It still amazes me how “at home” I ended up feeling during our 17 days in the hospital. You start to make friends and get to know the staff and memorize faces.
I have many little stories about my interaction with people and employees during that time but two of them stand out. Towards the beginning of our illustrious stay, I kept noticing a baby grand piano in the lobby by the chapel. I thought.. hmmmmmm.. why is that beautiful piano in this hospital? Possibly for when they host events? Maybe free concerts for patients? It just seemed a little odd to me. Then one day my grandson and I were walking back from our umpteenth visit to the cafeteria (this is when Hubby was still sedated) and we heard the beautiful sound of that piano floating thru the hospital halls like butterflies in a field of wildflowers. We had to take a look at who was playing that heavenly music. We turn the corner and to my amazement it was the Chaplain of the hospital and he was playing old gospel music! I was soooo excited! We had to have a seat and enjoy this unexpected pleasure. Surprisingly, we were the only audience but he didn’t mind because he was playing for the love of the music and what it represented. Then he started to play “The Old Rugged Cross” and something strange happened to me. I instantly became overcome with emotion and here it came! My rusty vocal chords ( I am a singer who does not sing enough) just opened up and I went full force into the lyrics of that beautiful song and I really didn’t care who was around, who heard me or if my voice was pitch perfect. God stepped in and that Chaplain and I were having a “moment”. Now, as for what my grandson thought… bless his heart.. he sat there and held my hand and just listened.. and was probably REALLY glad none of his friends were around to hear his weird Grandma embarrass him! But, honestly, that will go down as one of the most amazing moments of my life. It was as if the whole hospital disappeared and it was just the 3 of us and God in that room. His fingers rolled up and down that keyboard and my voice sailed with a volume I forgot I had, and we all just connected. And I must say it was pretty darned good! Would have been nice if some person with the usual up and ready cell phone would have recorded it.. but I think that’s the point.. It was meant to be a “moment in time” and the feeling of that will stay with us forever and doesn’t need to be on Facebook or Instagram. I believe we are becoming a society that forgets that, and we are too busy recording everything and not truly living in the moment and letting our eyes absorb it into our memories. Soon we won’t have to remember ANYTHING we will only have to pull out our phone and look it up… and this saddens me.
I never saw that Chaplain again during our stay and we never spoke a word. We smiled at each other after our musical experience and went our separate ways. And sometimes I wonder… was he an angel who showed up at that moment? I know, sounds a little crazy, but there were no witnesses (it was very late at night and visiting hours were over for hours) and I never saw him again. I will always feel in my heart that no matter where that Chaplain came from, he was sent to me that day…because after that moment I felt hope and I felt a lot of burden lifted..at least for that day. So, I am thankful for that… and thankful he walked into my life for that moment on that day. He was an angel TO ME.
My other favorite little story is about this amazing man who has worked at the hospital for many many years. You can’t miss him. They have done stories about him on the news, I found out later…as I saw him on TV and I was like..”Hey! I remember him! There he is!”
He’s an older African-American man with a slight hunch and a little limp..probably from all the manual labor he has done his entire life. I am guessing his job was janitorial. He walked around with a broom or a mop. So you are asking..OK..whats the catch? What’s so special about this guy? Well, he’s SO special it oozed out of him all over that hospital. If I remember the story correctly, he lost a loved one in that hospital that he worked and knew all too well what it felt like to go thru that tragedy. He felt a strong calling to spread joy to all that have to be in that hospital with a loved one. You can’t walk through the halls of St. Thomas West hospital without feeling this man’s presence. He is one of those people God shined upon with a beautiful gift.. a gift He wanted him to share and light his little world with. This man is an amazing example of what a true Christian is supposed to be. He shines his light upon the people of the world and spreads joy and happiness to all who are lucky enough to cross his path. This man walks the halls, broom in hand, and is a singing, humming, greeter. And, I’m not talking WalMart here.. this man has a voice like an angel and a presence that pours over you like Heaven and makes you feel like all is good in the world. I got to the point where I hoped every time I walked the halls I would see him…he just made you feel THAT good. You felt like his best friend when he spoke to you. He would sing the most beautiful songs and say the nicest things. And most would think.. “Isn’t this a little unprofessional?” It could be.. but once you feel his presence you don’t care. He is a rare person and I feel lucky to have experienced his true love for people. I think everyone could learn from him.. learn to spread joy even through your own tragedies. This man has helped countless people like me in that hospital, everyday of every year. When you meet him, you can instantly see why he has become somewhat of a local celebrity. And I feel if he won the lottery and didn’t need to work, he would still be right there singing and spreading love and loving every minute of it. And I truly believe he has used his gift of touching others to fill the void he feels from his loss. What an inspiration. We all need to keep our eyes open everyday and not miss these people when they cross our paths. And we all need to aspire to be more like them.
We were getting closer and closer to day 17. Hubby was getting stronger and the docs started talking about releasing him… but were still being cautious.
Out of the blue, we hear a little knock at the door. We both looked at each other like.. who could that be? And to my surprise.. it was the stylish, awesome, male nurse from ICU!!! He made time before the beginning of his shift to come and see us. He was just SHOCKED to see Hubby awake and talking! The last he cared for him, hubby was till under sedation. He just couldn’t stop saying how happy he was to see Hubby talking and acting ALIVE! You can just imagine how that is for them to see. They care for these patients every need for days and never get to see their real self or even hear them talk. Then, they walk in the room a week and a half later and they are moving and thriving and a REAL person! It was such a cool moment. I apologized for the fact that Hubby’s Mad Men hair was no longer, and how much I missed it. And I just kept thinking how awesome it was of him to take the time to make this visit. He pretty much said in so many words that when he left Hubby, (nurses work 3-4, 12 hr days in a row then are off 3-4 days, so you get close to them then you usually don’t see them again) he didn’t think he would make it. And to his joy and thankfulness Hubby did!!! And he couldn’t have truly been more thankful and you felt his genuineness. He was a very special guy and we will always remember him. Hubby says after he leaves, with a macho tone.. “That’s the guy who fixed my hair?” And I laughed..and I said.. “Don’t worry honey I won’t let him fix it again while you are sleeping.” (But, as much as I liked it, it sure was tempting :0 🙂 )
I believe we are still at day 13. Now, the reference to 17 days is a reference to our FIRST hospital stay. You will read later of our other lovely visits to the hospital hotels.
Our main cardiologist comes in to discuss the latest news…( I actually meant to tell you this part earlier. This was right before we convinced our boys to go home. Our daughter already had.. I told you, it has been difficult to remember specific timelines 😦 ) This doctor is very talented and knowledgeable and one of the best in the area… but a little frank, up front and almost emotionless. But, who could blame him? How would you like to give people horrible news day in and day out? He wanted to discuss discharging Hubby and the stipulations. He recommended moving him to a rehab facility in Murfreesboro. He said he just didn’t feel comfortable with him going home yet. I could understand that. So with much discussion and Hubby arguing with me..(he just wanted to go home)… we decided upon this rehab place. They had a full time medical staff and rehab equipment and hubby would be continuously monitored 24/7…or so we thought. The next day when we left the hospital we went straight to the facility. They met us at the door and took hubby in with a wheel chair and got him set up while I filled out paperwork. The place was very nice and seemed professional. We were late getting there because the discharge from the hospital took forever then we got a little lost on the way there. So a lot of the day staff had left for the day. I eventually get back to his room and was shocked at how big and nice it was. It actually had a twin pullout bed for me and a very large bathroom with a shower! Wahoo!! The Ritz!! So far so good. Then eventually the doc on staff comes in and looks like she is on her way to a golf outing..that should have been my first red flag. The boys and my mother-in-law came to check it out and to say goodbye. They thought it seemed a little weird but figured the doc knew best. I would be with Hubby for the night so General Char would be on the case…that relieved them. That was a very hard goodbye but they were already making plans to come back as soon as they could. Hubby cried and hugged them tight which broke my heart. But, I assured them I would take the best care of him and constantly keep them updated.
It started to get late and we were trying to get situated. The plan was for hubby to stay there at least a week and then they would discuss him going home. Now, at this point, I didn’t have his meds memorized..there were tons of them…but I knew he HAD to take them on a schedule..especially his heart meds and his insulin. Our room was at the very end of the hallway which we will find out later means you are at the end of the “someone might pay attention to you” list. It is now 10:00 pm and we have not seen a nurse. General Char is ready to go in for the kill. And to make it all that much more fun, we felt like we were in an insane asylum. Even with the door closed we could hear moaning and screaming and noises I can’t describe. Needless to say, Hubby is at his wits end. This is a man who hates hospitals already. And at this point I’m thinking.. I will never get to sneak home! Hubby will never want me to leave him alone in this crazy place! Nor would I want to. He kept saying, “I’m going to die in this place.” That’s how unnerving it was.
By 10:30 I am out the door trying to find a nurse. He was already an hour behind on his insulin and 2 hours behind on his meds. When I finally find one I explain the situation and I am told she is the only nurse on staff who can administer meds and she is doing her best to move down the hall. Like I said..we were last in line. They sent another nurse to take his BP and other vitals which was a small relief because I was getting worried about his numbers. By 11:15 I am at my wits end! I am pacing but trying not to upset Hubby. After everything I’ve been through this place may end up being the recipient of weeks of built up anger and frustration. And for those of you who know me.. you know I am cool most of the time..but when I am passionate about something or it involves protecting my family you know Mama Bear comes out and joins General Char and they have a butt whooping party!!!! I just kept praying to God for patience because I was getting more than fired up.
FINALLY, here she came. Now, I realize it was not her fault. This facility PUT her in this position of having too many patients for one nurse so I tried to empathize. But, I still had to make it CLEAR that he is VERY sick and CANNOT miss his meds. Later we find out the hard way Hubby was a little too sick for this facility.
Hubby was scheduled for a full day of rehab the next day and there was more of a full staff for the day shift. I felt comfortable enough to go home for a few hours and shower and get a few things done. I wasn’t home more than 2 hours when I got a phone call. ” Your husband is being prepped to be taken back to St. Thomas. He had a very irregular heart beat and his blood pressure went very low so we would feel better if he went back there.” I’m like.. WHAT??? So, I got back in the car, with our daughter, and high tailed it back to the rehab. I made it just in time to see him before they put him in the ambulance. And he gave me a look like.. “I’M GONNA KILL YOU FOR LEAVING ME ALONE IN THIS PLACE!” My daughter and I were like… Mmmmm ok, we will see you at the hospital.. I figured he would calm down on the way there..LOL.
So we are now at day 15 and back at the big hospital. Hubby’s mental state is not good. We talked to the doc and he was very upset with the facility. We told him everything that happened and let’s just say he probably wont be sending anymore patients there.
So the doc came up with another plan. He said if in the next couple days I like your numbers we can send you home set up with in home care. He really thought it would be better for him to be home but he still needed daily checks and needed to get going on his rehab. We were all for this plan. We were sooooo ready to get home. Secretly I was petrified though. I knew I would no longer have the hospital staff at my disposal and everything would fall on me. Was I ready for this? Was I strong enough? Then during the conversation he made a very enlightening statement that shocked us. “I am just trying to help you live longer.” Help him LIVE LONGER????? We both looked at each other and could feel our hearts sink. What does he mean? He almost sounds like this is a death sentence and he is trying to extend what he has left. When the doc left we were both kind of silent. This was one of those moments of reality… and not an easy one to swallow. At this point of Hubby’s illness there really wasn’t a lot of certainty. We had no way of knowing what his heart would do or how it would recover. The more I read the more scared I got. I kept it from Hubby for the most part. I would never hide anything from him, but I wanted him to stay positive. We just knew that only time would tell. And I also knew that if the heart DIDN’T recover we would be talking heart transplant so I did my best to tuck that away with General Char and get to work praying and getting this man back to health!
Sooo.. by day 17 we got the go ahead and we were going home. It took ALL day to discharge us. Between all the instructions, restrictions, and medications it was quite a job to get us out the door. This will astonish most of you, but part of me didn’t want to go. I felt secure in that hospital. Other people took care of Hubby and I was terrified of being responsible for him. I can nurture anything and everything but this was a little more than that. I have taken care of sick babies, nannied 10 kids at once, raised 4 kids, and ran a very active home while working FROM home for 30 years and THIS really scared me. I kept pep talking myself like I always do.. here came the voices.. but it wasn’t working too well.
I pulled up to the discharge lane and there he was waiting for me in the wheelchair and looking so helpless. Then it hit me… I felt as if I just gave birth to my first child and they are handing me that baby and I am going home with him for the first time and having no idea what I’m doing. Except there is no excitement. No feeling of new life and wonder and that exhilaration of being responsible for that little life. There is all the fear of the unknown but paired with, if I make a mistake this person could die. Any mistake I make is life threatening.. not just that he may end up with a diaper rash or an upset stomach. I couldn’t have taken enough deep breaths..but I didn’t want Hubby to feel my fear. He had way to much mental mess already and didn’t need to deal with babysitting MY feelings.
First stop.. Walgreens.. and the story of our homecoming begins…
Until next time.. be a blessing.. share a blessing… be blessed xoxo