“And in this very room, there’s quite enough love for all of us, and in this very room, there’s quite enough joy…” I’ve often sung that hymn in church, but never thought of it before in the context of an ambulatory surgery unit in a large urban hospital.
Most of the folks who come there, I suspect, are frightened, overwhelmed and bewildered. They are dreading pain, incisions, drugs that make them woozy and sometimes, scary diagnoses. To be fair: I was there only as a designated driver for my friend having an endoscopy. But maybe that slight detachment (ho ho—no shots, IVS, etc. for me! Whew!) lent an objectivity and appreciation I’d lack if I were the patient. Fortunately, it boosted my confidence for that inevitable time when I will be on the gurney under the warm blankets.
In the small cubicle where we spent an hour of pre-op, there was surprising laughter and light. I wanted to be a strong presence for my friend, distracting her if possible, and if things went haywire, simply being with. Little did I know that her assigned nurse would be the perfect ally. He balanced humor and information perfectly, letting her know exactly what lay ahead. He didn’t use medical jargon, but reassured: I’ll be with you. I’ve done this hundreds of times and have years of ER experience. Everything he outlined transpired precisely as predicted. She remembered nothing of the experience and happily sailed away after an aide delivered her to my car in a wheelchair.
Admittedly, she was lucky. Doctors found no problems, but I wondered: what if they had? The only clue to that question lay in the waiting room experience. All around me, doctors were emerging in green scrubs to meet with patients’ families. They seemed informative, relaxed, reassuring. If I had to get sad news, I’d want to hear it from them.
Caveats, of course. It doesn’t always go this well; people have bad days. Health care in the US is a flawed system; one anecdote proves nothing. But it doesn’t mean we can’t praise steadfast cheerfulness in the face of tough odds, competence under stress, the ordinary kindness of busy people.
Look for the June 29 Soul Seeing column in National Catholic Reporter: “Jew, Christian, Muslim: See the Beloved Everywhere” by Kathy Coffey