Living in hospitals was a unique experience for my husband and, in a way, for me too. In 1969 I spent over two-and-a-half months in an Anchorage, Alaska hospital with a broken arm in traction. The family story is that one of my sisters walked into my hospital room and said something to me about my arm hanging from a screw through the elbow. She got the wrath of mom for it; apparently they were keeping that tidbit from me. I don’t have much memory of my stay—maybe she did traumatize me? :>)
I had health issues through most of my younger years, so I have been in and out of hospitals quite a bit. The last time was in 1983, in a Seattle area hospital with a high fever that wouldn’t lower for days. High fevers mess with your brain and I don’t have much recollection of that stay either. My parents were there from Oregon and I don’t even remember seeing them.
I also spent a good part of two weeks in another Seattle hospital when my first grandchild was born in 2006. I’ve hung out in hospitals for days with friends and family during labor and birth, and spent hours in the ER with my children, okay, mostly my son. None of that hospital experience prepared me for what my husband, Paul, and I went through during our year-long fight for his life.
Paul had never been a patient in a hospital; he had never had any serious injury or illness. He did have two shoulder surgeries in an outpatient clinic, that he bounced right back from. So, along with the shock of being diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer, the shock of living in the hospital environment shook him to his core.
During 2008 and 2009 we were in three hospitals, although the first one was only overnight. In June of 2009 we were residing at a Seattle hospital which, like me, was celebrating its 50th birthday. It was not a time of celebration for us, so it was almost irritating to see the birthday banners and bunting hanging everywhere. Celebrations were for the maternity section of the hospital; the rest of us were just not in the mood.
We were on the cancer floor, where we learned months before, that if you got transferred upstairs, it usually meant you weren’t going to make it. None of us actually knew that, but we never saw those patients and their caregivers again. We knew when other patients were getting worse, from our walking circuit. These were hard blows for us. It would have been relatively easy to find out where they went, but it was one of many times that we chose the fragment of hope, by not knowing the full story.
Walking the 7th floor circuit, as nurses and doctors encouraged patients to do; we met most of the other patients and caregivers on our floor. Some, we stopped and chatted with, others we just nodded our heads and smiled at. I became close to some of the other caregivers in the family room, where we made meals, took showers and did our laundry. The social aspects of the walking circuits and the family room were the highlights of many days and nights.
Paul had so many medications, fluids, pumps and other life-saving concoctions on his I.V. pole that it felt like three of us walking those halls together, not two. We eventually humanized him by naming him Mr. I. V. Poley and then we gave him a sign with his name on it (it is at top of pole and not in the photo). He was sometimes even more heavily laden with equipment than he is in the photo. I often introduced him to others, just to put a smile on their face. Even the doctors and nurses called him by name; most of them jumped on any levity they could find. Bringing Mr. I V. Poley to life was one of the ways we dealt with the upheaval of living in hospitals.
Thanks for stopping by,
July 11, 2013 at 7:35 pm
Sometimes, as a nurse, I had a hard time with the sterility of nursing the machines rather than the patients. Especially in the CCU. I would have enjoyed the personification of Mr. I. V. Poley!
July 11, 2013 at 11:05 pm
He was a star and he demanded a certain level of levity in an awful situation.
Ah, a nurse. I remember reading that on your site. My sis is in school again, fighting her way to the next level.
Nurses are on the level with teachers to me. They are usually overworked, under appreciated and under paid.
Most of them loved us live-in caregivers, because we truly lightened their loads.
Thanks for stopping in again,
July 12, 2013 at 4:16 am
You should write an inspirational book for those who are suffering the things your went through with this and call it “Meet Mr. I. V. Poley” and pick out the humor in in all (and the serious) so people waiting in hospitals with their loved ones have something to read that might brighten their mood and lighten their load 🙂
July 12, 2013 at 4:23 am
Thank you. The memoir I am working on will hopefully fill that need. I plan on getting it into as many cancer centers as possible, esp the family rooms and the chemo clinics…
However, a short humorous one would be fun…
July 11, 2013 at 7:42 pm
You both showed amazing strength and grace as you looked for a way to humanize or add some hope and humour to what must have been a living hell.
July 11, 2013 at 10:57 pm
Thank you, Lynne.
July 11, 2013 at 11:06 pm
I’m riveted all ready. Even though I met Mr. Poley once, and read the blog as things were happening. It’s good to hear you voice coming through. Keep it up. Can’t wait to read the rest.
July 11, 2013 at 11:10 pm
I’m trying. We sure lucked out having such great support.
Thanks for hanging out here too.
July 12, 2013 at 12:03 am
This is exactly what you have promised in the blurb for your book- humor, insight, etc. This is a great start. I am thinking there is not going to be enough Kleenex in the world to keep us all, especially you, mopped up as you relive this experience and share it with us. “the rest of us were just not in the mood” and “fragment of hope” are key phrases that grabbed me.
July 12, 2013 at 12:10 am
Thank you, my sweet, Gwen. This has been a tough week and I’m forcing myself to keep writing. Need to get to my beach tomorrow.
Thank you so much.
July 12, 2013 at 12:43 am
Thanks for sharing this brave and moving piece. It made me reflect on how lucky I’ve been, and how I value and recognise the need for offering levity in situations where the default is heavy, sad and fearful. Mr I V Poley did that beautifully. Reminded me too that, when we do something that makes us feel better we can’t help but improve things for those around us too…so your strength and light were certainly a gift to others in that hospital. Blessings, H xxx
July 12, 2013 at 12:58 am
Thank you, H. I have seen that both happiness and sadness are incredibly contagious. My intention was to set the mood we wanted to have in our hospital space. It worked on all of us most of the time.
I’m so glad that you enjoyed this.
July 12, 2013 at 5:51 am
Seems like I’ve spent most of the last two years in hospitals with people, first my father in law, then my mother, then my father in law again.
It sounds like you handled it much much better than i did.
July 12, 2013 at 6:18 am
It’s a hard one. Thanks for stopping in.
July 12, 2013 at 2:33 pm
I feel fortunate to be in on the “drafts” of this memoir. You set the stage for the hospital scene with Mr. Poley well. Something that could have been just a joke, was introduced as a touching detail in a much larger story. Good job!
July 12, 2013 at 2:45 pm
Thank you, Susan. i so appreciate your feedback. My main issues are blending in all…I have so much material from this period.
I feel fortunate to have a close reader who takes the time to give thoughtful comments.
July 12, 2013 at 8:12 pm
Wonderful entry, Patti! Your strength is amazing to me…**hugs**
July 13, 2013 at 1:24 pm
Thanks for sharing this, Patti. Tough as it is, I hope writing continues to be good therapy for you. Hugs.
July 20, 2013 at 6:20 pm
Needed this today:) thank you for sharing this story with us all. I look forward to many returns to your blog. I just bloody like your attitude already.
July 20, 2013 at 6:22 pm
You’re just trying to get an in with Mr. I.V. Poley :>) Don’t worry, he can’t stop talking about his adventures with you.
July 20, 2013 at 6:28 pm
I also met a lass by the name of beddy sheets.
July 20, 2013 at 6:30 pm