Anyone who has faced a prolonged hospital stay is familiar with the sensation of having tubes shoved into every orifice. Blood transfusions, catheters, IVs, colostomy bags and feeding tubes all work together to keep you alive and looking like some kind of science-fiction experiment. Unfortunately, it's a little-known fact that connecting all these tubes to their corresponding body holes is kind of like hooking up a surround-sound system to a new TV, only if all of the wires were the same color and shape, and nothing was labeled.
"Wait is this the one for air or gravy?"
Oh, and hooking up the wrong wire to the wrong port can kill a sick person.
For convenience, hospital tubes are almost all one-size-fits-all, whether it's delivering much-needed blood into your veins or injecting delicious gruel into your face. But mix them up, and you have serious problems, as one woman tragically discovered when she died from having liquid chicken pumped into her bloodstream, which has been described as like "pouring concrete down a drain."
Other tube-related mistakes that were not given such colorful analogies include drowning caused by IV drips crossed with oxygen tubes, embolisms caused by air tubes connected to the vein and spinal anesthetic injected in places where you really don't want spinal anesthetic. Wait, isn't anyone labeling these things?
There you go, hospitals. No need to thank us.
It's estimated that 16 percent of all hospital patients experience tube mix-ups, which result in hundreds of deaths each year. Hospitals blame the manufacturers, manufacturers blame the FDA, and the FDA just tells everyone to shut the fuck up and use a marker or something.
If you somehow manage to survive rogue magnets and spontaneous fireballs, it's disconcerting to think that sometime during your hospital stay, you might just go insane for no reason. Highly documented and yet utterly inexplicable, "hospital delirium" is a rapidly growing phenomenon that seems best suited to the plot of some kind of apocalypse movie.
All this zombie nonsense is going to lead to an awesome wave of dementia in about 60 years.
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Justin Kaplan is one of the people who experienced hospital delirium firsthand. While hospitalized for pneumonia in 2009, Kaplan suddenly started, for absolutely no reason, to visualize thousands of tiny, despotic alien monsters trying to take over the hospital by converting people into zombies. Shit, we're sure Mr. Kaplan has written some really neat stuff over the years, but if we were judging the awards, we'd give him another Pulitzer.
... goes to "Army of Tiny Alien Zombie Masters"!
Later, while trying to attack the aliens' "television production studio," Kaplan struck the nurse, threatened to kill his wife, fell off the bed and kept sliding across the floor on his own blood, almost dying in the process. These hallucinations lasted for a couple of hours.
According to Dr. Manuel N. Pacheco, hospital delirium tantrums are quite common, to the amount of almost one a day, at the Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Mass. They mostly affect older people, and are often confused for good old-fashioned elderly crazy. But being crazy doesn't usually kill you -- not so with hospital delirium.
Poor dear, she's trying to buy tampons and a .45 ACP with three food stamps and a button.
Take Ethel Reynolds, who was admitted to a Virginia hospital for a routine procedure to have fluid drained from her feet but wound up hospitalized for weeks after she came down with a chronic case of batshit. A nurse later recounted, "We got her death certificate, and the No. 1 cause of death was delirium. I was just blown away. As a nurse, I was expecting a quote-unquote medical reason: kidneys, heart, lung, an organ that I could understand had failed, and it wasn't. It was delirium."
There are some known triggers of these bursts of insanity, like old age, infections, pneumonia or certain medications, but the underlying cause is still unknown. We suppose it's because doctors don't want to accept the "Hospitals are really portals to hell" theory.
But it explains EVERYTHING!
Getting an infection at the hospital is like spontaneously combusting at the fire department -- if it's going to happen anywhere, that's the safest place, right? Oh, how we envy your naivete.
We've already explained how the overabundance of antibiotics actually creates horrifying, medication-proof superdiseases. But we didn't tell you the best part: What's the one place in your city where a shitload of medication and a shitload of diseases come together to mingle? That's right -- your hospital is kind of like a factory for turning microbes into Highlanders. And there can be only one.
And it probably isn't you.
Due to the universe's love for irony, hospitals are the ideal breeding ground for these superbugs, specifically because of how clean they try to be. When you rigorously disinfect stuff, you're killing all but the very strongest of bacteria. And while you might think that killing 99 percent of the germs in your hospital is just short of ideal, think again -- not only have you given that superbug more room to breathe, but you've just disposed of all its enemies.
As a result, up to 100,000 people a year are killed by antibiotic-proof diseases that they picked up in hospitals. This basically makes every hospital a potential local chapter of the germ League of Evil. The resistant Acinetobacter baumannii, for example, has a mortality rate close to 80 percent.
Above: One Bad Dude.
Part of the problem is in how hospitals perform disinfections. By using antimicrobial wipes on more than one surface, cleaning staff give superbugs a free ride to other parts of the hospital, where, like most hitchhikers, they immediately start killing people. The good news is that by simply using one disinfecting wipe on one surface, hospitals can easily avoid spreading the superbugs. It would of course bite into their budgets, but we're sure our health care system would never put money above patient safety.
God, we just have so many of these pictures.
Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a freelance online journalist and Japanese-English-Polish translator. Contact him at email@example.com
For more ways the world absolutely wants you dead, check out 5 Bizarre Ways the Weather Can Kill You Without Warning. Or discover what you could achieve with your lifeless meatsack, in The 6 Greatest Things Accomplished by Dead Bodies.
And stop by Linkstorm to sign our "Get John Cheese a Medical License" petition.
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