‘Resting comfortably,’ nothing to see here

Football coach Bobby Petrino. (AP, Gareth Patterson)

Warming up by the fireplace. Now that is comfortable. Naps in the hammock. Mmmm, comfortable. You know what doesn’t sound so comfortable? Four broken ribs and a cracked neck vertebra. Those were former Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino’s injuries after crashing his motorcycle in April. Yet, the school’s athletic director described him as “resting comfortably” just a day after the crash.

Ski champion Lindsey Vonn was “resting comfortably” (her spokesman told reporters) after spending the night in the hospital with intestinal pain recently. Vonn herself wrote in a Denver Post column that “I was on morphine and Percocet, I was super drugged up and the pain was out of control.” After leaving the hospital, she was badly fatigued: “I felt like I was 100 years old.”

Cleveland Browns football player Phil Taylor had surgery to repair a pectoral muscle that he tore while bench pressing. Close your eyes and try to image your chest muscle ripping apart. Oh, snap, that freaking kills. If that happened to me, I’d stay drugged up to avoid the excruciating pain. I definitely wouldn’t be “resting comfortably.” (Team spokesman to Ohio.com)

In Australia, entertainer Bert Newton survived six hours of quadruple bypass surgery. In this story, his wife described that he was “not a pretty sight” afterward and there were “tubes everywhere.” But guess how he was resting? Yup, “comfortably,” according to the hospital’s statement.

It’s animals, too. Here’s a story about a recovering chimp! And he’s arguably the most comfortable of the examples.

Ok, you get my point. So, who is to blame? It’s both the media and the public relations folks. Image and branding are so important to celebrities, athletes, politicians and whomever else is deemed newsworthy that publicists can’t fathom the idea of announcing that their client is “in a lot of pain” or “sore as hell” or “heavily sedated.” For journalists, the “resting comfortably” lead is the convenient follow-up story, whether it’s post surgery, hospital discharge, etc. There’s just not much for journalists to go on. I’ve probably done it, myself.

You could argue that in cases such as these, the described comfort level is relative to the moment of injury. Someone could be comfortably resting relative to the horrible pain they experienced earlier. The Arkansas football coach with the bruised face and neck brace just doesn’t doesn’t bring “comfortable” to mind, though.

Alternatives? I’m just a complainer, I don’t do solutions, but I suppose you could say someone is “improving” or has “begun the recovery process” or let “resting” stand on its own.

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