Thoughts from a Waiting Room

thankyour-doctors-nurses-01I’m sitting in a waiting room at Methodist Hospital while Mike has some minor surgery. He tends to get cysts in his back that grow until they are pressing on nerves and they sometimes get infected opening the possibility of MRSA. He’s had a couple of the culprits removed over the years so it is a somewhat routine procedure but as we all know anything can happen whenever someone receives an anesthetic and goes under the knife. I suspect that we’ll be headed home in a few hours but I don’t take the process lightly given the seriousness of the pre-operative paperwork and preparation involved.

The family waiting room where I am is much more lighthearted than those where I have kept watch while loved ones were dying in ICU. Here nobody is particularly worried. There are no tears or anxious faces, no signs of people getting really bad news. I suspect that there are other areas in the hospital where those things are happening even as we speak. Coming to a hospital always reminds me to have gratitude for the good health that I mostly enjoy. It also helps me to have much more sympathy for families that are enduring very serious situations.

We put our faith in the doctors and nurses who serve us but we tend to forget just how important they are to us until we need them. It’s quite easy to take them for granted and to ignore just how much hard work they had to expend just to become certified for their jobs. They have spent hours and hours and hours learning and practicing until one day they have been deemed ready to provide us with their service. They are subjected to brutally long hours that often take their toll on their feet, their backs and their general health. A nurse who drew blood on Mike this morning told us that he would have at least thirty five patients today. Given that he spent around thirty minutes with Mike that means that he has little or no time to even sit down during his twelve hour shift and that he will be running to give each person the same level of attention that he gave to Mike.

The life of a hospital nurse is one of constantly moving, caring and reacting to one situation after another. According to my daughter it is not uncommon for RNs to be treated quite badly or as if they were simply uneducated lackeys. How they manage to stay so pleasant and focused is difficult to comprehend. Few people actually understand  or appreciate the difficulty of the material that that they have had to master to earn their degrees. The anatomy, chemistry, and biology that they must learn is not watered down. It is incredibly difficult to even qualify to enter an education program to become a registered nurse. We too often forget that until we are in need of a nurse’s help.

My family members who are doctors often speak of the grueling educational process. They recall times when they literally thought seriously about giving up because their energy was so sapped. Somehow their determination to enter the medical profession overcame their personal doubts, failures and lapses of strength and vitality. They pushed on even as others dropped from their ranks. They have every reason to feel proud of their accomplishments. Even after achieving something that few of us would ever be willing to sacrifice to do, they are often working long after everyone else is home with their families. Theirs is a life filled with little sleep and many interruptions.

I once thought that I might enter a medical career. I visited many spots in the Houston Medical Center as a young high school student attempting to discern exactly what I wanted to be. I was never quite sure whether I would prefer to be a nurse or a doctor. I had a few concerns such as the fact that I hated biology and nearly fainted at the sight of blood but I figured that I would be able to overcome those impediments. It was actually watching medical personnel in action that ultimately dissuaded me from pursuing what had once been my dream. I suppose that in some ways I would have to count that as my one true regret. I never really gave myself the opportunity to become familiar enough with the profession to know for certain that I was not meant to be a member. Luckily I found being an educator to be as gratifying as saving lives might have been.

The doctors and nurses are still coming and going here in the waiting room. The news for family members continues to be good, not bad. The waits are fairly short and the outcomes are upbeat. I wonder what it takes to be in other parts of the hospital where more dire situations are unfolding. I can’t imagine having to be the bearer of sad tidings and yet there are good doctors and nurses who have had to learn how to do such things and are no doubt doing so even as I sit here in relative comfort.

I appreciate that Mike is in one of the best hospitals in the nation. I love that the staff is so professional. We often complain about healthcare in our country and I suspect that in some places it is subpar but here in Houston we have access to the best and the brightest. There is nothing quite like having the luxury of confidence that we or those we love are receiving the best possible care. I have to admit that Mike and I and most of the citizens of Houston are quite blessed in that regard. It certainly makes a huge difference. I have to be certain to profusely thank all of the good people who are helping us today.

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