There’s nothing like a week in the hospital and 10 more days of home rehab to reset your compass. This was my very recent experience after a still-unexplained infection appeared suddenly in my left leg and managed to stump my doctors for a few days.

I’m doing fine now, but it was my first institutional encounter with health care in 35 years, and it reminded me a lot of my last, at age 15 for a bout of pneumonia. I’m sure the treatment and machines and drugs are better now than they were in the 1970s, but the rest was rote, right down to the stunningly bad food. I interacted with a dozen nurses and at least five doctors whose names are lost to me along with whatever they told me about my condition. I was asked to recite my name and date of birth each time I was given a drug, which is more tedious than you think when you’re on seven medications. I filled out forms and releases for admission, copayments, insurance and aftercare, reprinting my name, address, medical details and next of kin again and again. I signed other forms in which all the information had been mysteriously prepopulated.

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