Monday, January 29, 2007
Last night at the hospital was nuts: deceptively few people in the waiting room, but nonstop ambulances, lots of really sick patients, several catastrophic diagnoses (advanced lung cancer, brain tumor), and screamers of every shape and size. Most of the hall beds were full, and in a couple of them, folks were tied down with the hospital's most heavy-duty restraints. I saw one person restrained in a very odd position -- one hand tied to the bedrails by the waist, the other stretched up over the head -- and when I asked the security guard what that was for, he said cheerfully, "Oh, that way they can't reach up and bite us."
Usually my four-hour shift includes a snack break, a couple of bathroom breaks, a visit to the chapel, and so forth. Last night, I never even got to the water fountain. My census was actually a little lower than usual, because I had a few long visits, but I was working the whole time. As I was leaving, I saw another security guard who looked at me, sighed, and said, "And it's not even a full moon!"
In the middle of all this, a mom came in with a sick kid. The kid recognized me from a previous visit, months ago: good memory! I hadn't met the mom before; last time, the kid had come in with a grandparent. It was one of those rooms where I didn't expect to be spending much time -- parents with sick kids are usually in the "Oh, we're fine" category -- but it turned out that there'd been a recent, very devastating loss in the family. The mom was reeling, and needed to talk and pray and cry.
After we'd talked for a while, she asked if I'd sit with the kid while she went out to make a phone call. I was happy to do that, and we had a nice conversation. ("I like your doctor shirt. Do you like blue? We saw some doctor shirts with clouds on them at a store. I could buy you one. What size do you wear?") Somebody had given the kid a sheet of stickers -- valuable currency, with pediatric patients -- and before I left, the child gave me one and said, "You did a good job talking to my mommy."
How cool is that?
So I now have a new sticker on the back of my volunteer badge. When I got home, I proudly showed it to Gary, who looked bemused. But that's okay. During one of those slow or difficult shifts when I wonder why I'm at the hospital, my sticker will remind me.