Saturday, February 16, 2008

Spending the Day With St. Luke

Last week was not full of good news. My mother-in-law received some news that no woman wants to hear after a mamogram. They found something. So, they did a biopsy and we all had to wait about five days for the results. Of course my wife was being driven to the point of a nervous breakdown. The waiting is always pure hell. I don't know if the wait is really necessary or part of some morbid fetish experienced by the people who do the testing. Anyway, the results came back, one was malignant. Fortunately, they caught it early and could remove both of them that week. So, Friday, we're up early at 7 preparing for a trip to the Houston Medical Center (St. Luke's Hospital). I manage only one cup of coffee to last me until we get a chance to eat. We braved the Friday morning Houston traffic to the medical center. By the time we arrived at the hospital, we had to park on the roof of the parking garage. I always hated driving to and through the medical center. Too much activity, too many people trying to get to where they are going. Half of them are not paying attention. The other half focused on their issues or their loved ones. We find my wife's mother in the OR. They take her to the surgery room where my wife and her dad, under a lot of pressure say goodbye to her for the time being. I'm remaining optimistic because (so far) all the news has been good. The procedure was said to take an hour, since there was nothing more for us to do, it was time to get something to eat.

St. Lukes has a McDonalds built into the hospital. Too bad I don't own that McDonalds, I could probably retire. I was looking forward to one of their greasy breakfasts to hold me over, however I didn't realize it was already 11:00 and they were on the lunch menu. When faced with the unpleasant reality of having to order a McDonalds hamburger for breakfast I weighed my options. I could either (1) go Michael Douglas in Falling Down or (2) just get a small burger and coke and live with it. I decided option 1 wouldn't really be a good idea and decided to go with option 2. Besides, I'd be hungry again in about two hours (and I was right).

Then, back to the waiting room. Most people brought their own books. I brought my playstation portable. Everyone hates waiting but that's just a fact of life. Those without books or electronic entertainment systems had only their thoughts and the never-ending traffic of humanity to entertain them. On that day, and probably any given day, there are probably about a hundred different stories. All stories of fear, anxiety, pessimism, optimism, faith, hope, and love. People of faith prayed to God for a positive outcome (and for understanding and strength if there is to be a negative outcome). One job I don't think I'd want is that of nurse liason. This person has to relay news (good and bad) to anxiously waiting family members. Well, my father-in-law had requested a private room for his wife with the intention of staying the night. Well, he got the request and signed it. However, about a dozen others did the same thing. I never knew that a private room cost so much. A hospital stay, private room for one night was roughly $800 to $900. That's a month's rent or house note to most people. Anyway, the hospital ran out of private rooms. The liason nurse got an earfull from a lot of angry family members. People were still in the surgery wing, waiting for a room to be taken to so they can recover. One woman had been waiting since about 10:30am. Well, people had to settle for semi-private rooms and then their families had to run to the admissions desk to get the private room charge taken off the bill because the hospital surely wouldn't have. A little over an hour later we got good news that my mother-in-law came through and the surgery went great. She was still sick from the anesthetic gas. This upset my father-in-law because he had told them that a certain drug doesn't work on her. However, the hospital still used it for whatever reason (I'm thinking that was the only thing that would work for her) while hoping another drug would counter the nauseous side effects afterward. This didn't satisfy him and he had an exhange with the hospital staff. I'm thinking that this clash of personalities, duties, and experience can only result in problems like this. My father-in-law gets adamant about certain things and will not back down. The hospital has their job to do and is not trying to harm their patients. However things will happen, mistakes will be made, and they do realize they are dealing with human beings and family members so it is not in their best interests to mess around. Fortunately a room became available and she was taken there. From there she was able to finally eat something and the nausea had worn off.

After a while later my wife and I left, both tired and hungry. I snapped this picture from the rooftop as we were leaving. Although it was a gloomy day, it turned out well. My mother-in-law is now home resting up and my wife is so relieved. While we're happy with the turn out, the same dramatic stories start replay themselves all over the medical center, same bat time-same bat channel.


JLee said...

I'm so sorry she had to go through this...believe me, I can relate right now, although my outcome was a bit better. I always tell them I have a fear of nausea before surgery and they give me stuff for it, so I never feel sick after. I guess it's too late for that piece of advice, but anyway, hope she's doing well now.

Shelby said...

That McDonald's at St. Luke's is busy around the clock! It's insane! I work next door and usually end up going to their cafeteria in the basement (note: don't be a dumbass like me and eat there; I got food poisoning once but I keep going back because I'm stubborn like that). Best wishes to the MIL. Surgery sucks :(