My daughter and I have been spending some pretty significant time in a hospital the past several weeks. She's part of a research study, and I've been accompanying her to appointments and tests. In the process, we've grown familiar with the place, and it's no Grey's Anatomy. Still, I've managed to unearth some items of possible interest.
Here's a list of my more striking hospital-related observations.
1. I'm invisible. Not all the time, mind you, but at one particular nurses' station, and to a few different medical professionals. Twice now, on each of two visits at which she's had to undergo a certain test, Caroline has been cold and has requested a blanket. I've gone after the blanket, and today, as was the case last month, I've stood directly in front of a nurse for several minutes as she's kept her head down, reading something. When I finally say "Excuse me," she sighs loudly before mustering the energy to look up nine inches into my face. When she finally takes the time to respond, she says, "I don't know where those would be." Both times, thankfully, an aide has rushed off to grab a blanket. (I took note of the closet they're in, and next time, if we need a blanket, I'll get it myself.)
2. I need to do a better job of regulating my cell-phone use, as I almost smacked a woman with hers in the cafeteria. Anyone who knows me is aware that I'm on my phone a lot. I took a test last year that pegged me as an information-gatherer, and that label fits me to a T -- I'm happiest when I have instant access to everything I want or need to know. But I also tend to grab my phone and call someone -- usually my sister or a friend -- when I'm bored. In the cafeteria this morning, I was sitting behind a woman who apparently functions much the same way. The problem(s)? Her voice was like sandpaper, and she spent 15 minutes regaling the person on the other end with every detail of her bowel study. This incident made me realize there are a few people, I'm sure, who want to hit me, hard, with my own cell phone. You have my apologies.
3. Anyone who calls a loved one "Panda Bear" -- and that means you, nurse at the station outside our exam room -- needs to stop. Now. And this applies to everyone: If you wonder if you're talking too loudly, you probably are.
4. In all seriousness, some really cool things happen here. This is a teaching hospital (like Grey's Anatomy's Seattle Grace! Yay!), so medical professionals are always on the lookout for better ways of doing things, and ways to involve regular people in making a difference. This morning, as I typed and Caroline slept, I saw a sign telling me about a little girl named Taylor who had received a life-saving bone-marrow donation from a stranger. All it takes is a cheek swab and you're added to the bone-marrow donor registry, the sign says. So today, before we leave, I'll check into making that happen.
5. This place boasts real diversity. This morning, I've seen: two nurses in burqas. Two men holding hands. Several "zero tolerance for bullying" signs. A poster advising me about a meeting at which I can learn to raise chickens and bees. A woman standing outside, as we walked in, with a goat on a leash, And this was all before 9 a.m. My office isn't anywhere near that interesting; come to think of it, Grey's isn't anymore, either.
6. Most importantly, I have no real problems in life. Here's now I know: As I was walking back from the cafeteria this morning -- after having written much of this blog post -- I saw a sign outside an office door. The sign read: "Pediatric Palliative Care"-- comfort care, essentially, for children who are terminally ill. I peeked in the window and saw several cards on a table, presumably from families that have lost young sons or daughters. And it hit me that I'm really only playing here today: Caroline will get better. How different this place must look to families whose children won't.
That's the odd thing about hospitals: Their purpose runs the gamut from welcoming people into the world to easing them out of it. Although when you watch from the outside, a hospital appears to be this bustling microcosm of society, it's really so much more concentrated.
The people here are doing the big stuff, so I guess they should be able to talk as loudly as they want to, or even call someone they love "Panda Bear." Me? I'm just killing time in a comfy chair before I can take my not-seriously-ill daughter home. If anyone needs to shut up, I guess it's me.