I had the (opportunity? misfortune?) of being both a visitor and a patient in a hospital this week.
Our son’s Godfather had back surgery. This man moved heaven and earth when my husband was ill a few years ago. He called in favours to get Lee looked after and for that I am eternally grateful. It was an honour to be included with his family at his side during his surgery.
A few days later, I started feeling…unwell. It started with waking up with a sore neck of the “ow ow ow neck, shoulders, don’t touch me” variety. Massage, advil, stretching and the like didn’t do a thing to help. Huh. Weird.
Then, a few nights later, the spasms hit. Spasms that made birthing contractions feel like a twinge. Spasms that made the pain of kidney stones AND gallstones feel like a bit of indigestion. Spasms that made me cry and sob and scared the living shit out of the dog. So, off we went to the ER, and an MRI confirmed two herniated discs in my neck. Now, I’m drugged to the gills which stops the spasms but I’m still worried because I haven’t regained feeling in my right thumb.
So, lots of time in hospitals and lots of time to observe and comtemplate the power of kindness in a hospital setting.
If you’re visiting a person in hospital, here are a few things that I found made the biggest impact: Tic Tacs, lip balm, hand cream, pens, pencils, note paper, puzzle books, magazines (especially Reader’s Digest), fresh fruit, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, a box of soft kleenexes and an extra long cellphone charger (we found a ten-foot cord and it was perfect to go over the hospital bed and around the IV poles). We excused ourselves whenever the nurses and doctors came in to do their rounds, and offered to bring them back a coffee or tea when we went downstairs. Surprisingly, I didn’t hear many people around us say “please” and “thank you” when speaking to hospital staff. Common courtesy made a huge impact on our friend’s care. Some of his visitors stayed too long and it exhausted him. Keep the visits short and sweet, and if you’re part of the family, bring a book to read so the patient doesn’t feel like they have to keep you entertained.
When it was my turn as a patient, I was amazed at the yelling and insults that got hurled at the nurses. One patient told our nurse she was useless – let me assure you, she wasn’t. She was bright and kind and doing her best in a packed ER. I know pain can change us. I was in agony and felt ignored a few times and if I wasn’t mindful, I would have yelled and sworn too. I found myself telling the nurses “I’m sorry for the crying, I’m scared and in terrible pain, but I know how busy you are and I know you’re doing your best”. Sadly, it seemed like those were the first decent things said to them all night.
I’m also very fortunate that my husband is the most gentle, good-natured guy there is and his calm and sweet demeanor won the nurses’ hearts and, in turn, got me some fantastic care and unbelieveable painkilllers.
Finally, I harnessed the power of the written word. I emailed the hospital with the names of the nurses and technicians who made my stay so much more bearable. A good word to the boss means a lot more than a Timmy’s gift card, I think.
Have a wonderful and safe long-weekend, everyone!