Hospitals are a little like the beach. The next wave comes in, and the footprints of your pain and suffering, your delivery and recovery, are obliterated; the sheets are changed.
-Anna Quindlan, “One True Thing”
When a patient spends more than a few days in the hospital, the room often takes on his or her personality. For a while, the patient and family have a space — four walls, a bathroom, a window — that becomes their own. Frequently, I feel like a visitor as I enter such a room. When I walk the halls, my memory stirs as I link specific rooms with particular patients and their stories.
When I was first in practice, I was asked to see a woman who had been hospitalized for several weeks. She was holding her own but, in those days before hospice, she had nowhere else to go. As I opened the door, my nose filled with the aroma of flowers. There was soft music playing, The bedraggled bulletin board was covered with family photos and get well cards. A “We Miss You!” banner hung from the ceiling. Board games were stacked on the ledge.
The place felt like someone’s home or maybe their summer cottage. Family and friends had taken a few square feet of hospital and planted their own personal healing garden. “The flowers are beautiful!”
I commented, approaching the bed rail. “It’s like a funeral parlor, don’t you think?”
she responded. I looked to see if she was serious. Her eyes gave her away. “A very classy funeral parlor,”
Over the next few weeks, she deteriorated. Her family kept vigil, personalizing and rearranging the photos, cards and mementos. Every few days, I looked to see what was new.
One day, I knocked on the door and peeked in. The flower fragrance had dissipated and the room was empty. The bed was raised to its highest setting and the sheets were crisply made. I blinked. The personality had been swept away.
The cocoon had opened. She was gone.
Thanks to Courtney S. for the quote from Anna Quindlan.
||The following is feedback received for this blog:|
Thanks for painting a beautiful picture of a person not only a patient.
Dr Campbell...what a moving post!
I can relate to your patient.
My dear friend Pat... brought some of her personal items from her apartment when she entered into a hospice -palliative care facility.
Her room reminded me of her various homes and apartments. One of her beautiful oil paintings was hanging on the wall, her dried flower arrangements, books, and other things. She had a picture window with a gorgeous view. The room reflected her. There was always a peace that surrounded her and that was felt in any of her homes... and I felt it there as well.
She outlived the hospice time frame but fortunately was able to retain her room until she died.
There was a fold out sofa in the room and I stayed over a couple of times. Her room was like grand central station in that *staff* seemed to like to come in for a respite. She had been a counselor and also in ministry as well as teaching regarding death and dying.
Needless to say... she ministered to anyone in need around her. I did worry it may have been a bit much toward the end as she tired easily... but she had a gift for helping others... and enjoyed it. They seemed to love to hang out in her room.
No doubt...had she been your patient... you would've felt it too. I am sure she was missed by the staff.
I miss her too.
It's nice to know that physicians feel/care about their patients as you do.
I am moved... by the depth of feeling you have for your patients and the connected experiences. Not only do they live on in the hearts of others... but in the heart of their doctor as well... and it would warm my heart to know my docs cared as you do.