I’m leaving the hospital! The staff would have had me stay longer but I told them I have little kids who are really missing me. I also told them this last week and they told me there’s no doctor in the world who would release me in the state I was in. But now it’s okay.
I am so grateful for this hospital experience. I’ve unfortunately had a lot of experiences with hospitals in the last 22 months – two different wards for me after my last birth, six hospital stays with three of my kids that were each at least ten days long, then my mom had two hip replacement surgeries and was in the orthopedic ward and then a couple more weeks each time in the rehabilitation hospital and now I’m here. So I’ve seen a number of different hospitals and different units and have plenty to compare to.
My stay here has been wonderful. The staff has been compassionate, kind, respectful and reassuring. I had a very pleasant roommate for my first four days who didn’t have any visitors and came over to introduce herself to me and to wish me well. She looked me in the face the first morning that my bandages came off without flinching – she’s the only one except the staff who was able to do that except for dd19 – she talked to me the way she would have spoken to anyone. When she left I hoped that I would get another roommate that was just as nice since I felt very fragile and didn’t want someone who would fill the room with lots of loud visitors at all hours of day.
Early Friday morning I got my new roommate, whose husband was verbally abusive and I didn’t know how long I could bear what I was hearing through the curtain. They took her for surgery less than an hour after she got here and then the nurse told me she was going to transfer me to another room.
I really didn’t want to transfer. I felt very vulnerable and my room was the last one along the corridor, on the far side of the room, where people couldn’t peer in and see me when they were walking by. I was afraid to be in the bed next to the door, to have a roommate who would gape at me, visitors who would stare at me….I didn’t want to step out of my room and definitely didn’t want to have a new roommate watching me as I came in and got resettled.
I told the nurse I didn’t want to transfer. She said there’s nothing she could do. I told her it would be really hard for me. She told me she has to move me because of concerns about me getting an infection from the person in my room who is having surgery, and they can’t put two surgery patients together. (I’m in the burn unit but it’s combined with a surgical unit – there was only one other person here with a burn during my hospital stay so everyone else is here for some kind of surgery. That’s why I’m noticeable, even here I look unusual.) I asked her if they did move me if I could be on the far side of the room and she briskly told me that there’s no way for them to guarantee that. I wanted to ask her why she couldn’t move my roommate, who had only been in the room for less than an hour, but that sounded like a petulant child so I didn’t say anything.
A few hours later I noticed that they had taken the belongings of my new roommate away and put her in a different room. Without saying anything to me, they decided to leave me where I was; although I didn’t make a big deal about it, they realized that I was distressed to move and changed their plans to accommodate me.
Aside from giving me a feeling of security that I could stay where I was, I had the luxury on Shabbos of having my own room (that continued for an amazing four days!). I was able to close the door to my room and have an unusual amount of privacy for a hospital patient.
I didn’t think my feeling of privacy would last long – my experience in all the other hospitalizations is that the staff habitually fling curtains opens, turn on lights irrespective of the time of day or night and chastise you if you make any attempt to turn off the overhead light or close the door.
Do you know what happened here? For the entire time I’ve been able to have only natural daylight in my room and keep the bright overhead lighting off. One of the first days a nurse asked why the lights were off and turned them on, but when it was evening I turned them off again and no one said anything again. For a week and a half! A couple of times when they came in the late evening to take my stats they turned on a little side light but even then turned it off when they finished, without me saying anything.
When I closed the door, no one told me I wasn’t allowed to do that. In fact, some of the nurses and cleaning staff even knocked before they came in! Knocking, in a hospital! To me this is a contradiction in terms. Almost all of them closed the door behind them when they went out. They not only sensed my desire for privacy but have actively been respectful of that.
I have a window on my side of the room and I’ve been able to keep it open all day and most nights and have plenty of fresh air. I’ve been able to talk to my family on the phone without worrying about disturbing a roommate. I’ve been able to listen to relaxing music and an audiobook played aloud. Since each room has an adjoining bathroom, I had my own bathroom and didn’t have to time my showers or bathroom visits with anyone else’s needs.
I don’t want to give you the wrong impression – it’s not at all like being at a luxury hotel – but hospitals can be a hard place to be emotionally when you need to recuperate. God clearly knew I needed a lot of quiet and space to feel my way through this situation and find a perspective that is nurturing and respectful of myself.
I wasn’t sure when I would be ready to leave, and for a while I wondered if I’d ever be ready. Yesterday I felt a strong tug that I needed to go home because of my kids, but I didn’t feel ready yet. Making the decision to stay one more day has given me a chance to have a sense of closure and to express my gratitude to the nurses who were so kind to me at a time when I really needed that kindness. I wrote a letter to all the staff here – and noted on the envelope that it included the cleaning lady – to tell them how much their compassion and sensitivity meant to me.
I wrote another letter to the head nurse, telling her I’ve overheard a lot of staff interactions during my stay and there’s a noticeable lack of yelling, shaming and blaming. (Without going into specifics, I can say this is totally different from things I’ve overheard in different hospitals/wards.) I told her that it’s a testament to the environment that she’s spent years creating – beginning with the respectful and non accusatory way that she treats her staff – that we patients are able to benefit from a calm and pleasant atmosphere.
Particularly during the first two shifts after I was admitted I couldn’t see the nurses who were taking care of me (after that I could see a shadowy outline and then eventually could see normally) but the sound of their voices and the feeling of their hands bandaging my face was very soothing. Five days after I was admitted, two nurses came in to change my linens, and one told me how good I looked. The other one told her that it was a huge change, that she had been the one who admitted me. I exclaimed in surprise, “Are you Rachel?” I told her that I had been waiting for her to be on shift again to tell her how much her care meant to me in those early hours. I felt her kindness coming through without being able to see her – and when I saw this older nurse with a stern face I realized that just like she saw past my burns to me as a person, hearing instead of seeing her made it possible for me to see past her businesslike exterior straight to her kind heart underneath.
How often do we miss what the true essence of a person is because we get distracted by how they look? Probably most of the time.
Here’s a song that I’m listening to today – now with headphones since on my last morning here got a roommate. This is from an audio program by Louise Hay titled ‘How to Love Yourself: Cherishing the Miracle that You Are’. I love music in general and songs used well can be so powerful – if they’re filled with good messages they have an added benefit since as they begin to play themselves over and over in your mind, you create new neural pathways in your brain that will better serve you than the old scripts they’re replacing. This feels like just the right message as I wait to be discharged and get ready to face the real world.
I love myself just the way I am
there’s nothing I need to change
I’ll always be the perfect me
there’s nothing to rearrange.
of being the best me I can
And I love myself just the way I am.
(skipping two stanzas)
I love myself
the way I am
and still I want to grow
The change outside can only come
from deep inside, I know.
of being the best me I can
and I love myself
just the way I am……
I love myself…. just the way I am.
Grateful for my hospital stay, grateful that I’m ready to leave and looking forward to being home!