The view from a hospital room is always the same—a bright spot suggesting that everyone else is moving along on a normal day while your world has become different. The next fifteen minutes, two hours, full day are controlled by virtual strangers speaking the same language, but with meanings you can’t decipher owning a layperson’s knowledge.
You wait in hospitals. Noon is a relative term for something that will happen in the early afternoon. There’s a reason for jokes about ‘hospital time’ as those inside reread the morning paper, watch home remodeling shows, drink coffee or ice water out of Styrofoam cups. Just like the cable guy might get hung up on the appointment before yours and blow through your afternoon, the doctors have patients with conditions that demand unexpected time. Except you aren’t sitting on a hard gurney wearing a loose short gown tied in the back over a bare bum as the cable guy adjusts someone else’s wires. You can talk on the phone, eat a sandwich, dig in the garden. Compared to a hospital, you have incredible freedom waiting at home for a repairperson.
There is fear in hospitals, or at least apprehension. Will the kidney stone have to be surgically removed? Will meds reduce fluid accumulation? Are the migraines caused by a mass where it shouldn’t be? The staff is busy. Machines beep. Monitors squawk. Nobody runs in with comforting words. They’ve seen it before and know everything will be okay. Or not.
Miracles and mistakes all happen in hospitals. Babies respond well to strong antibiotics. Old people have their systems brought back to stability. Surgery makes pain disappear. Infections develop that resist treatment. A procedure minimizes one discomfort while creating another.
Loved ones are trapped in a time warp between the outside world and hospital. They mix work and worry. They skip breakfast to be in a parent’s room when the doctor rounds at six in the morning, carry in lunch around mid-day for a specialist’s visit and check on progress before heading home too drained to answer family’s phone calls, shop for groceries or rest. They ask for more specific information about discharge times and hope a boss will remain understanding.
Whether patient or caregiver, urban or suburban, traditional or holistic, patient-centered or teaching center, the view from a hospital room is always the same—a bright spot that suggests everyone else is moving along on a normal day while your world has become something different.