind if I ask you a few quick questions?”

(She stared blankly at us for a few seconds then agreed to answer the questions.)

ME: “Do you have a separate department for anesthesiology?”

(She stared blankly at us some more and then admitted she had no idea.)

ME: “Okay, what floor are the coma patients on?”

She said she didn’t know because they would be in the main hospital across the street. Hmm, I thought we were in the main hospital. There was a gift shop and everything. Oh well, across the street we went.

There we found a delightful woman who seemed excited to help me with all of my strange questions…but she was on her way to lunch (which was probably why she was so damn happy in the first place). The remaining woman was not quite as delightful. Not at all delightful, really, although I can’t say how she would have been if we caught her about to clock out for lunch. Again, I go over my spiel:

ME: “Hi! I’m writing a novel and a scene takes place in this hospital, do you mind if I ask you a few quick questions?”

(I don’t even remember her exact response because she was so positively evil, but I do remember her hesitantly agreeing.)

ME: “Do you have a separate department for anesthesiology?”

LADY: “No, there’s no department for anesthesiology.”

(She could have been more forthcoming there, but at this point I didn’t want to pry with extra questions, I just wanted to get my initial questions answered and get out of there. But I am to assume that the anesthesiologists just wander the halls looking for people to “put under,” right?)

ME: “Where do you keep your coma patients?

LADY: “They’re everywhere.”

(Everywhere? I wanted to ask if they could be found in storage closets and out-of-order elevators and if I found one would I win a prize like the all-brown bag of M&M’s, but I contained myself and managed to get her to elaborate)

ME: “Ok, so they’re in the ICU department, or…?

LADY: “We have eight ICU’s.”

ME: “Okay then, this is a big ass hospital. Last question, what kind of pharmacy do you have within the hospital? Not for people leaving but for the doctors to access for their patients, is it a dispensary, or a person the doctors go to, or…how does that work?”

LADY: “They go from floor to floor.”

ME: “Ok, so there’s pharmacist with a cart that goes to each floor and delivers whatever is needed?”

LADY: “Yes.”

(Now that I asked about powerful narcotics, the conversation took a slight tumble downhill.)

LADY: “Now, where are you from?”

(There was obvious eye-narrowing and some neck movement here. Yikes!)

ME: “I’m…from…nowhere…?”

(Hubby-pants jumped in here as I’m sure he sensed a freak-out in my future.)

HP: “We’re from Collingswood. New Jersey. She’s writing a book. You want her business card so you can follow her blog and buy her book when it gets published?”

(I meekly looked up at him…)

ME: “I left the business cards in the car.”

And then we hastily thanked the mean lady and left the hospital lobby as quickly as possible. Cheers to research everyone! *clinks glass*

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11 thoughts on ““Excuse Me, Where Do You Keep Your Coma Patients?”

  1. I love your dedication to your work!

    Also if you do need to know about people in comas and drugs and stuff like that and you’re afraid of the hospital lady now, you could join the crimescenewriter group at yahoo. The group includes cops & doctors and their whole purpose in life is to answer crazy-ass writer questions so that writers don’t have to get themselves arrested or annoy cranky hospital ladies while doing their research. 🙂

  2. Clever girl. Actually, an author told me that accuracy is very important to the reader who is familiar with the setting you are writing about. The same author mentioned loss of a regular reader when the author’s description of the Washington, DC Beltway included a non-existent exit. On my blog, in the archives, there is a post that talks about how a reader looked up a location mentioned in a book on Google Earth. The reader wanted to see if the restaurants were real and wanted to check out other street level details described in the story.

    Keep up the good work — and find another NICE lady to talk to. Next time ask for the hospital social worker or patient advocate. They are more accustomed to answering questions for consumers.

  3. I am seriously impressed. You get some kind of research award for that one. I wonder if mean lady became a follower?

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