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,