I Believe Things Should Work Properly

Nature at work. Properly.

Miles run yesterday: 8

Surgeons visited with a friend: 2

Wheelchairs pushed yesterday: 1

I have a strong belief in order in the universe: appliances should function, and bodies should never break down in any manner.

I also think people should be nice to each other. Every now and then, that doesn’t work out so well for me; being optimistic has its down side.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with a friend who recently had surgery. She was still on pain meds and crutches, so she needed someone to drive her to her post-op appointment.

I do things like this, not because I am a super-kind person, but because I am horrible at dealing with sickness and hospitals and saying the right thing and being supportive when people are less than healthy. I view my tiny acts as a kind of penance. I need to make up for my ineffectiveness as a friend and human being.

One time when I was in high school, I talked to my grandmother about it. I told her I wasn’t great at dealing with illness.

She looked at me, narrowed her eyes, and said, “I hate sick people.” And we laughed.

Already, she was facing friends who were dying and family members whose bodies were failing in one way or another. And we both knew that we stunk as patients; possibly, we were worse as caregivers.

This spring, I have volunteered to help out in the only way I am equipped to do so: driving people to medical appointments.

Here’s what I spotted on my medical journey by proxy:

1. A daycare center playground mere yards from the exit at an infertility clinic. That, and the clinic stocks “Baby & Toddler Guides” in its waiting room.

2. Wheelchairs provided at a surgical clinic, but elevators and doorways built exactly the width of the wheelchair.

3. When my friend had two doctor appointments in the same building, she was the one who had to undress, get examined, re-dress and carry her crutches and wheelchair to another clinic. I saw the doctors; we might have gone out for a run together afterwards… Should the least mobile person in the party be the one asked to climb Everest?

4. Check-in times at the front desk rivaled the time it took me to complete the SAT. This was a person the surgeons operated on only last week; did they lose her paperwork? Or were they collecting details in case they chose to write a novel about her in the future? Either way, she was on crutches.

And now, the things I have learned about myself:

1. I am the opposite of patient.

2. I need snacks.

3. I take back what I said in my post the other day: I don’t invent reasons to drink at two in the afternoon unless I am sitting in a waiting room. There, I fantasize about turning the space into a swanky cocktail hour. Think about what we could do with wheelchairs if the desk staff served martinis and pinot noir.

Healthcare may need an overhaul, but I’m not sure they’re focused in on the right issues. What are your observations? Suggestions?

How about Missoni hospital gowns? Computerized check-in like airline tickets? Wine and cheese in the waiting areas? Hot pink crutches? Drive-thru post-op?

31 thoughts on “I Believe Things Should Work Properly

  1. Daryl says:

    How about door prizes, and perhaps a FASTPASS to jump the line!!!

  2. Melissa says:

    I’m with Daryl on the FASTPASS….that would be so awesome. I have to say that I’ve been very fortunate with my recent experiences, but I think they see the pained expression on my face, the fact that I have REALLY long arms and that means I can swing those crutches REALLY far….SMACK! Just the thought makes me smile. Hope your friend is better soon!

  3. Running in Mommyland says:

    Yes to the list, especially to the Missoni hospital gowns and hot pink crutches! Yes!

    I am a pretty good care giver, but I’m terrible with death. It’s so bad that even when I come across road kill while running I shiver. I know it’s a part of life, but I hate it!

  4. Bernie Brown says:

    First off, I want to praise your dedication to running. Pretty impressive. Secondly, I too am mystified by some of the things sick and hurting people are asked to do by the medical profession. I cared for my husband before and after his back surgery and I was pretty good up to a point. After that, I said I was off duty!

    • annewoodman says:

      I think this is why the “village” method of taking care of each other is so handy; when you go off duty, there can be someone else standing by to help out. I think my friend has several friends who have helped by bringing food, driving to appointments and visiting.

  5. steveandmo says:

    Did you hear this on NPR?
    Even though they talk a good game, I don’t think martinis will be on the menu.

    • annewoodman says:

      This was a good story–thanks for the link. I listened to a great TED talk by a physician. He said a female friend of his with breast cancer sought out a nationally-recognized, swanky medical center for treatment. She returned to a local hospital because she realized that in all the time she spent with a supposedly great doctor, he never once touched her breast or felt the tumor. I’m glad the medical community is thinking about some major revamps.

  6. crubin says:

    Nice of you to help your friend out, because I agree, medical check-ins and clinic waiting rooms can be a real drain of one’s energy and patience. This is probably why I’m in love with my IPad. While waiting, I can answer blog comments, answer email, read a novel on Kindle, etc., etc. Otherwise my face would be red with fury at the time I was wasting. 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      Ah. The time spent with my friend was good for that; we had some nice talks. It wasn’t that I was bored; more that the whole process seemed so inefficient.

    • Daryl says:

      Recently I went to the Duke eye surgery clinic and took my Ipad during the long wait. I had the seriously strong eye numbing drops (which take 45 minutes to fully act), and the resulting image of my holding my Ipad starting at 10 inches from my eyes, then 12, then 14, 24, 36–finally propping it on the table 5ft from me so that I could continue to read my article. I finally gave up when I couldn’t distinguish the nurse from the potted plant in the corner. I must have looked half baked. Next time I will take a PodCast.

      • crubin says:

        Ha ha! Yes, I recognize that one. Been there, done that. One time, I was waiting for my husband to pick me up after an eye exam, my eyes dilated to the size of frisbees, and he was standing right in front of me, but I didn’t recognize him. He was quiet and not saying anything just to see how long it would last (smart aleck). I swore it was because I just wasn’t paying attention, but he still blames my belladonna eyes…

  7. annewoodman says:

    I’m so sorry. My heart goes out to everyone who has to deal with it, especially in a chronic/serial way.

  8. jmmcdowell says:

    Providing ‘service” seems to have become a bad thing in so many areas—health care, telecommunications/internet/television. Maybe it started with DMVs and has spread like an infection.

    I have a hard time dealing with illness, too. And when I think of the horrible bedside manner of the surgeon when telling my mother-in-law there was nothing that could be done for her husband…. I wanted to kick him where it counts right there in the waiting room.

    I know medical staff have to be able to distance themselves from the pain and suffering they see everyday, but they can choose more comforting words for patients and family. And they could be more understanding of the difficulties patients have in jumping through all the paperwork hoops.

    • annewoodman says:

      Yes, I guess I see the paperwork and the friends/family who already aren’t feeling well; that’s why they’re visiting the physician. And I wish I could be more helpful in the face of difficult situations.

      I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who struggles with the medical system during crisis. But sad to hear it, too; it’s the time we most need things to run efficiently and compassionately.

  9. I don’t do caregiver very well either. It just isn’t easy, and I also feel guilty about that sometimes. I don’t really know how the medical staff people who have to deal with it every day can do it. I’ve seen some really great nurses, and I’ve never met a Nurse Practitioner I didn’t like. The doctors, though, have been pretty mixed. I liked your post – very thoughtful.

    • annewoodman says:

      I think it may be easier when the patient is not attached to you in any emotional way. I worked at a hospital, and the patients and their families, while ever-present, were part of the “business.” The people I have met who take care of patients, both nurses and doctors, are often very good at what they do. But the whole process is confusing and looooooong. It’s not something I look forward to dealing with as I age.

  10. mselene says:

    I’m getting a wheelchair and Pinot Noir, stat! 🙂 Thank you for the idea.

  11. David Gentry says:

    I am speechless — a rare occurrence — because everything has been said in the comments above, except about dealing with the terminally ill and death. Maybe I am not speechless. To my surprise, I discovered that terminally ill people often like for you to ask them about their illness. About death — our churches have failed us. We have no consensus or mythology about what happens when people die, so no wonder it is such a frightening topic!

    What a fantastic photo of the flower! Did Daryl do that?

    • annewoodman says:

      Um, no. I can operate a camera. Let’s give me some props.

      Death will always be an issue. Am trying to get better at dealing with the illness part. To varying levels of success.

  12. 4amWriter says:

    Oh, I’m a terrible caregiver also. I mean, I’m okay with bumps/bruises and I can handle helping someone with a broken leg or whatnot. But I’m not good with illnesses. I don’t like hospitals, I loathe the wait times, and I have discovered that more often than not the doctors don’t know what they’re doing. Mind you, this is all based on my own experience and is not at all intended to insinuate that all doctors are stupid. Just some. 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      Illnesses are difficult. I’m trying to become a better, more patient person, though. I guess dealing with all of that is what many of us have in our futures. Unless medicine magically gets a lot better.

  13. robincoyle says:

    I need snacks too. And drinks. What a good friend you are.

  14. All good comments. On a positive note the one area that has really impressed me is hospice care. Unfortunately, I have had recent intimate dealings with these individuals. As a result, I cannot say enough positives about them. They are truly gifts for the patients and families they deal with.

    • annewoodman says:

      When my grandmother died when she was living with us and I was 12, we had amazing hospice and church outreach people who did as much for us as a family as they did for her. I heartily agree.

  15. Hospice is awesome. World famous neurosurgeons are a$$es who have their head up them.

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