Clinton vs. us: a very painful comparison

September 09, 2004|By KEVIN COWHERD

IF YOU PAID any attention at all to Bill Clinton's recent bypass operation, you know that surgery for a former president is a whole different experience than it is for riff-raff like you and me.

Let's face it: When you're the former Leader of the Free World, you don't worry about where you're having the surgery.

Going in, you know it'll be one of the best hospitals in the country, period. You're not picking a hospital the way the rest of us do: Because your brother-in-law had his gall bladder removed there and he didn't die, so how bad could the place be?

Being a former president also pretty much guarantees that only the very best surgeons will be operating on you.

Look, the hospital isn't going to see William Jefferson Clinton on the surgery schedule and say: "Oh, let's have Jones do this one. Sure, his eyes are going and he's a little rusty, but what the hell. He'll probably do fine."

No, you're getting the top cardiologist, and your anesthesiologist probably wasn't last in his class at med school, either.

(On the other hand, think of the pressure on the lead surgeon who has to cut open a president and fool around with his heart, valves, etc. I mean, you talk about not blowing it!

(Look, you're not operating on the guy who owns the carpet store down the street. This is the former Commander in Chief, my friend. The man who once had his finger on The Button! If things don't turn out well, your career is so over. You'll be bussing tables at Denny's within a week.)

As for the quality of your hospital room, obviously, when you're a former president, they're not going to stick you next to the vending machines or across from the janitor's closet, with the smell of Pine Sol wafting everywhere each time someone opens the door.

No, you'll get the best room in the place. And the view from the window won't be of a Dumpster in the alley behind the Dunkin' Donuts, believe me.

When you're a former president, you also don't have to worry about sharing your hospital room with another patient who's going to keep you up all night with his moaning.

True story: After my last knee surgery, they wheeled me up to my room, and there in the next bed was a guy who was recovering from some kind of operation on the veins in his legs.

OK, I say "recovering." But from the way this guy was carrying on, they must have sewn some razor blades alongside those veins.

Every 30 seconds or so, he'd let out this loud moan, followed by a long, low whistle from his pursed lips.

This went on all night. If I could have gotten out of bed, I would have smothered him with a pillow.

You think Clinton had to put up with that?

Are you kidding? The only person moaning in Clinton's room was probably his book publicist, because the surgery interrupted the prez's book tour and probably cost them a few million in royalties.

On a related matter, when you're a former president, you don't have to lie there in agony when your pain meds wear off.

You don't have to keep hitting that little buzzer until Nurse Ratchet finishes her coffee break and deigns to look in on you and notices the pain is so bad you're biting through your index finger.

You want pain meds, you'll get pain meds. Who's going to say no to a former president?

If the nurse gives you a hard time about this, all you have to do is bark: "Get me some Percocet or I'll call the Secret Service agent in the hallway and he'll shoot you."

Another thing you'll notice, as an average citizen, is that the response from the world at large to your surgery will be a little more, um, restrained than it was to Bill Clinton's.

The day after his surgery, it was reported that Clinton received more than 45,000 get-well messages. Forty-five thousand!

You, on the other hand, will be lucky to get three get-well messages, and one will be from your boss, who will scrawl on the bottom of a 99-cent card from Rite Aid: "When will you be back? Work is piling up!"

And look at all the heavy hitters who called Clinton when he first checked into the hospital: George Bush, Dick Cheney, John Kerry, Spike Lee ...

It was an "A list" of political power-brokers and celebrities.

You know who called me my first day in the hospital? My mom.

And the first thing out of her mouth was: "I gotta make this quick. The Weather Channel says there's a big storm on the way, and I want to get to the store."

Here I'm coming out of a morphine haze, my knee is throbbing, and she's telling me she has to get to the Qwik Mart for bread and milk.

The second person to call me was my brother in Connecticut. And after two minutes, he said: "Listen, I gotta go. The Yankee game's coming on."

You think anybody blew off Clinton like that?

You think anyone said: "Mr. President, how's the ticker? Uh-huh ... is that right? Hey, feel better, guy. I gotta run - we just rented Happy Gilmore."

I don't think so.

Unless it was Hillary.

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