Life in Lake Wesleylong No Day at the Beach
Hospitals are nice places to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. For the past week, though, Wesley Long has become my wife Janet’s home and my home away from home. What started out as a three-day stay for a routine procedure is now into its second week, with no firm departure date yet on the horizon. So Gilligan’s Island-esque has it become that I’m starting to call her “Lovie” and one of the male nurses “Little Buddy.”
Without getting into information overload, the day before she even went in the fun had already started with the dreaded bowel purge. (Wait, that already is information overload.) Let’s just say the operation itself was the easy part, but it’s been basically downhill ever since. No doubt, the doctors are brilliant, the nurses angels, the techs and support staff ever helpful and competent. And here in Lake Wesleylong, the children are all above average. But complications do – and did – arise. And even under the best of circumstances, it’s still a hospital, still a place where emotions are raw and tensions high. For all concerned, it’s not a day at the beach.
So what it becomes is a place where everyone is making the best of a bad situation. Nobody who doesn’t work here wakes up and says, “Boy, do I feel good all under. I think I’ll run over the hospital and ride the elevators.” Rather, patients, family and caregivers are all thrown together in an environment that is alien to the first two groups, which puts the burden on the third to make it less foreign for them. And, almost without exception they succeed. I’ve always had a healthy respect for those in the medical field, and nothing has happened in the past week to diminish that respect. Even though the nurse shortage I’ve been reading about lately appears to be real, if their morale is suffering they aren’t showing it.
Among the tense moments there have been a few bright ones. The other night the Red Sox game happened to be on ESPN and as our night nurse, Tracy Snider, was tending to Janet she glanced up at the tube and offhandedly commented, “Oh, the Sox are on.” A tad startled, I asked, “You’re not a Red Sox fan are you?” She then gave me a look that only Red Sox fans can recognize and replied, “Why? You’re not a Yankee fan are you?”
To prove my credentials were in order I pulled out my cell phone, which displays a Red Sox logo when flipped open, and the three of us had a lovely evening. Turns out she is a native Canadian and was living in Maine in ’04 when the Curse was broken and championship hysteria gripped all of New England. I told her how Janet, being a native of Massachusetts, was so thrilled to finally run across a Southern boy who was a Red Sox fan that she wound up marrying him. And she regaled us about how when the Yankees come to Fenway, folks put signs on their houses with philosophically arcane messages like “A-Rod is an A-hole” and “Jeter’s a jerk.” (My kind of people.) To top it off, the Sox won, the Great Satan lost, and for the first time in days Janet got a good night’s sleep.
I suppose in the grind of what must become an endless ordeal for the staff, it’s moments like those that keep them going. Plus, people do actually get better and go home, which must be the basis for why people go into this line of work. There must be some gratification in there, some altruistic spirit that enables them to deal with this life-and-death drama day in and day out.
Better them than me. Grateful though I am for their professionalism, compassion and patience, I’m ready to get the hell out of here. And if I’m at the end of my rope, imagine how Janet must feel. Although the house is cold and lonely without her, it’s still a house and not a sterile room, and most days I get to be there more than I’m at the hospital. All the mundane things we do in our daily routine seem to take on a greater significance; I get to be a part of the world, to drive around town, to flip through the cable channels, to go to the coffee shop, to eat real food, to feed the animals, to pick up the paper and read Thomas Friedman and not Thomas Sowell and Cal Thomas. And after a week of living in the nether world of hospitalia, I get to take a break and write this column.
Even though it sucks worse than A-Rod and Jeter combined.
Ogi may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, heard each Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. on “The Dusty Dunn Show” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen each Friday at 6:30 a.m. on ABC45 and Sunday at 10 p.m. on UPN48 on “Triad Today.”