I spent an awesome Saturday night having a sleepover with my girlfriends. It was like being 15 again but we didn’t talk about boys (lie) or eat too much crap (lie). Will spent the night with my dad and step-mom. That was a first for them and Will was a rockstar. Not only did he sleep 11 hours straight – he held in his usual 8am poop until after I picked him up – good boy…I see repeats!
Anyway we started talking about hospitals and birth and things like that. I’ve been thinking about it since. My one big regret in life is about my education. I wish I’d paid more attention and actually took advantage. I wish I’d gone into medicine. And now I wish I could create a position, (and yes I think something like it exists but maybe not good enough) where a patient, loving and kind person could help hospital patients and families in hard times. I could have used that a few times in the past few years. Let me explain….
Case one. My mom had just endured brain surgery. We had just waited to hear if she was going to live or if she was going to die. Her surgeon came out of the operation, called us into the HALLWAY. Yes, the hallway – where people were walking by, drinking from the fountain…and said it doesn’t look good and that we should get her affairs in order. Wha – Huh… That is how we found out that our mother was going to die.
Case two. I delivered Will. He went to the NICU and I went to my room. After a restless night, my sister had to leave for an hour for an appointment. Right after she left the nurse came in and said ‘you need to go to and feed the baby’. I was so excited. I got on my robe and slippers and waited for them to come and get me. Ten minutes later she came back and said ‘get down there, they’re waiting.’ Then it hit me – I was going by myself. To the NICU to see my baby whould would be covered in wires and in an incubator. You may be saying suck it up, you chose to do this alone but I say this – if you’ve never seen a room full of very sick babies, you have no idea how terrifying it is. I knew Will was going to be fine but the thought of going in there alone was scary. As I shuffled to the elevator alone and crying, the doors opened and my brother was there – THANK GOD.
In both of these cases I say a caring, loving volunteer or designated nurse or someone could have made such an amazing difference. Surgeons are known to have crap bedside manner and that’s cool – I want you focussed on her brain but then could someone else have given us that news in a compassionate way and he could have filled us in on the medical mumbo jumbo later. And an arm around me as I was walking to the NICU would have made for one way more relaxed mother trying to navigate the wires to breastfeed. Instead they got a bawling, sweaty mess (sorry for the visual).
My third case in hindsight is sort of hilarious. After my ER visit for postpartum, the doctor arranged for a nurse to come see me at home. Her first visit, she walked up the stairs, took one look at me and said ‘WOW, you’re really dropping your baby weight – good for you.’ I burst out laughing (which was rare) and said ‘ahhh that’s because I haven’t eaten in two weeks…which is why you’re here.’ Then she proceeded to tell me to not worry that in a year or so, my hormones would be back to normal and I’d feel okay again. Probably NOT the right thing to say to a woman in the midst of emotional collapse. Then she saw the multitude of bottles that Will had rejected and started asking me for advice on how her kids should feed her grandkids. When she went to arrange the time for the next visit, I told her I wouldn’t be needing her but thanks. It was my first bit of control that I regained. But my god – do you think she should have read my case file first.
Now – don’t get me wrong. I love nurses and think we are blessed with our healthcare here. If you have a family member at Princess Margaret, go to the nurses lounge and see the plaque there that hangs in my mother’s name – donations paid for that room and we felt it was important to give back to the nurses. But there needs to be more patient advocates – helping with the mental well being of patients and families.
You know what else we need more of??? Tigers…apple juice drinking tigers. Yup more tigers.