Tuesday, June 17, 2014

crossing two bridges

i've worked in healthcare for a long time.

i can walk into a hospital and unblinkingly head to a cadaver lab, participate in what goes on there, and walk back out with a purposeful stride.

i drink later, but on the way in and out: purposeful.

walking in with a loved one who's about to become a patient? my gait loses all certainty. i can't find my way through the byzantine hallways. my brain goes to a slow, low-functioning place.

including two sky bridges thirty feet above minor ave. and marion street, the path from the physician's office to the surgical center is less than a quarter mile, but like the hallways in the overlook hotel, it goes on forever.

i'm breathing shallow, wary and uneasy and apprehensive. i'm used to being able to do something about something, somehow. here, not the case.

mind you, that's what's going on on the inside. what's going on on the outside is all bonhomie, all the time.

"so, just to be clear, i should NOT lose the earrings? don't. 'don't' lose the earrings. got it."

"hi, donna. so, how's your hand hygiene? i wasn't going to ask, but this sign says you want to be asked. mine? mine is awful. i just went for a swim in the MRSA lab."

"she's strong. her first baby came out sideways. she didn't scream or nothin'."

"you know, if you're asleep when the anesthesiologist gets here, she'll be thrilled. 'she's already asleep? awesome, i'm going golfing.'"

me: want to recline your seat?
her: nope.
me: you sure?
her: yup.
me: ...
me: want to play with the sharps container?

then she is asleep, and i'm standing watch. activity swirls by in the hall, full of purposeful people. i know that feeling, and it would come in handy now. doesn't matter. it's my watch, purpose enough.

after an interminable wait, the anesthesiologist glides in, and now we're awake and all-business. question, question, answer, answer. caveat, advisory, question, answer.

"all right, then, if you'll come with me...

doctor and patient walk toward serious-looking doors, and a chatty nurse leads me toward a bright, spacious family waiting area. daytime tv yammers on the set next to me, and i remember that daytime tv sucks. i wouldn't have thought it possible that it could be more brainless than evening tv, but somehow it manages.

people walking by outside look through the windows at those of us on the inside. people push other people in wheelchairs. cars pull up, load fragile passengers, and drive away.

there's a starbuck's logo on the sign marking the main entrance to the hospital. there's a starbuck's logo. on the sign. marking the main entrance. to the hospital.

i look up, look around, and it occurs to me that from where i am right now, i have no idea how to get back to the car, in a parking lot, in a different building.

all i remember is crossing two bridges...


the doctor comes into the waiting area, and tells me everything went great. this and that, what to expect post-op, no worries, oh, and happy birthday.

i wasn't expecting that. and because it caught me off guard, my stoic slipped, just for a moment.

me (small smile, eyebrows up): "thank you."

the tears stayed in.

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