Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Neanderthal Man

I remembered something funny yesterday. When Katie was first admitted to Children's Hospital, we had only the clothes on our backs. We thought we were there for tests and information; we had no idea that she was not going to be allowed out of the place for at least 6 weeks.

We borrowed pajamas that they have stocked in the linen closet on the Hem-Onc ward. I learned to go right to that closet for sheets, towels, washcloths, blankets, floor mats and pjs (which are all laundered commercially) when we needed them. But in the beginning, it was like being a guest. The nurses gave us toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc. Gregg went home to be with David and to pick up our own clothes and toiletries, but for the first night, we borrowed.

The Hem-Onc ward on the 3rd floor has only 2 bathrooms for parents, and a large number of patient beds. There were sinks and toilets in each of the patient rooms, but those bathrooms were for patients ONLY, and there were often as many parents as patients on the ward. In other words, all during those months, I would often have to wander the halls (even in my pjs), looking for a toilet that was unoccupied. Sometimes, I had to take an elevator to another floor to find one. (The 4 showers that serve the entire parent population of the hospital were all on the top floor, but that is another story.)

In a cancer ward, with the patients' immune-systems compromised, cleanliness is a vital necessity. Using hand-sanitizer became an obsession with most of us. The rooms are cleaned frequently, as are the bathrooms. It's a part of life there to get familiar with the lovely cleaning staff, who come in and clean the rooms at various time of the day. I remember a couple of them who spoke little English, who were so very compassionate. You could feel their warmth and love when they looked in your eyes. One of the ladies used to say things like, "Go Katrin! Go go go! You get strong," which was her way of cheering Katie on in her recovery. It's a wonderful prayer, in my way of seeing.

Anyway, the funny part is that when I would have to use one of the parent bathrooms, I would frequently find that the toilet seat was in the "up" position. This used to irritate me to no end. I would fume as I put the seat down and think, "What Neanderthal man has left this seat up? Doesn't he KNOW that we are all sharing these toilets, and we don't want to fall on the rim just because he's too lazy and uncultured to put it back down? Especially in the middle of the night! Who behaves like this anymore?" I could really work up some steam over that.

Then, one day, it occurred to me that it just might be that the cleaning staff, having kindly sterilized the toilet for us, had left the seat up so that it could air-dry.

Oh. I see.

Seeing that showed me how angry I was, how helpless and persecuted I was feeling at the time. And I had a good laugh at myself. The memory still makes me smile.

7 comments:

Contemplative Photographer said...

There must be something in the air today; I, too, blogged about inappropriate anger, and so did this sweet guy I found while tracking down some links from a comment I got. He and his wife are both blogging about raising their autistic son; take a look:

http://oversizedasian.blogspot.com

http://www.granolachicslife.blogspot.com/

Karla W. said...

We were very fortunate with our Children's experience in the fact that Sammie was too young to use the bathroom, so if there was a shower in her room I could use that too. It worked out really well.

the housekeeping staff did do a great job. You can tell they like being around the kids. With Sammie being so little and not yet walking I did get in the habit of Scrubing her floor with the sanitizing cloths. On the first day in a room I'd end up going through several and they'd all be black, but it would get better over the days...there's just something to be said for scrubbing a floor on your hands and knees.

HappyWifeHappyLife said...

Your story made me smile, Karen. During the almost 6 months that J was in the NICU (at 3 different hospitals), we met so many incredibly sweet staff members... really I think people who work with sick children are special angels that God sends directly to Earth and carefully disguises as nurses, therapists, and doctors. My eyes are misting up a bit thinking of some of them - how much care they took of ME (the "basket case Chronically Crying Mom") as much as my son.
You know, as hard as those months there were, they had their own "sweetness" too.... if that makes any sense at all.

Peace & Blessings, my friend.

PS: We talked about heaven a lot last night at small group and how amazingly COOL it's going to be. and how wonderful to be reunited with our loved ones for all eternity. Of course, I thought of you, and Katie. :-)

Amy said...

Quite funny! At least you always had clean toilets and didn't have to clean them yourself! ;)

When my daughter was in the hospital for a few days last year...I had brought nothing either...just a teddy bear. Living off the kindness of others for that first night...sleeping in my jeans (pregnant)...

amanda said...

I love the lady cheering on Katie. It is always the unassuming people that get to us...

suz said...

ohhhh, this is a silly memory. I understand about the toilet seat up stuff....crazy

Smileygirl said...

If only that excuse applied in our own homes...