I was recently in the hospital for 9 days and learned a lot about how to cope in medically-forced captivity. I’m sharing my tips here as a public service, although I hope you never have to use them.
- Don’t tense up or whatever it is they are doing to you will hurt more. Just trust me on this. Having a short prayer or favorite saying to run through continuously through your mind is helpful for staying calm and loose; mine is from St. Julian of Norwich: “…All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”. Click here to read more about this amazing 14th century English mystic and contemplative whose book, Revelations of Divine Love, is believed to be the first surviving work written in English by a woman.
- Whatever you do, don’t open your eyes in the MRI machine. Trust me on this, too. It also helps if you have a vivid imagination and can translate the incredibly loud and varied sounds into pleasant images; I was thinking of lawn mowers and the smell of fresh-mown grass, dissonant symphonies with staccato timpanis, big circus trucks, early morning street sweepers in London or Paris when you sleep with the windows open to get the feel of the metropolis. It helped. But I shouldn’t have opened my eyes…don’t do it.
- Don’t be shy to tell the blood-taker where it works best to get blood from you. You’re the only one who has been present for every blood-taking during your stay; you’re the only one who knows that the veins in your left arm are more generous than those on your right.
- Be ready to cover your eyes when they take blood in the middle of the night. They will turn on prison-like floodlights to find those elusive blood-giving veins, so you should bring a sleep mask like they give away on international flights, or use a stray washcloth or sock to shield your eyes from the florescent nightmare.
- If they offer you a sleeping pill, take it. You’ll be awakened numerous times during the night and it will be easier to get back to sleep if you took the pill (Ambien, in my case; it rocked).
Know that you can order different (fresher) food than the two choices they offer you for each meal. There’s usually a little-known option for a cheese and fruit plate or a chef salad available at all times.
- Have a person on the outside ready to bring you meals. It could be the high point of your day. My husband was my meal-delivery hero, and I especially appreciated the coffee he brought each morning for us to enjoy together. (Look for a different post / rant about hospital food in the near future.)
- Don’t be afraid to insist on the personal minimums necessary to keep yourself sane. For me, it was a firm and continual request to keep my door completely closed to shut out the distracting and upsetting hospital hallway noise; I even had the doctors trained to shut it all the way.
- Know your medications and keep track of what they’re giving you. Sometimes there will be one missing; sometimes there will be a new one that will give you insight into your treatment or diagnosis. Sometimes you might not realize a drug is optional or that you could take a lesser dose (as with pain medication).
- The most important one: make friends with everyone. The nurses, doctors, technicians, lab folks taking your blood, orderlies and people who delivers your food have challenging and often thankless jobs with very long hours, and they blossom when you treat them like fellow humans. Use their names, ask about their careers and their children, and know that they are on your side. They are. Your healing and discharge back into the world of the living is their only success.
I hope you never have to use these tips, but if you or a loved one is headed for the hospital, you might want to give them a quick read. And if you have tips, please share them.
Copyright Glover Gardens Cookbook, 2016.