My earliest memory revolves around a stay in the hospital. I was three years old, and spending time at Upstate Medical Hospital in Syracuse, NY for a muscle biopsy and neurological testing. I remember the tortuous spinal tap, waking up in the operating room, and walking to the playroom with my sister Caroline. I am certain those early memories, combined with later experiences in hospitals, are responsible for the dread I feel whenever faced with a potential hospitalization.
I spent two weeks in St. Peter’s Hospital in January after my femur fracture and the surgery to repair it. For the majority of my stay, I was on McAuley 2. During my stay, several staff asked me about my writing once they saw me blogging on my cell phone. I promised to write a post about them and today I dedicate my gratitude post to the wonderful nurses and patient care techs who cared for me during my stay on McAuley 2.
I am what most medical professionals label a “total care” patient. Put me in a bed and I lose the ability to move without assistance. I can’t lift my arms up to my face, which means in January I was unable to blow my nose, wipe my eyes, or feed myself while in bed. And I happened to have a sinus infection for the first week of my stay.
I was a “10 pillow patient.” Every time I used the bedpan (which happened every 45 minutes when I developed a urinary tract infection on day 4 of my 14 day stay), the patient care techs and nurses spent several minutes adjusting the many pillows required to prop up my legs, arms, head and shoulders into tolerable positions. Frequent repositioning also happened because I was at risk for developing pressure sores.
Because I was in the hospital for 2 weeks, I developed routines and rapport with the “regular” staff. Tan came in each morning, full of energy and enthusiasm for the day even when I just wanted to stay in bed and wallow in my pain. Keri worked with me to find the quickest and safest way to use a Hoyer mechanical lift when I was finally allowed to get up into my wheelchair. Antoinette and Chris were the team who came running every hour on the overnight shifts to help clean me up once the laxatives started working. Gentle, quiet Santos became my advocate, chastising other staff if he felt they weren’t being cautious of my swollen knee or contracted joints.
Many people performed small acts which made huge improvements during my hospitalization. But Claire, who only worked with me once, did the one thing that made me feel most human. She washed my hair.
Claire came to my room at 1:30 AM, wondering why I was awake. I was capitalizing on the quiet, taking advantage of some pain free moments, and working on this post.
How’s everything going? Is there anything I can do for you?
I jokingly asked if she had the ability to help me shower. I was not allowed to get my incision wet, so bed baths were a daily routine. I didn’t feel dirty, but I was self-conscious of my greasy long hair which had not been washed for 11 days.
I could at least wash your hair if you’d like. I’ll come right back after I help your neighbor to the bathroom.
Which is how I found myself sitting upright in bed at 2:15 AM with a hot sudsy shower cap on my head, Claire scrubbing and massaging my scalp. I warned her I might moan with pleasure like those shampoo commercials. It was either that, or fall asleep. I managed to stay awake as we chatted through the next five minutes.
Throughout the world, nurses and patient care techs in hospitals like Claire, Tan, Keri, Santos, Antoinette, and Chris, help their patients feel more human every day. The staff of McAuley 2 who tended to my needs were compassionate, attentive and encouraging – a difficult task when I was cranky and in pain. They did their best to make my healing as comfortable as possible, and I am thankful for their kindness and professionalism.