Monday, April 12, 2010

I Don't Want to Die (In the Hospital)

If you attended our talk at the Academy meeting, you will recognize this song. I Don't Want to Die (In the Hospital) by Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band was released in 2008 on his album Conor Oberst. I think it's a fun listen in general and especially for anyone in the hospice and palliative care field. I thought it deserved its own post. Enjoy!



The first thing that strikes me about this song is the upbeat music for such a serious topic. It's not the tone you would expect for talking about how one would like to die. With the same lyrics but different music, it could be a very different song. In an interview with Oberst, he talks about what he was thinking when he wrote this song.

"I think it has a sort of comedic aspect to it. The juxtaposition of the music and what's being sung about I suppose. ... I just think of sort of a stubborn old cowboy man that just wants to go lay in the grass and, you know, die out by the tree or something. "

The comical lyrics make me realize how I take the hospital experience for granted. Horrible gowns, bad TV, small sterile rooms, unable to do the things you enjoy most. Put that way, probably not the setting I would choose to spend my last days in. To some, this would be like a prison.

As the song gets closer to the end, the singer begins to sound more desperate. At one point he changes "I don't want to die in the hospital" to "I don't want to die". His voice sounds a bit crazed at times. Is there some terminal delirium there at the end?

I was just listening to this song again as I write this post and I had a moment. I was remembering several experiences of confused patients in the hospital who just kept getting up trying to leave. (I have even had an experience where the patient was wanting to find his shoes so he could take off.) They just keep say "Help me get up. I've gotta go" over and over. Couldn't say where they wanted to go but just wanted to get out of the hospital. The repetitive lyrics of the song remind me of that. Maybe I should have listened more closely to what they were telling me.

Below are the lyrics to I Don't Want to Die (In the Hospital).

I don’t wanna die in the hospital
No I don’t wanna die in the hospital
No I don’t wanna die in the hospital
You gotta take me back outside

I don’t wanna hear all those factory sounds
Looking like the girl in the sleeping gown
I don’t wanna die in the hospital
You gotta take me back outside

Can you make a sound to distract the nurse
Before I take a ride in that long black hearse
I don’t wanna die in the hospital
You gotta take me back outside

Help me get my boots on
Help me get my boots on
Help me get my boots back on

Help me get my boots on
Help me get my boots on
Help me get my boots back on

I gotta go, go, go
Cause I don’t have long

Yeah I don’t give a damn what those doctors say
I don’t wanna spend another lonesome day
I don’t wanna die in the hospital
You gotta take me back outside

They don’t let you smoke and you can’t get drunk
All there is to watch are these soap operas
I don’t wanna die in the hospital
You gotta take me back outside

Can you get this tube out of my arm
Morphine in my blood like a slow sad song
I don’t wanna die in the hospital
You gotta take me back outside

Help me get my boots on
Help me get my boots on
Help me get my boots back on

Help me get my boots on
Help me get my boots on
Help me get my boots back on

I gotta go go go
Cos I don’t have long

Is there still a world at my windowsill
All there ever was I remember still
I don’t wanna die in the hospital
You gotta take me back outside

Don’t know when it’s day or when its night
All I ever see are florescent lights
I’m not gonna die in this hospital
You gotta take me back outside

They give me all these flowers & big balloons
But I’m not gonna stay in this little room
I’m not gonna die in the hospital
You gotta take me back outside

Are the stars still in the sky
Is that fat moon on the rise
Feel the earth against my feet
As the cold wind calls for me

I ain’t gonna die in the hospital
No I ain’t gonna die in the hospital
No I ain’t gonna die in the hospital
You gotta take me back outside

I ain’t gonna die in the hospital
No I ain’t gonna die in the hospital
No I ain’t gonna die in the hospital
You gotta take me back outside

6 Responses to “I Don't Want to Die (In the Hospital)”

Paula Jacunski said...
April 13, 2010 at 11:04 AM

I agree, most of us don't want to die in the hospital, though I have met patients who do, for various reasons. Personally, your comment about the horrible gowns and small sterile rooms reminded me of my own experience. As a nurse working in a hospital, I've always said if I have to be here as a patient I'll never be wearing one of those. When it came to be my time to be there, due to a twisted colon, that was the last thing I cared about. The pain was so intense that I cared about relief and resolution of the problem, and that my caregivers were kind and competent. The little stuff is indeed little stuff, and it falls away in the face of bigger issues.


Mathilda Taylor Teasdale said...
April 17, 2010 at 5:44 AM

I think this song is marvelous. I'm personally surprised that I haven't heard it before. I agree 110 percent! Having witnessed many deaths, and having noted many medical interventions that prolong life unnecessarily, I can say with heartfelt passion that no one should die in a hospital if it is against their wishes!

I invite anyone who reads this to check out my blog, Hospice in America. I address stress and burnout in caring professionals, and welcome your comments.


Christian Sinclair, MD said...
April 21, 2010 at 2:01 PM

Mathilda,

What is your blog address. Can't find it in Google.

Thanks both for your comments.


Debra Shafer ANP-C said...
April 29, 2010 at 11:20 AM

Christian, Thank you for posting this song! I also agree 110%. I believe Dying in a hospital is quite different than seeking acute care, which is what hospitals are for. When on is dying and in pain, they want comfort in surroundings as well. I have been in hospice/palliative for 10 years, and this song is what I hear again and again from my patients.
Thank you.


Christian Sinclair, MD said...
March 16, 2011 at 11:54 PM

Mathilda,

What is your blog address. Can't find it in Google.

Thanks both for your comments.


Debra Shafer ANP-C said...
March 16, 2011 at 11:54 PM

Christian, Thank you for posting this song! I also agree 110%. I believe Dying in a hospital is quite different than seeking acute care, which is what hospitals are for. When on is dying and in pain, they want comfort in surroundings as well. I have been in hospice/palliative for 10 years, and this song is what I hear again and again from my patients.
Thank you.