Changing the Hospital Narrative

It happens this way …

I used to hate hospitals. When I was in sixth grade, I fractured an ankle while ice skating on Woodbridge pond on New Year’s Eve. I walked about a half mile on it before an aunt and uncle, who were on their way to pick me up on this bitter cold day, found me and got me to a hospital.

Image spending a week in a hospital bed waiting for swelling to go down before the ankle could be casted. I don’t think insurance companies would allow that today.

Anyway, after a week in the children’s ward where I learned how to master a bedpan, I went home. Because our elementary school didn’t have wheelchair access – it was the ‘50s – I stayed home for six weeks and developed a “nervous stomach” because I was missing school. (Over-achiever back then!) It took until sophomore year in high school not to get sick before taking tests.

And it took decades to get over my aversion to hospitals. So yesterday’s trip to Portland’s Adventist Medical Center for minor hand surgery was a delightful adventure. Between the time I arrived at 6:30 a.m. to register and left at 1:20 p.m., I met sixteen staffers and gathered a number of great stories. (Hey, writers find material wherever, right?)

One of my favorites was the young Seventh Day Adventist Chaplin –  2O’s, tall, slender, trimmed beard, cute – I met early on.  A near-by nurse shared he was pining over a beautiful ER doctor and didn’t know how to approach her. On the spot we concocted a fantasy scenario: I would go outside, feign a heart attack, go to the ER, and ask for a Chaplin.  Sounded good!

Since we had made this fun connection, when he arrived at my bedside before surgery and asked me if I wanted to pray with him, I didn’t hesitate. What did I want to pray for? he asked. How about my doctor and anesthisologist? How about all the nurses who work in the hospital? All the patients? The universe of this beautiful place?

We held hands while he said a touching prayer I could easily pray with him. When I asked him if being a Chaplin was his calling, he surprised me with “no.” He was a scientist and was using this experience to keep himself “holistic.” The division between science and religion didn’t exist for him. How refreshing and enlightening.

There were many more wonderful people with stories that touched my heart. I’m sure I’ll be processing them for weeks to come. What a long way from that sixth grade hospital stay – and I’m grateful!

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This morning! Little pinkie surgery can’t keep a gardener down!

10 Comments

  1. Well, first if all I found out we are both over achievers! I mirror image everything so I don’t read in sentences. Just this week I encountered new last name that has a letter combination that is new to me. Geinzer for me is Geinzer. I think I finally have it memorized now. I also found out we both hate tests!
    You are right that in today’s world they would send you home for a week while the swelling went down. My question to someone as smart as you: why did you ever walk on it for half a mile.
    Finally I hope your surgery will correct the problem. I get periodic cortisone shots and wear a brace at night which helps my hand. 💕

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  2. More connections for sure! Good for you for learning to adapt to reading.

    In a world of no cell phones and no one I knew around the pond, my brother and I did the next best thing! I still am miffed that he wouldn’t help me carry my skates! And who knew the ankle was more than a sprain?!

    The hand thing is called dupytrens. It’s heredity although no one in my family has it. It’s also called the Viking’s disease – which it tickles me to no end – since it’s connected to Northern Europe. No big deal, but my finger was bent with two nodes growing on the side. Just an inconvenience, but would have gotten worse if I didn’t take care of.

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  3. See, not every nurse has the Moniker of “nurse ratchet”. I worked hard for that designation and am proud of it still. Most of us are really nice people who do more than bedpans. I’m so glad you finally had a positive experience and I hope you mend well and quickly.

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    1. Hey, Nurse Ratchet, I’ve had many fine experiences in recent decades and have always told the nurses I’ve met about my two friends who taught me how important this profession is. So thank you and Jane. Also, I hope Ma is blissing out in heaven!

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  4. Ouch ouch ouch! I hope that hand heals swiftly and happily!
    I’m one of those weird, weird people who has always loved hospitals. I love the constant attention… the clean, crisp sheets… the little TV you can watch at any angle… even the airline food under their ugly rubber cloches! I can’t stand doctors, though… they ruin the pleasure of the experience… but that’s just a Freudian issue.

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  5. And you have a Ph.D. in hospitals, Ampy! Glad you experienced all that good experience despite Freud. This is only my third surgery since 1992 and the easiest of all. Haven’t had to take even a Tylenol. Piece of cake!

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