Lessons Learned in a Small Town Hospital

I know this blog has been quiet. There’s been a medical blowout here at ThankYouEverything and internet access is severely limited. I’ve been lucky to email via my Treo. Blog and tweet is another story. (Yes, I know there are settings but I haven’t set them up. Anyway.)

So I’m here in a small town outside the valley I grew up in because the accumulation of G’s smoking (50 years), his neglected heart murmur and his doctor dodging has come to a head. My mom took him to Urgent Care a week ago because she was afraid he wouldn’t make it another night. She was probably right as they admitted him right away. Since then he’s been moved to a larger hospital and we’re making decisions test-by-test. Despite what looked like a dire situation, the prognosis is good.

But this post isn’t about G’s health. It’s about the lessons I’ve been able to take away from this situation because there are many.

In sickness and in health. If you’re married you have probably uttered these words in your wedding vows. This week I have witnessed them in action. Besides witnessing my mom helping G be comfortable and taking the abuse that normally occurs when one is scared, unrested and hospitalized, I saw other spouses doting on their spouses. I would say that most of us are not made up of nurse material—patience, empathy, and knowledge—and granted, there are some nurses who aren’t either. But throughout this small hospital of 78 beds, there were husbands and wives caring for their loved ones despite their own fear, uncertainty and concern. If love has the power to get you through the uncomfortable task of helping your spouse pee into a cup, it’s stronger than I thought.

Better living through medicine. I write about natural remedies and tend to shy away from taking anything unless I really need to. Because G. had a difficult time sleeping, he was put on a sedative. Not only did this make him drowsy (good for him), it also seemed to alleviate his low-level anxiety and grumpiness (like most people in my family, he wasn’t the best patient in this tiny hospital). Having him on that medication made the days better — for him (though he would probably disagree), for us, and for the hospital staff. Medication has it’s place and when used wisely, it can make a painful situation a bit less so.

Lean on me. No song lyrics could be truer. My role here has been to be a second pair of ears, question girl, medical jargon dictionary, pinpoint person, answering machine, and personal assistant. My mom needs me to do these things and I’m happy to. When it comes to family, I feel (thanks to M.) that we are here to prop each other up through the bad, the good and even the mundane. Science has shown time and again that having a strong support system allows us to recover from major heart surgery and heart attacks, adopt healthy behaviors and live a more satisfied life.

G.’s roommate was a woman who was 50 years old and had Down Syndrome. Every day she had numerous visitors—family and friends. There was a lot of laughter from that side of the room despite the fact she was sitting in the ward that’s one level down from ICU. My bet is she’s living so long with a disease that is suppose to shorten her life span because he is surrounded by a loving family and close friends.

Don’t blame the messenger. Sometimes nurses need to repeat what a doctor has explained to a patient. All of the time they are following doctors’ orders. Unfortunately this makes them on the firing line of cranky patients. Nurses take a lot of abuse, much of it unwarranted. There will always be times when bad or disturbing news and most of the time it will be delivered by someone other than the source. Watching the nurses day in and out, I decided that as a general rule to take a deep breath before reacting to the bearer of bad news. For the most part, he’s only doing his job and why should I make his day worse by unleashing my displeasure on him. Besides, it isn’t very productive.

There you have it. The lessons I observed while sitting in a 78-bed hospital outside the Coachella Valley. Sure, I knew these. In spite of the circumstances, I’m thankful that I could find something positive out of this experience.

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Lessons Learned in a Small Town Hospital

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