Or, maybe it’s just only the stubborn. Either way, Carlos is both. After spending a week in the hospital, arguing over his doctor’s orders and challenging him to a duel, Carlos won. This time, he was more reserved than he has ever been. He was calm and collective when he asked me to dial his insurance to check on coverage of an antibiotic. We ended up speaking to a very nice representative who didn’t know the answer right away, but was kind enough to return our phone call promptly. It was great. So it turns out that Carlos’ griping was correct, after all. He was right to do some mild complaining because the doctor didn’t really want to risk releasing him, which made no sense.
Now over the course of that week, I’d managed to take away a lot of things. Life lessons can be found around every corner of one’s existence. Was that a bit overstated? Well, I believe that. I do! Nobody likes hospitals: that antiseptic smell, the muffled voices, and eerie atmosphere. Still, since Carlos visits them often, I’ve come to find a basic understanding of principles that are part of the human condition. First off, not everyone is meant to be in health care. It is extremely hard to find a balance of professionalism, compassion, and the ability to treat every patient as though they were your first patient ever. Not every nurse, doctor, or nurse’s aide have these qualities. In fact, it is very rare to deal with the infirm and dying which is why many become jaded and disconnected, aloof. Some don’t even see the person, just the dollar signs they’ll be getting. The patient is a commodity, a paycheck, a bank-roll. I’m aware that many doctors see the business, but not the personal aspects of their positions. But I’m often surprised when someone who swears an oath, can’t at least listen to their patient.
Cue the reality.
On my last visit there to break Carlos out of there, an amazing thing happened. When I walked onto the floor, a horde of physicians, specialists and nurses & aides were swarming into a dialysis room. The person that was suffering a “Code Blue”, warranting all of this attention was a wealthy man. Apparently, his coverage could account for the overwhelming outpouring of backup and support. I’m not trying to be cynical here…just factual. For to the contrary, on the other quiet side of the floor was an elderly woman seated in an overstuffed wingchair, barely able to keep her head up. This appeared to be her daily position since I rarely saw her inside of her room. Instead she chose to remain seated outside of her room in the hallway and in plain sight. She was such a fixture, it seemed, that no one took any notice of her. Yet, Carlos and I would walk the circumference of the ward, passing her by and would give her a dose of conversation. A simple, “hello” would suffice for she was too ill to lift up her head. Yet on the final day, as I passed her, I said “hello” and she commented on Carlos’ progress.
“He going home?” she asked.
I answered, “Yes.” She nodded.
“He doesn’t have anyone?”
“No,” I answered.
Emphatically, she raised her head and said, “Well he has you and that’s all that matters.”
We exchanged more niceties and advice. She was old, but she had her wits about her enough to inform me of her predicament: the reason why she was still there in the hospital.
“I can’t remember to take my medication.”
“My children feel its best to keep me here since they can’t care for me.”
“Well, life is like this.”
“Isn’t it though?”
“God Bless,” I told her as the commotion on the other side of the hall ceased. Seemed like the wealthy man had pulled through, even though the doctors weren’t sure how much damage he had suffered yet. Of course, the physicians spoke in that complicated language that they speak, but I understood when the stretcher that had arrived was empty and quickly dispatched to another floor.
I am still amazed at the candor of Carlos’ endless questioning. I marvel at his level of understanding which surpasses my own. He’d challenged his physician and won. We’d get through this mini-crisis as we always have: with each other.
My cousin wrote to me commending me for loving someone so unconditionally. I don’t deserve that praise. For, who was looking out for the old woman as she perhaps lay dying in the hallway of a hospital? If the wealthy man could buy the best doctors, he still can’t cheat death forever. Money surely can’t buy that. It’s every man / woman for themselves out there…and only the strong survive…but only for awhile.