Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Father's Day & An Ode to Nurses

Everything was going according to plan. Dropped J-dog off with the dog sitters (who planned to use him as chick-bait all weekend), got to the airport with that typically-elusive "time to spare", flew non-stop across the country with no delays, spent a couple wonderful evenings with good friends, attended a beautiful wedding... and then got the phone call on Saturday afternoon.

Let's just say the subject of the call was medical in nature, and the news was not good. It was the kind of news that punches you in the stomach. And it involved a man who we planned to celebrate the next day, on Father's Day. He had fallen very quickly, seriously, and unexpectedly ill. We immediately changed our plans, said rushed goodbyes to our friends, and sped off in the rental car to our hometown where he was in the hospital.

But this post isn't about him, our dear patient (I'll call him ODP in the continued spirit of pseudonyms), because it's a personal matter that affects more than just myself and Dr. D and I'd like to respect the privacy of the other family members involved. Suffice it to say that ODP was very, very ill and had to spend many days in the hospital. No, this post is not to go into the complicated medical details, the emotional roller-coaster, the play-by-play of treatment. This post is to record observations from my first trip to a hospital in over a decade, and to express my awe for the nursing staff.

First, some hospital observations:

  • Step-Down Units are both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it's best to avoid being admitted into this unit because it means you're in some pretty serious medical distress. But on the other hand, you've got roughly 5 million medical personnel looking after you (slight exaggeration, but still), AND a private room. Also, your visitors benefit from a private bathroom, reclining chairs, and complimentary coffee. It's basically the Four Seasons of misery.
  • There is no other setting (or at least I've yet to find one) as capable of making those of us who are not medically-inclined feel more useless and "durr"-worthy as a hospital. I mostly just sat there, wringing my hands and trying to think of witty/cheery things to say. My two moments of shining glory: quickly grabbing the larger of two pinkish-mauve container thingies (why is everything in the hospital that color?) when we thought ODP might puke, and suggesting that we ask the nurse for a popsicle when ODP was lamenting that he had a craving for a snow cone. Which brings me to my next point of observation...
  • Those of us in the know (and you are now one of them) can get popsicles in the hospital at any time upon request. This particular hospital must have caught on to the fact that the best, most worthy flavor for sick people is cherry, because that's all they had. I'd like to shake the hand of whoever made that decision. Good call.
  • Whoever plans hospital meals must hate sick people. That turkey with apple compote topping was lurking maliciously on its tray in the corner, just waiting to finish off any patient delirious enough to think it might actually taste good. And the popsicle flavor-decider person seriously needs to assert power over the choice of Jello flavors, because green? Really?
  • Being on the same floor where inmates are treated (which was crawling with uniformed officers) has a way of making you feel simultaneously safe and nervous. One wrong turn down a hallway, and you're in Shawshank Redemption.
  • I don't make it a habit of making excuses for people who wear Crocs because they are hideous, but nurses have my Croc-wearing blessing because they never stop moving. Great googly moogly, those are some hard-working folks. Not to mention all of the bodily fluids/accidental privates-flashing/thanklessness they encounter throughout the day. If I ever wore hats, they would be all off to you, nurses. They made this whole ordeal bearable, and they even took the time to answer some of the more intricate questions that Dr. D had for them. I was so impressed with their service (and I also had some time on my hands in the hospital) that I would like to honor them in one of the best ways I know how: in haiku form. Here it goes...

You stay behind to
translate doctor-gibberish.
We are so grateful.
How can you nurses
all talk about poop straight-faced?
I'm so immature.
Starting your shift with
stressed, un-showered visitors
has to suck. Sorry.
I don't understand.
So chipper at 2am.
Are you on drugs, too?

At any rate, ODP has been discharged and we will all sleep a little better tonight. A belated Father's Day gift, indeed.


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