I never thought that I would find such joy in a hospital setting. Having spent a lot of my childhood in hospitals, I’m not a big fan of the sterile hallways where footsteps echo as parents leave for the night.
So, when my mom had her stroke and the Emergency Room doctor said they were going to have to admit her for a few days, I kind of panicked.
Memories of unsalted oatmeal and rubbery roast beef danced in my head. Fear of strangers in white coats who carry needles in their pockets like peppermints came surging back.
As we rolled mom into her new room on the cardiac step-down unit, I heard the television going and thought, “Uh-oh, the dreaded hospital roommate.” I had ten of those when I stayed in a children’s ward many years ago. I looked at the closed curtain hung on ball bearings, and remembered when I had mistakenly pulled back the curtain on a roomie when she was getting catheterized. I have never again pulled back curtains without asking permission.
So, the nurse pulled back the curtain, and it was a glorious, wonderful, private room. They had the television on so the room would seem “warm.” The woman from the emergency room was laughing with mom as she rolled her bed into place, and everything felt right.
This happy moment doesn’t mean that I wasn’t jarred by every single machine beep. And after spending months listening to plague updates on the news, I feared that germs were jumping on me every time I sat on a chair or shook the hand of a hospital worker. I washed my hands after every interaction. I washed my hands after handling anything in the room. Then, I would wash my hands after washing my hands.
But once I got past the germs thing . . .
I sat in mom’s room and observed the steady flow of hospital workers. There was a tall, young man who took mom’s blood every couple of hours. As he was explaining the impact of blood thinners, I stated that once mom’s blood thinner kicked in a stick could be like a Monty Python movie with blood spurting everywhere. Slowly he turned, and I was waiting for a lecture on inappropriate humor in the hospital. Instead, he replied in his best Monty Python voice, “It’s only a flesh wound!”
And laughter entered the room and lit it up.
When the main doctor entered, we put on mom’s socks with the no-slip grippers located on the top and bottom of the sock, and my niece said, “Well, those are nice. It’s important to be able to walk on both the bottom and the top of your feet.” The doctor listened for a minute, looked at mom, pointed to us and said, “You brought the cream of the crop with you, hmm?”
There is something about physical illness that focuses me. . .
I was no longer worried about becoming a successful anything – I just wanted mom to get better. And instead of thinking about the fifty tweets I needed to post, or the blog I needed to write, I focused on her gold, non-slip hospital socks as she took one step in front of the other.
I took time to talk to the hospital staff rather than staring at my phone waiting for it to “ding” with the next message.
There’s just something beautiful about illness — the way that it makes us stay in the moment. Of course, I wasn’t the one who had the stroke, so maybe it seemed a little more beautiful to me than mom. But I got to spend time with my sister, and we all paid attention to each other and held on a little tighter.
Today? Mom is home, and I’m looking at my phone a little less. But give me a few hours and it will start again. Maybe I should visit the hospital once a week, just to get focused.
Nah. I don’t think my hands could take it.