Sunday, October 10, 2010

Life at a Hospital


"So, how do you like living out of a car?" Maria asks me as we walk down the hall to the front entrance with a bundle of clothes under her arm. "I, myself have been doing this for three months now, my daughter had a kidney transplant here and she's been up and down ever since, her best chance for life is here at UW and they keep moving here from one department to another. I just find it easier to keep everything in the car and run out to get what I need and I noticed you doing the same thing."

I had been busted.

Doyle was being moved from one end of the Hospital to another and I had given up moving everything from one waiting room to another hospital room and then back again. UW is a busy place and they don't have Valets.

Hotels are out of the question, being over $79.00 a night with discounts and quite a far drive away, you also risk losing your parking "Sweet Spot" by moving your vehicle.

Lest you think we are a bunch of fun loving penny pinching moochers out for a cheap vacation, consider our situation in the light of the facts that 5% or more of us will be going home without our loved one. Forever. But we will still be responsible for the bills. Forever.

There are crying people in every corner of the building, every damn corner. 

Maria's comment got me thinking, so I started a sort of "car watch" to see how many of us were living out of trunks and back seats. There are many, and it's fun to catch up with these folks when they are running in and out to fetch this and that.

Most:   
  • Are from more than 200 miles away and have a loved one who is getting some sort of long term care.
  • Do not have insurance of any kind.
  • Have a loved one so ill that they can't leave the building to stay somewhere else and risk not being there to avert a crisis, you can't phone in loving support or life and death medical decisions from a hotel.
  • Are older and don't have real young kids or pets at home.
  • Know where the free coffee is in the morning.
  • Can brush their teeth with the last of their first cup of coffee in the morning.
  • Know the visitor showers are up on the third floor.
  • Know where the comfy full couches in waiting rooms are, and have a stash of pillows and sheets they've scavenged somewhere.
  • Know the code of conduct: "If the couch is made up as a bed, it's taken, look elsewhere".
  • If you don't have your bed claimed by two in the afternoon, you will sleep on a love seat (bad) or a recliner (very bad).
  • Are very nice to house staff, who have small shampoos and other sundry items in their pockets.
  • Get a Long Term Visitor Pass, your Golden Ticket to preferential treatment by everyone, including security, who roust non-ticket holders every night from their shadowy roosts and send them packing to the office to get their proper pass or leave into the night.
  • Can, and often do, give Paternalistic advice to the "Newbies" to keep them from ruining a good thing.
  • Buy one meal a day just at the end of lunch,(cheap and generous portions), and then split it into Dinner, next days Breakfast and Lunch.
  • Have stuffed such dinner makings into every available visitors fridge in every waiting room, unlabeled and never taken by others, there is honor among squatters.
  • Hate the automatic flushing toilets, they scare the bejeebus out of you at two in the morning when the kidneys call and you are half asleep.
  • My New Home
  • Are unflinchingly grateful and in awe of a Professional Medical Group that heals our people regardless of ability to pay and puts up with strange Zombies wandering its halls at night looking for a place to lay down and rest so they can face the challenges of the next day.
Most of us the first week here are blindly and numbly stumbling along, trying not to cry and scream about the unfairness of illness. I think I walked into two or three walls before I learned that know matter how grave the situation is, one must look up and see obsticles.

By the second week you settle into the morbid frame of mind required for truly serious surgery and horrifying recovery of your loved one. You get to see them tortured in every possible physical way, and are constantly choking tears back as you tell them that 'honestly, honey, it'll be good for you'.

You begin to form support groups who can discuss various medical problems with the precision of a 6th year medical student. You cry together, laugh together and then one day they check out and are gone, you only knew them by first name and will never see each other again, because after all, who wants to look back on these days with fond reflections of good times spent? 
Mobile office

Most of us in the support group never even meet each others family patient, we meet in visitors rooms as we wait for news of our loved ones latest treatment. We start conversations to fill the endless hours of waiting that goes into getting a person well. They then get transferred to some other department or sent home at odd hours and with little fanfare.

When your family member is released, you don't turn and search for your new made friends for a tearful goodbye, you run for the exit, engine running, to get out before the Doctor changes his mind about releasing them.

My husband may be on the mend now, but when he sees the condition of the inside of our truck cab, he's going to have a coronary. It looks like a cheap rummage sale blew up in there.
Living La Vita Locomotion

1 comment:

karylsquilts said...

terri, When steve had his brain tumor surgery in Univ of MIn I stayed at a place like ronald Mcdonald house for $10 a nite. The hospitals have a type of social worker that can check on various services for you too. seems like I had to have a hospital recomidation to get into the Mc D house. but then I also had a bed. bath. and use of a kitchen for samiches ect. Ive been wondering how you were taking care of YOU, I know you have your heart and mind on Doylee but YOU count too !

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