James Pants' Medical Journal of Woes

Post Author:
James Pants

I am writing this now from the confines of a hospital bed on the 5th floor of a Krankenkasse in Porz, Germany.

I woke up early, at 6:45 to be exact, in a small room smelling of vitamins. I’m in the middle bed, separated from two other elderly patients by a small table containing our medications and bed controls. I arrived here several days earlier on dubious reasons. For the past month, I have I experienced sudden, alarming soreness in my bones, mostly in the knees, feet, wrists, and elbows. The pain was so terrible one night after a gig in Vienna, that I didn’t’ think I was going to make it until morning sausages. I was waking up each night, drenched in a feverish, cold sweat. My right ankle had swelled to the point of barely being able to fit in a shoe. Visions swirled in my mind of playing gigs equipped handicap elevators, amputations, and dengue fever. I had already created several career backups; one involving some kind of art-house theater projectionist gig, and another whittling small animal knick-knacks for tourists in Montana. That is, if my wrists didn’t give out first.

So here I am. Rheumatoid Arthritis is the most likely candidate, I’m told, but I’m still waiting on a diagnosis.

The room is stifling hot, and I’m absurdly tired. I stayed up a wee bit too late watching Troll Hunter on my laptop, then couldn’t fall asleep due to the apnea of my elderly neighboring patients. Their groans, wails, snores, and chomping noises sounded quite similar to the Raglefant in the movie. I tried turning on the light in the room at some point in the night, but to my dismay, they did not turn into limestone statues. During the day, the two men rarely leave the room, and mostly just sit staring outside or at the TV, which is blaring German dubs of Two and A Half Men. The mood is tense and awkward at best. I try to smile, but am met with grim scowls. These men are in far worse shape than I am, and they know it. I can tell they do not find me humorous.

The food at the hospital is as bad as in the movies. Breakfast usually consists of several pieces of cold white bread accompanied by butter, a slice of cheese, and some sour coffee. Lunch is fish fingers. Dinner is more white bread, cheese, bologna, and a pineapple carrot salad. Yesterday my wife brought me cheeseburgers on the sly.

I’ve received several tests while I’ve been here – an X-Ray, some blood work, an ultrasound, and an EKG. I do not know the results of any of these, as they are in German. No one has told me when I may leave – and I get the feeling it might be a while.

Despite the hardships, I can’t complain too much about German healthcare. It’s virtually free. I pay 10 euros per day for the hospital treatment. I would be bankrupt by now if I was still in the US. One of the more interesting observations though, is the lack of sanitary precautions here so common to the States. Urine samples are collected it what look like old yogurt containers. There are no lids, and the nurses put them on the same cart as the food rations. There are no biohazard waste-bins, you just throw away your injection gauze in the same trashcan that you put your pistachio shells in. No one wears gloves, it seems like most of the employees smoke profusely, and the receptionist has a green mohawk. You can buy beer in the cafeteria. Strangely, however, their morbidity rates are lower than the US. Go figure.

There are also worse locations to be hospitalized in. Mark Pritchard told me the other week about the time he almost died in Moscow in the early 90s after contracting salmonella off some bad Russian food. He spent three weeks in a Soviet ward under intense, internment-camp-like conditions. Cold borscht and the whole bit.

Anyways, one of my neighbors just got discharged. Another man has already moved in. He’s younger, and can speak a little English. He works for a PR company, and has visited Las Vegas. He has a freshly operated foot bandaged up. I asked him what happened and he simply said, “Rheumatoid Arthritis is a pisser.”


I received my diagnosis today and was discharged. I am now a free man. I do NOT have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Instead, I have a strange disease called Sarcoidosis in which my chest lymph nodes become infected and harden. Not pretty, but the survival rate is good. In fact, it usually clears up by itself unless it spreads to the lungs or heart (which is how Bernie Mac passed away). I have to revisit the hospital again in 3 months for some more tests. Will keep you posted…