This week, I’ve spent lots of time spent in medical, imaging and surgical waiting rooms. It occurred to me, while sitting in a recovery room with Bryan (who is going to be fine), that physical infirmity is the great leveler.
The folks there may have been CEOs, college students, celebrities or cooks… and no one would know. They all looked the same, humble, grey from anesthetic, bandaged, bed-headed, in faded blue cotton hospital gowns and wearing various IV tubes, oxygen masks and monitors.
To the doctors & nurses that tend them, it doesn’t matter that they’re somebody – or nobody – in the world outside the hospital doors. Once they are in that hospital bed, they’re an ankle repair, an appendectomy, or an IED implant, defined in terms of their malfunctioning body and its treatment.
The only exception to that was Bryan, bless his crabby pain-wracked heart. “Oh, you’re an attorney. While I’ll give you the same good care I’d give anyone, I’m going to err on the side of more conservative diagnosis and treatment. I want to make sure I don’t make any mistakes.” I think that’s good. Offensive, yes, but in the final analysis, it only benefits him.
Don’t get me wrong – the care we received wasn’t depersonalized. The nurses and med techs were all supremely supportive, they treated every patient and family member with courtesy and professionalism.
It’s just that, at the most fundamental level, we’re all alike in such circumstances, a faltering, hurting human system that requires hands-on care and support to keep going. And that helps me be just a little more compassionate toward those that frustrate or anger me… Most of us will be reduced to the indignity of retching into a tiny basin in a moving, beeping hospital bed at one time or another in our lives.