When Mickey and Oswald bring life back to Wasteland in the video game "The Power of Two," it's a Technicolor testimony to how having a partner helps you get the most out of every situation. That's never been more true than when you're checking into the hospital.
In "You: The Smart Patient," we advise having a family member or friend with you before you head to surgery. A companion can do everything from telling an anesthesiologist what medications you are taking (or are allergic to) to holding your hand (lower stress equals better outcomes).
And once you've gone through surgery, having someone nearby for the first 24 hours helps protect you (in your groggy state) from accidental mistreatment or medication mistakes. (The U.S. Inspector General's 2010 report said that one of every seven Medicare patients is harmed in the course of their care; 44 percent of these events are preventable.)
But sometimes it's just not possible to have someone with you. Fortunately, many hospitals have people who can act as your wingman (or wingwoman). At check-in, ask to talk with the patient ombudsman or advocate; he or she will help arrange the support you need, and many third-party companion services are covered by Medicare and Medicaid.
Set it up ahead of time if you can. And if you do find yourself on your own, make sure to engage your caretakers and doctors: Speak up, ask questions and don't be afraid to ask for second opinions. Your doctor wants an informed, careful patient - and so does the hospital.