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If You Think Your First Hospital Stay Was Memorable...
by James L. Weaver

When I was a High School sophomore in Logan, West Virginia, another Phys. Ed. student fell on the back of my foot during a class basketball game; fracturing my ankle in a couple of places.

Fast forward four hours- Because my family was poor, (and this was the first year we had not taken out health insurance at school), I was put in a 8-bed ward to "rest" until a leg cast could be applied.

Directly across from me, was another young boy who was already there when I arrived, and had apparently been in some sort of accident resulting in his having a row of black stitches completely across his forehead from ear-to-ear. My guess, was a car accident, but we never communicated  beyond a smile. 

That evening, after my first taste of hospital food, two men in suits and ties, along with a teenage boy visited the boy across from me. One of the men was carrying a small box under his arm, which he sat on the patient's over-the-bed table. I said to myself: "So visitors are allowed to bring in food...Alright!"


After greetings and a few laughs were exchanged, one of the men smiled at those of us who watched as he pulled the privacy curtain around the kid's bed; then turned on the table lamp; transforming the group into dark silhouettes on the curtain. 

Even I knew it was impolite to eat in front of others, so I smiled, and  continued my preoccupation with telling my Mother about importing food.

Moments later, I heard and watched all four members reciting what  sounded to be grace, or a blessing; common practice throughout the South.

Then, as I stared at the curtain in disbelief, one of the "shadows" reached into the paper bag and seconds later, produced a live snake coiled around his wrist and arm; prompting the others to "testify", before passing the snake among themselves; including the patient.

More scary than bizarre  to me, was how uneventful this appeared  to be by those patients near me, which sent my young mind into panic mode:

Am I in some sort of special ward for religious zealots, who's visitors are going to bring them snakes too? Is someone going to leave a poisonous snake behind; to "protect" us patients through the night?  

When my mother and relatives finally arrived, the first words out of my mouth, were that somehow, some way, they had to get me transferred; even if it meant back out in the hall on the gurney I was admitted on.  


I believe the next time I actually slept, was the following night, and probably not very much, because I was to be discharged the next morning, and was more than ready to check out of this place!

Looking back, that entire event was a meaningful epiphany: As I lay there helpless to move, I realized that if I stayed in West Virginia after I graduated, I would most likely end up working as a laborer in the coal mines, and possibly making repeat appearances at this hospital, since injuries are a common mining hazard. Or, I could join the military upon graduation, which I did.