In my imagination, I am like the Tom Hanks character in “The Terminal”, lost and wandering, making a life in this big building full of diverse people in blue scrubs or backless gowns, full of vending machines and fluorescent lights. By night bedding down on a vinyl couch, by day on a quest to find the least disgusting public restroom.
In Reality (or something close to it) I am just a harried mom taking shifts with my younger daughter and my son-in-law while my oldest daughter recovers from her brain surgery. I’m not sure any of us really knew what to expect, and we are getting through it the best we can, with good intentions and love and concern, getting in the way of kind nurses, asking for the third time, timidly, what Emily just asked for in a whispering mumble as she comes and goes from much-needed rest.
It’s Day Six. She just moved rooms for the fifth time: from the ICU (two rooms there) to a patient floor, to her second room on the Rehabilitation floor. This last move was a welcome one; her roommate in her first rehab room was an obese woman in a wheelchair who routinely yells and curses at the staff and goes out for frequent cigarette breaks, bringing that smell back with her. (My daughter Emily has become extra sensitive to smells: the lotion I applied, the onion bagel her sister ate for breakfast, the coffee on our breaths as we struggle to stay coherent after sleeping just a few hours a night.) In that tiny shared room the sleeping chair was wedged between the wall and the hospital bed. The curtain separating the two beds was hardly a barrier between the curses and snores of the other occupant and my somnolent child. Distraught, I asked at the desk if perhaps there might be someone leaving in the next few days; if there was any chance that my daughter, recovering from brain surgery, might get an opportunity to have a different room. Tears leaked from my eyes. The nurses at the desk glanced up at the very full board, noting who the roommate was, and met my eyes with sympathy. “Maybe we can shift someone around,” the charge nurse said. Before long, he came with the good news: a private room for Emily.
“I asked about that yesterday. Nicely,” her husband said when the nurse left.
“I threatened them!” my younger daughter half-joked.
“And I cried,” I admitted.
So in a ploy that shall henceforth be called “Good Cop, Bad Cop, Sad Cop”, we achieved the goal of a room where my daughter can properly heal.
It’s been odd. My adult daughter has been on her own for ten years, not needing me the way she once did. But now I am having experiences that remind me of caring for her as a baby. Last night I heated up her tea and tested the temperature on my wrist. I help her walk unsteadily to the bathroom, holding her hand. Her eyesight is still impacted by the surgery, so I’m reading aloud to her. It’s now Nicholas Sparks instead of Clifford, but it’s still déjà vu.
My younger daughter accompanied Emily to her PT session in the gym, where other patients were working. One man had no legs and no hands. Another was re-learning how to talk. I know we are lucky; Emily will have a full (and, I hope, speedy) recovery. She’s young. She has plans. Not much stands in the way of this determined young lady. She will spend her birthday in here. But she’ll get through it.
And she has a strong and loving support team in her good, bad, and sad cop family.
“Hey, I could wind up in there; maybe so could you.
Anything can happen when there’s nothing we can do;
And if you come to see me, Lord, and you sit in that visitor’s chair,
Take something home from that gift shop so you’ll have a souvenir
From that hospital”
– Loudon Wainwright iii