While our oldest daughter was in the hospital recently for routine observation and tests, we traded off spending the night there.
It isn’t new to us. Our daughter is a brain cancer survivor who sometimes deals with mild seizures as a result of her medical history. To say we are familiar with hospitals is an understatement.
I know some people find hospitals stressful and uncomfortable, but I’m one of those people who doesn’t. Since the births of our children and our frequent stays during our daughter’s journey, I’ve found the hospital to be a fairly peaceful place.
When I tell people this, many give me strange looks and remark how they hate hospitals. I’m thinking part of my peace comes from the major amounts of prayer we get when we are here. Indeed, anytime we have to be here, we have a network of folks who know about it and pray for us.
So, there’s that. It’s a big deal to have many prayers. But it’s also comforting to know your kid is around a place that can take good care of her. I felt the same way when all my kids were born. We are so fortunate to be around such great hospitals.
When we are at the hospital, we try to distract ourselves as much as possible. As you may guess, much of my time was spent talking to my daughter, asking her if I could get her anything, and so on. This only lasts a certain amount of time until she gives me that stare that says “Look, I’ll let you know if I need anything. Relax.”
I spend time looking out the window. It seems like every time we are there, we have the same view. I look at the Arch. I look in the windows of the buildings across the way and wonder what those people are doing. I look at unusual cars, rooftop designs, people walking and so on.
At night, I marvel at the way the city of St. Louis is lit up. One time when I was there, I thought I’d get up early and watch the “city wake up.” I thought I’d take notes and be inspired to write about something profound and unusual, since I’m a small-town kid who doesn’t often wake up in a city.
It isn’t much different than any other place. I saw very little and wasn’t that inspired. The sun coming up was kind of nice, but nothing too out of the ordinary that would make good column fodder.
Silly me. It was still a neat view for a bit.
I then move on to finding humor in the goings-on around us. My daughter and I laugh at everything from how long it takes the cafeteria to take our meal order to the sounds of nurses outside.
One nurse replied to directions she was getting with a high-pitched “OK!” We’d hear a muffled tone of the person giving directions, followed by the “OK” response. We counted 23 times within the short conversation.
Maybe not funny to most, but we found it pretty funny in our slap-happy, lack of sleep silliness.
We play games on our phones, we read stuff, we watch about 50 bazillion episodes of “Shark Tank” and count down until “Wheel of Fortune” comes on. I grade scads of papers, take notes for lesson plans, send emails and entire grades on my Chromebook.
But all of the distractions and the busy-ness does not keep me from losing my will power.
You see, the hospital tries to cater to families as much as possible. There’s this great little room a few steps away with all types of coffee creamers and surprisingly good coffee. We can order from the hospital cafeteria. Those were things I was already aware of and things I’d planned on taking advantage of.
Michelle, when we were switching posts, made the mistake of telling me about the Ronald McDonald room where one could get free snacks, better coffee, soda, and etc. My first thought was “I am sure the cafeteria and the little coffee room will be enough.”
But after she got home and I was here on my own, she sent a text. “Did you go downstairs and get a snack yet?”
It was as if temptation was knocking at the door.
I went down there. It was an incredibly inviting place with lots of places to lounge, have quiet time, do laundry and even take a shower.
Then, the kind-hearted volunteers showed me the kitchen.
Our kitchen tour started with every kind of soda, gourmet coffee made by a fancy coffee maker, teas, lemonades, flavored waters and hot chocolate.
There were chips, all sorts of frozen breakfast sandwiches that could be microwaved. There were regular sandwiches, desserts, cheese sticks, oatmeal packets, fresh fruit and more and more.
I was tempted. However, I wanted to impress the volunteers and took a cup of black coffee and a granny smith apple.
I’m sure they said, “You know that big fool wanted a couple of packages of Chips Ahoy” as I left the room.
After my daughter had eaten her supper and we were settled in for the evening, I felt myself being called down to that room again. So, off I went on the premise I’d bring something back for my poor little child.
When I got there, an older man who was just as accommodating and friendly as could be, smiled a broad smile and pointed me to a plate of packaged cookies. “They just came out of the oven and we just packaged them up,” he said happily.
I looked around for an empty Walmart sack as I contemplated stocking up for the long night. In addition to some of the cookies, I took two cans of soda, some Cheez-Its, a cup of decaf coffee with creamer, a banana, a cheese stick, and a Hostess danish. Oh and another package of those recently baked cookies.
I wanted to take more, but I didn’t want to appear greedy. I think I coyly mentioned something about my daughter being a picky eater as I thanked the volunteers and left with my giant bag of loot.
I had recently bragged about losing six pounds and how my will power had increased lately. However, free snacks decrease my stamina. I can’t seem to help myself. I have an addictive personality in these cases.
My daughter was only interested in one cookie, so we had extra snacks that lasted us a while. But I would be remiss if I did not tell you I visited the room five times before handing my shift over to my wife.
I walked past the little room and waved to the volunteers. I wanted to tell them I planned to go on a juice/smoothie/liquid fast for a couple of days. I doubt they would have cared.
But maybe they were encouraged to watch me go.
At least they wouldn’t have to restock as often now.