Years ago, I thought of a hospital as a healing place. Oh, yes, certainly I knew that some people were not healed, and some went in never to leave. But my experience with hospitals was positive, until it wasn’t.
It was in a hospital that I first met my three children. I waddled in, holding my aching back, convinced that “this” would never end. And then, after many hours of ever-louder moans and complaints, a nurse laid a perfect little person in my arms, and I realized how very “worth it” all the discomfort was.
I worked at as a Candy Striper in a hospital, delivering flowers, helping the elderly eat, and generally pitching in where I could. I found it very rewarding.
Several times, I was admitted to be repaired in some way. Fix this broken bit, take out that unnecessary bit. My care was excellent, attentive and caring, and I left in better shape than when I’d gone in.
And then, fifteen years ago, my positive view was dashed against the rocks of reality, and I learned that a hospital can be far from hospitable. I was admitted for a simple “band-aid surgery.” Actually, I was not even meant to be admitted at all, because my procedure was so simple, it was categorized as “day-surgery” and I was scheduled to go in, be fixed, and released within hours.
Not so fast, Grasshopper. After the procedure, I had a slight fever, and the surgeon kept me overnight “just to be safe.” By morning, the fever was raging, and one of the tiny surgical incisions was a little red. Three weeks later, I finally left the hospital, limp and exhausted. I had fought (unsuccessfully) one of those flesh-eating bacteria that was killing people all over the globe, ingested huge doses of the strongest antibiotics available (to no avail), slipped in and out of consciousness as my little “guests” dined hungrily at my table. I suffered surgical removal of the infection, which left my abdomen looking like someone had carved a two-pound filet from it. I lay placidly in my bed as doctors younger than my son traipsed though for Grand Rounds, and honed their craft in the classroom of my pain. And I learned to think much less positively about hospitals.
This week, I spent a week in one of the best hospitals in
, supporting my daughter as she was repaired. I waited for 19 hours while she was in the OR having complex microsurgery, alternating between optimism and fear. I returned every day to sit at her bedside for eight hours: three days in the ICU and three days in a private room. Boston
I questioned everything the nurses and doctors did to her, gave her, and told her. I looked to be sure they washed their hands or used an antibacterial before they touched her. I watched her struggle to sleep, constantly interrupted by an endless stream of staff members who came to poke, prod, measure, listen, and ask “How are you doing? Have you been able to sleep a little?” I listened to the cacophony of the hospital, the constant beeps and boops, honks and bonks, whacks and wooshes.
And I wondered how anyone ever manages to heal in this healing place. Thankfully, my daughter did, and at the end of a horrible week, I was able to drive her home.