We’re going to inflate you,” Nicole said.
She smiled prettily, almost naughtily.
This was my second visit to the hospital with my father in a month and, so far, everything was moving much faster than the initial trip. Then there was this announcement that he was going to be inflated.
Nicole, a registered nurse responsible for lining everything up for the procedure to follow, had my father’s curiosity.
Having been poked and prodded he didn’t know what to expect next. Certainly it wasn’t being inflated.
“You’re going to do what,” he inquired. It wasn’t a demanding question.
Rather, it went along with the sense of humor that underlined the moment Debbie greeted us in the room designed to accommodate family and friends as their loved ones underwent a procedure. She was cheerful and only focused on us. She took us through the omnipresent paperwork and forms with speed, asked for a cell phone where a physician could reach me if necessary and then turned to a pad and torn off two sheets.
“These are vouchers for coffee and a bagel in the cafeteria,” she said handing them over. Marge, who at 87, and a retired nurse, is my father’s devoted companion, was as surprised as I was.
“What a nice touch,” she said.
Debbie had another surprise for us. On another sheet she wrote a number.
It was a number assigned to my father’s case and, using it, we could follow where he was. It was just like checking the status of departing and arriving flights at an airport. I haven’t seen anything quite like this, but then, fortunately, I haven’t spent a lot of time in hospital waiting rooms.
I made a mental note, thinking this wouldn’t be such a bad idea for those seeking medical attention, too. Just think, not only would you know where you are in the cue, like your number at the deli counter, but it also could provide information such as “Dr. Smith is delayed in ER” and an ETA on your case.
As good as it may sound, such an idea doesn’t have a chance of going any place once the lawyers get a hold of it. All they’ll see is a string of possible lawsuits, including claims of patient discrimination.
But for Marge and me, and evidently for others seeking news of what was happening beyond the corridors and in the operating rooms, the board was a relief. I spent several minutes in front of it, first learning he was waiting to go into the operating room, finding he was there and finally that he was in recovery.
Machines and free coffee can only go so far in stressful situations. Honesty and humor can go so much further.
We got it all at Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown.
Marge preferred that local anesthesia be used rather than have him out cold. Before even proceeding to the area where my father would be prepped, we met with the doctor who stepped us through the process and agreed it could be accomplished without putting him under. The assessment was straightforward and I was comforted, as certainly my father was, to have Marge there who knew what questions to ask and understood the answers.
We were then ushered to the basement level and the pre-op rooms, complete with rolling beds, a couple of chairs for those accompanying the patient, computers and a wall full of outlets for all sorts of devices.
A flimsy curtain shielded us from the rest of the world as my father got into a Johnny, sock-like slippers and sat on the bed, waiting for what came next.
It was Nicole.
She had him lie down and started a quiz.
“What your name?” He answered.
“What’s your date of birth?”
“Do you know that time of year when a small brown animal comes out of its burrow?” he countered.
Nicole was startled. She wasn’t sure what he was up to.
“Groundhog’s Day, February 2nd,” my father answered to end her confusion. He proceeded to fill in his birth year – 1917.
“Why are you here?” she asked.
He responded with a smile.
“You tell me.”
Now Nicole laughed. He was off to a great start.
Then she offered to inflate him.
“It can get cold in those,” she said pointing to the blue Johnny. She reached from behind his bed and pulled around a hose and thermostat. The hose was connected to the Johnny, pumping in warm air.
“You control it like this,” she said showing him the dial.
“I’m in control?” he asked.
I had a vision of my father being turned into the Michelin man. We all laughed.
The doctor who would do the procedure and his assistant visited us. Again, my father went through a series of questions. And they filled him in on more details…and plenty of hot air. Not quite the Michelin man but he looked like he gained 50 pounds.
In about three hours, as the board in the waiting area indicated, he was in recovery and the doc took us into a separate room to go over the details. We wouldn’t know test results for at least another week. As for my father, it would be another hour, if not longer, before he could be released.
About a half hour later, we spotted the doc in the hallway. He gave us an update.
“He’s entertaining everyone with his stories.”
We both smiled.
Humor can be a marvelous antidote for caregiver and patient, if not any anxious moment.