Monday, February 06, 2006


Hospital Topics

Sunday E drove me to Baltimore to visit my sick great aunt, who had been in the hospital for almost a week. The day before the trip I stopped by Union Station and searched the mall for random stuff that would possibly appeal to an 84 year old nun. I settled on body lotion from the Body Shop (although her skin is super soft anyhow...), a card with a Scripture quote on it and some heart and sun stickers, and a really soft stuffed elephant.

We got turned around only a couple of times on the drive, and found the hospital a bit through trial and error. We walked in, I gave my aunt's name, we got our flimsy purple construction paper passes and we proceeded directly to the cafeteria. Hey, we figured we wouldn't be any good to my aunt if we were hungry! Once again, we were foiled by the Christian ideals of Chick-Fil-A...why does it seem like we only try to go to that place on Sundays?

Much like when we were driving, it took us a couple of tries to find the right elevator. We got in, pressed 5, got out. Entered the hallway, lined with doors, rooms full of the ill and infirm. Those white floors always seem so strange and sterile, and I felt an urge to just turn and run. Better to pretend that my great aunt is fine, instead of suffering and scared.

We go in, and she had been sleeping. I had that initial moment of "is that her? I think it? I Think so..." She opened her eyes, looked at me in shock, and said my name with such happiness and disbelief. She was surprised to see me, even though I had promised the day before that I would come up, no matter what. She told me that she had called my grandma and asked her to pass along to my mom that she was getting discharged, so that I shouldn't come - but my mother thinks that my aunt had just dreamed that.

I saw a seat next to the bed - it kind of resembled a walker - and I settled down. E pulled up a little armchair, resembling the chairs that schools stock in their freshman dorms. We talked about DC, and where E and I live and work, we babbled about C-note, talked about how we cook dinner about once a week. I showed her my magazines, with my name in them. She took the elephant, and fell in love.

We talked about her mom dying, and about her brother Arthur dying in WWII at the age of 18. Just as I was inwardly pondering the health ramifications of depressing memories on the old, E chimed in with a comment of "oooh I love your medal! Where did you get it?" It was perfect, because my aunt told a story which was obviously dear to her, about a sister being woken by an angel to visit the Virgin Mary in a chapel.

We then talked about her care at the hospital, and she said that she had been bedridden for almost the week, and doesn't even get to get up to shower or go to the bathroom, she just uses the "commode" and pointed to me.

It was then that I realized that I had been sitting on the toilet the entire time, not some crazy chair with weird metal arm supports.

I showed her my cell phone, and she was amazed by it. We talked about how she was one of the first ones in her neighborhood to have a phone, and it was a party line, and one of those black boxes on the wall, with a horn and an operator. Unlike her nosy great niece, she said that she would never listen in. And she couldn't believe that my camera didn't need film. She wasn't like some stereotypical old person, afraid of technology - she was excited by it, and wanted to learn more.

At one point, I asked if I could paint her nails, and she wanted me to, but was afraid of what the other sisters would think. A modern woman complete with bravado and insecurities, I said, "Oh, who cares!...what would they think?" And she replied,

"Meghan. Daughters of Charity do NOT paint their nails."

E and I gave my aunt some space in the middle, so that she could eat her lunch in peace. In the hall, we spoke with Sister Joan, a volunteer who roams the halls, with a look of purpose and a word for everything. We also met a suspicious woman who is "a problem" who was accompanied by a "man who wasn't her husband." (Scandal!)

Leaving my aunt was horribly difficult. I felt as though I was abandoning her. She thanked us 100 times over for visiting, and said that it meant so much. I promised to come visit her when she's back at her regular hospital, only a two hour drive away. She called my Grandmother before we were two steps out the door, who then called my mom. I simultaneously won the Niece of the Year, Granddaughter of the Year and Daughter of the Year awards for just three hours of my time.

I don't deserve it.

You do deserve it. While you, Elle, and myself wouldn't think twice about taking time to visit a relative who needed some cheering up - or helping an elderly neighbor who couldn't walk on their own get to safety when a fire alarm was going off -- there are people in the world who would see it as a waste of their time. I'm sure that the few hours of your time that it took you to get there and back and visit meant the world to her.
You do deserve it, we all need that pat on the back to knonw what we're doing is right. It sustains us. There will be those that say that they don't need it, but if the little nods and accolades dried up tomorrow would they still do it? I don't know if a lot would. I went into nursing because of that give and take, the learning about someone elses life, that story. It's why I blog too, human interaction is one of the nicest ways to cheer up someones day. I'm glad to hear that you have a good heart Meg.

Oh, cute pic by the way
You so deserve it
Either way- I'm sure it meant a lot to her and regardless thats what counts. Family first - people first :)
Take care
What an awesome experience
You definitely deserve it and that's a very cute picture. I'm sure you made her day =)
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