Random hosptial thoughts

I’ve learned a lot of things in the past couple of months that I had not previously known. We visit in hospitals a lot, so I thought that I had quite a bit of familiarity with the setting. But having a family member hospitalized for a couple of weeks teaches you quite a bit that is easy to miss when you are a visitor. For example our hospital provides recliners in each room. They are fairly comfortable and it is quite possible to sleep in the chairs and hospital staff provide pillows and blankets for family members who want to spend the night. They are good about offering coffee and water and other amenities. The hospital has a good cafeteria and you can order a tray to be sent up to the room if you don’t want to leave the room. The prices are very reasonable and the food is pretty good. A hospital, however, is a busy place and even for the patients, who are now often referred to as “guests” in hospital literature, there are lots of interruptions to sleep. Medications are delivered on a precise schedule regardless of the time of day. Lab tests and other diagnostic events are scheduled around the clock. Vital signs must be checked regularly. If you are visiting a loved one and have settled into the recliner, you’ll be awakened often during the night. However, if you are visiting a loved one, you don’t mind that part of the experience. You want to be alert enough to pay attention to the one for whom you have come. Periodic checks throughout the night are reassuring.

Here is something that I learned. When it comes to visitors, fewer visitors and short visits are the best. As a pastor, I often feel that I need to rush to the hospital to see those who are receiving treatment and that I need to make frequent visits so that they know of the love and support of the congregation. There were a couple of pastors who visited us who knew how to make short visits, but there were some other visitors, whose visits were exhausting. The same was true of doctors and nurses. All have bee trained to seek questions from patients. Some know how to provide concise answers. Others spend a lot of time talking when they are visiting.

I think I’ve developed more empathy that can be helpful when visiting in the hospital in the future.

After several days of spending most of my time at the hospital, I was telling family members that when I retire, if I am looking for something to do, I could become a hospital volunteer. The thing I’d like to do is to get some glasses cleaning equipment and go around the hospital cleaning glasses. Patients take their glasses off a lot and they get fingerprints on them. Staff members handle fluids and other things and their glasses are constantly dirty. Visiting family members haven’t been paying attention to maintaining their eyewear. A hospital is full of glasses that need to be cleaned. I think one could start at the top of our hospital and clean glasses all the way down and when you got to the bottom it would be time to start at the top again. You’d probably go through a lot of glasses cleaning fluid and clean cloths.

Speaking of cloth, a hospital goes through an enormous amount of laundry. Sheets and pillow cases and blankets have to be changed frequently. When a patient is cold, they simply pile on more blankets. At one point, I was counting how many blankets there were in a single room. I lost count, distracted by something else, but there were a lot more than you’d find in a typical bedroom. The nurses know where the linen closets are and they keep bringing in more and more. Once, I asked for a blanket and the aide brought me three. The people who work in the laundry have good job security.

I spend a fair amount of time with law enforcement officers. Most of them have really good flashlights. There are some new devices that put out a lot of light and aim it isn a concentrated pattern. The love of flashlights hasn’t taken hold in the hospital. When they need light, they turn on the room lights, regardless of the time of day. I think a flashlight would be a handy device when delivering a single pill in the middle of the night, but I didn’t see any of them in the hospital.

For an institution that treats some of the effects of our society’s over-consumption of caffeine, they sure have a lot of coffee. I was offered coffee again and again. Even when I was visiting in the cardiac intensive care unit, hospital staff offered me coffee multiple times each hour. Since I no longer drink coffee, I also know that it is very easy to get a glass of water. I also had a couple of tea bags in my backpack and hot water was easy to obtain. This wasn’t in the hospital, but I had a diagnostic test at a medical clinic this week. Among my instructions was that I was to be careful to have no caffeine for 24 hours prior to the procedure. The instructions were specific: no coffee or tea, no decaffeinated beverages, including herbal teas, no chocolate, nothing with caffeine. The minute my procedure was completed they asked me if I wanted coffee or a soda. It was at that point that it struck me that I was the oldest person in the room. Hospitals and medical facilities are staffed by people who are young. Their energy and mental acuity are good qualities for those who offer care, but I suspect that they abuse their bodies as much as I did when I was that age. I’m learning a lot about moderation - and a lot about things I can live without - that I didn’t know when I was their age.

Since we’ve had such a good outcome from our treatment in the hospital, I think that it was a good experience for me to learn a bit more. Maybe I should take some chocolates to the nurse’s stations at the hospital - then again chocolate is laced with caffeine. Maybe I’ll just offer to clean their glasses - then again they’re so young not many of them wear glasses.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!