I like windows and figured upon taking the window seats. For some reason, I pause. I remember the oncology wing from eleven years ago. As you walk down the halls you quickly become aware of the gravity of situations.
And I remember those years my eyes filling when she and I turned the last right turn into the wing.
Today, not so much. Tears as I remember but not for todays procedure. We check in on a wing of the hospital meant for diagnostics. I have been here multiple times. Mammograms. Ultrasounds. Her echo.
Today the general desk sends us downstairs. I have never been here. My wise one is grumpy as she senses my nervousness. I am nervous, yes. I remind her that nervousness is wise and in no way violates any measure of ability or courage.
Or so I tell myself.
But it’s true. I have learned to operate my life events even though I feel fear. My Wise One believes I should act bravely or without emotion. I suppose. I’m not a butterfly, flitting with emotion. But I am nervous. My eyes get bigger. And I am prone to misty eyed memories. But still, I wheel her to the correct place and recall her case number without looking twice.
I feel stupid not wheeling her in the elevetaor backwards. When we arrive on the lower floor, I have to back her out into the new entrance way. She is disgusted.
“Do you know where you are going?”
“We are here,” I state simply when I wish to bark back with sarcasm that of course I do not know know where I am, after all I cruise up and down hospitals all the time, memorizing layouts of critical care departments, yes?
I am a bitch.
As we move to the waiting area, I wonder why the cardiac unit is downstairs. We move to the first bunch of chairs. A lady who is also waiting moves immenidatey away from us to the next grouping of chairs.
Oh, my mistake. She moves two groupings over near the televisions and away from everyone. I only wi see if it is germs or conversation that she wishes to avoid.
One gentleman gets called. He is guided to the echo and vascular lab doors. A pleasant technician comes for my mother. She is bejeweled and friendly with big, big glasses. I don’t even remember her name. She asks for my name, then she wheels my mother with the words to me that they will call for me after they have prepped her.
It’s odd how discombobulated a simple thing can be. I expect her to go through those same doors. I never saw the other entrance to the cardiac ambulatory center.
And so, I wait.
When I walked in, I was struck by the concrete of hospitals. Surely we could do better TL with materials and texture choices. But as soon as I walk by I realize that I no longer care. I just want to get checked in.
But here in the waiting room, the layout is wise. I marvel at how wise. There are groupings of chairs. Since we are on the lower level, the windows are actually theee stories tall. Even though it is a centaur morning, it is bright and warm like a homey cave.
The decor is colored with each of the elements. Blue glass tiling looks like water falls. The windows allow the skylight. Peoples voices echo pleasantly and a bit coldly. I would have thought that would not be acceptable. But it is. I feel connected but respected in my space. What a bizarre appropriateness.
It strikes me odd that I find confort not near the modern fireplace nor the windows but by the fish tank. Yes, within the open space of a concrete column, curved waiting space, an indoor garden and the fish, I wait.
“Are you Stephanie?”
The nurse comes to me. He guides me through a short labyrinth of wide hallways, passages for people, wheelchairs and hospital beds, all at once. He is dressed plainly, matching scrubs from head-covering to pants.
Here she is, room twenty in the cardiac ambulatory unit. My Wise One, in her customary grumpy self asks, “Where have you been?”
I smile. She is in good spirits as are the medical staff surrounding her. They swoop in, nurse, another nurse and even a third. I never sense there is redundancy or inefficiency. In fact, just the opposite. The routines are well-worn and well-practiced.
I relax. The activity in her space stops. Beyond the curtain glass wall, footsteps and voices criss-cross, overlapping in waves of conversations. The beeps and rolling equipment balance the human sounds. Together, the mixture is oddly reminiscent of a neighborhood corner cafe.
Her procedure is delayed. There has been an emergency. An hour passes. Another emergency calls upon her surgeon. We look at each.
“Weeks ago that could have been us,” we conclude simultaneously.
Her room is equipped with satellite television but we talk away the afternoon. She sleeps very little. I daydream about the comfort of the ‘coronary cafe’ sounds. The atmosphere is pleasantly busy. I practically expect to see a mug of coffee arrive with an offer of a piece of pie. It is pleasantly busy.
Her procedure time is near. I think to myself how fascinating that the Wise One’s procedures are just that: procedures. She has qualified for procedures rather than surgeries. That in itself is an education and a blessing. Everything here is a miracle.
I am in awe.
She is the last to leave the unit. Nurses are sweeping and gathering linens from the day. We receive her instructions, including a warning to watch the bandage around her wrist’s artery.
Admittedly I prayed as they showed me the incision and the first aid steps should the artery begin to bleed. My mind repeated with a mantra of “artery, bleed, press, ten minutes.”
As we moved from bed to chair, the incision burst open. (And when I write ‘burst’ I mean ‘burst’). It is a lucky lesson as I press while the nurse gathers fresh bandages. The bleeding ceases and never returns.
The halls are quiet and slightly darkened as we near the entrance. I look at the fish tank which grabbed my focus ten hours ago.
Smiling, the elevator arrives with a welcome ‘ding’. We keep talking of aftercare as we walk through the entrance to my waiting Jeep.
Rounds of thank you’s pass among us as she helps us, lifting Wise One to the passenger seat.
As we drive away, I glance back to the hospital with thoughts of my father.
“Thank you, Papa.”
What have I learned?
Take care of your heart. Please, your heart. And there are some fantastic, talented people who will help you.