Lessons learned in the hospital

Published 4:34 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2009

As the country debates our health care system, I found the subject a little too close for comfort this past week.

My wife and I traveled to Augusta, Ga., where she was scheduled to have some surgery last Friday. Ever the optimist, especially when I am not the patient, I figured on one of those stop and go experiences.

The way they schedule surgeries these days, I imagined an “in on Friday and out on Saturday” set of circumstances. That would be the worst of scenarios. Who knows? We might even use the drive-through. What naiveté!

I guess the Lord knows when lessons are needed to be learned.

As Tuesday has dawned and is underway, I am still in Augusta, five hours from Bainbridge and humbled to admit that I am one feeble excuse as a care-giver. No matter how hard I try to convince myself that I have been an encouragement, I must admit that I have failed. I have tried, but I have not accepted that my timetable and the patient’s timetable are not the same.

The hospital is the former St. Josephs and has plenty of reminders of its religious founders. All around there are statues of nuns in their habits and prayerful postures. Stained glass adorns the ends of some of the halls. Large Bibles on pedestals are at convenient places and there is a very nice chapel. All of that is good for I have needed much prayer and I am not even the one who suffered the operation.

I have prayed for patience just like the man who prayed, “Lord, I need patience and I need it right now!”

I don’t know where health care reform is headed; I am not sure anyone knows the answer to that question. However, I would suggest that at least one area is in great need of reform. That area is that recliner that is next to the patient’s bed. I’m not sure if the nurse said it made into a comfortable bed, or not, but if she did say that, she was simply leading me on!

After sleeping for at least four nights in that chair, I think I could sleep on a fallen log in the forest. I’m for health care reform IF it will make the rooms in hospitals large enough to include a full-sized, posturepedic mattress. Just put that rider onto the bill and I will be a huge supporter, no matter if it breaks the national bank, which is already broken.

A friend of mine said that hospitals weren’t made for sleeping and he got that right. Just as one might be getting a wink or two, here comes Loretta Young sashaying into the room. Most of you are thinking, just who is Loretta Young?

Many decades ago when television was black and white there was a Hollywood actress of the B movie level who had a show. Her name was Loretta Young. At the beginning of the show, they made a big deal out of this Loretta Young throwing the doors open and dramatically, and with great fanfare entering the room.

There was a particular nurse these few days that did a great impression of Loretta Young. It didn’t matter if it was 2 o’clock in the morning, here she came. Throwing the door open as if it were daylight outside and the Hollywood cameras were rolling, she would announce herself, “Good morning! I’m here to get your vitals!” The brightest lights this side of the sun would be turned on. And I’m trying to sleep on a 6-inch log in the forest.

Also, I discovered something else. Did you know that there was a different kind of time? There’s real life time where a few minutes is 10 or 15; and then there is hospital time where a few minutes could last a decade. I decided, if I am ever told that I have only six months to live, I’ll ask if hospital time could be used for the clock.

Speaking of time, there was an e-mail going around this past week about making the most of our time. It is from Ephesians 5:15 and it says that we are to make the most of our opportunities or time. I have thought a lot about that verse as I have been challenged to wait on the hospital staff, wait on the doctor to come by, wait for Donna Sue to improve enough for the ride back to Bainbridge.

Have I made the most of this opportunity?

If I am honest with myself, I have to admit that I have not acted in the patient, good and kind way that God would have wanted. I can’t say that I have learned new lessons about myself. I will only admit that I have shone light upon the areas of my life that present themselves for greatest growth.

I can be very selfish. I am happiest when life goes my way and no one upsets my applecart. Most of the time my life has been lemonade and, very seldom just lemons with no sugar. In my opinion I have had very few challenges in life. I’ve been blessed and should be looking for ways to be a blessing to others, especially those who love me as they do.

But I have to admit. When I am asked to get out of my comfort zone or adjust my simple and daily habits to accommodate someone else, I am not the happy camper I would like to be. That’s not good and, certainly, not the way God would want me to act. I’m not even close and that’s disappointing. Sometimes, I fool myself into thinking that I am farther along. It only takes a few days in the hospital, not as the patient, but as the supposed care-giver to place me right in front of a mirror that shows to me someone who has a lot of growing and maturing to do.

I am going to try. This road of improvement is a long and winding one and I can walk it by God’s grace only. Thankfully, God wants me to walk that road and is willing to help. He’s a lot more patient with me than I am with others. For that, I am thankful and hopeful that one of these days, as Biblical letter writer, James writes, “I may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. One of these days!”