As I sat in the hospital, keeping company with my former father-in-law tonight, I was reminded of the many nights I spent in the hospital with my son over the years, for a variety of reasons. When he was 3, three weeks with orbital cellulitis and from age 18-23 off and on for spontaneous pneumothorax, a disorder that affects young, tall, thin white males primarily.
Hospitals have changed a lot over the years, and also, not so much.
They are places where you see the best and the worst, a place of diametric living. The worst-the illnesses, sadness, death, loneliness. The best-births, extended family and friend gatherings, dismissals.
But, tonight, I was most mindful of the personal touches and generosity that abound. The filled cupboards in an open-to-all kitchen/gathering area due to support from a church group, books and magazines on a wide variety of subjects from comfort and medical information to current novels, a little card made from colored index cards with recycled greeting card picture on the front and a bible verse copied and pasted inside sitting on the counter in his room, muffins, magazines, candy brought by visitors- all wonderful reminders of the basic goodness of folks.
The rooms are roomier and more like home, the availability of drinks and food (microwavable macaroni and cheese, ravioli, oatmeal, bread for toast, cheese and crackers) so different from 25 years ago when I had to ask a nurse for a cup of coffee and had to go down to the cafeteria to grab a bite to eat. These are wonderful things for people dealing with difficult situations.
It makes me happy that as a culture we are treating the whole family so much more successfully than before.
I'm also mindful of the long way we have to go making this kind of care accessible to everyone.