While waiting in Room 8309 on the hospital's eighth floor, I start to fidget. This is not your typical hospital room in which patients stay an extended time. It's a starker, stripped down to the bare essentials prep room for outpatient tests, like the colonoscopy my husband, Brian, is having this morning.
Restlessly looking at my watch, I compulsively count how long it's been since we left home, breezed through the automatic doors in Admissions and made our way here.
Check-in time was 45 minutes. Prep took an hour. The colonoscopy itself should only last 20-minutes or so. Recovery time could be an hour, maybe two.
Systematically, I begin to take inventory…
…Already this morning, Brian had his first-ever enema, lucky guy, as inhospitable as it was to have two nursing students learn on his behind.
…I experience flashbacks of my childhood marked by a mother who considered giving enemas as routine as placing her hand on my forehead to check for fever.
…A short while ago, he rode out of here on a grey hospital gurney with the nurse in tow, leaving a big gap in the middle of this room.
…I am alone, sitting in one of two easy chairs.
….Keeping me company are motioning talking heads on a cable TV news show I've muted.
…Sounds from outside this room, co-mingle in a chorus drifting through the half-opened door.
In my characteristic fashion, longtime tailored by a fear of boredom, I toted with me a bag of reading and writing materials, an iPad rendered useless without WiFi, a bottle of water, an ample supply of hand sanitizer, since I'm germ-a-phobic, and everyone knows hospitals are breeding grounds for diseases, and spiced chai tea to fight off hunger pangs.
Even with all of this to pass time, my waiting becomes a desert of distracted wandering and wondering.
Hospitals universally have an endearingly soft "Hush…" protocol that helps quiet rattled nerves and calm worst fears.
Even so, I overhear an elderly woman's voice crackle with a clarity that comforts. Her words carry contentment, as she recounts canning garden vegetables.
She covers everything from water temperature to pressure cookers, jars, seals, lids, bands and canning Salt, not table salt. Every last detail is a lyrical love song, floating passionately from her lips to my ears.
A hospital buzzer shrieks through the unit, drowning out indiscernible gibberish from a dozen or so rooms down the hall. Startled, I picture small red and blue lights flashing to its beat.
A cell phone rings; and then another. A woman's voice from next door intersects with a man's drawl, angling in from across the way.
Finally, the frenetic buzzer is silent.
As a complacent bystander going through the motions of a driver-companion, while Brian has a routine medical procedure, I am reminded of others under the same roof, who are ill – very, very ill; in some cases, terminal.
Pondering how hospitals paradoxically possess both life and death as perpetual and priceless tenants, I am keenly aware that at any given moment families are letting go of life, while others are hanging onto it and still others are greeting it for the first time.
I imagine this hospital as a war zone of sorts, where doctors and nurses are generals, sergeants and corporals over an infantry of front line troops, techs, aids, reporting to duty as intermediaries, translators, responders, soothers, helpers and maybe healers.
Even in the wake of their never-ending battle over bad cells attacking good ones, their intentional movements, sometimes quiet and always deliberate, are cheery and hopeful.
A man's heavy raspy voice chops over the wispy sound of a woman's sing-song tone.
A door closes abruptly.
Footsteps tap, tap, tap, heal-toe, heal-toe, heal-toe, and slowly fade down the hallway.
I hear the faint call of another cell phone.
Otherwise, it's quiet here, where even the most casual conversations whisper through stained crooked teeth and dried cracked lips.
An empty cart tightly fitted with a field of white cotton sheets, tucked hard on all sides, rolls by Room 8309, where I, quite frankly, have lost interest in my busy bag and writing things.
2012 © Copyright Paula Damon.
A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009, 2010 and 2011 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contests, her columns have earned eight first-place awards. To contact Paula, email boscodamon.paula@gmail, follow her blog at firstname.lastname@example.org and find her on FaceBook.