Been to a hospital lately? My husband, Doug, has been there for the past week with pneumonia.

As a former registered nurse, I notice that some things never change. Hospital gowns remain pretty much the same over the years, perhaps improved by clever snaps on the shoulders for easy access of IV tubes. 

They still tie in the back, exposing way too much, and are that cloudy gray/blue color of a depressing sky. But patients proudly walk around their rooms and hallways, unfazed by what they are wearing and more focused on staying upright.

Ice chips are like little cups of diamonds. Oh, yeah, bring me a cup of cool bling. Patients who have gone through a surgery or a procedure will be given these glorious little crystals that come in white Styrofoam cups with plastic spoons. They taste like heaven to a parched mouth, represent healing and mean that greater things (like apple juice) are soon to come. 

In hospitals, cold apple juice is the champagne of all drinks. Something you might not crave or even consider at home, suddenly this sweet drink seems like liquid gold. Served in little plastic containers with swivel straws, each sip is more refreshing than the last and you wonder how you ever lived without this fruity wonder.

Hospitals have made great improvements in their food. You can order a meal anytime and have a choice that resembles room service in a fine hotel. However, parking for guests is so dreadful that you might as well get a pair of hiking boots if you are visiting a loved one, because the long walk can be daunting. 

Nurses are the real heroes in hospitals. Lots of attention goes to the “first responders” in an emergency. But nurses are the first, second, in-between and last responders. They are there at the beginning until the very end. They help you pick up all the tiny little pieces of yourself that an illness or surgery has shattered. Nurses will get you moving again, breathing right, taking first steps, sitting up and gently nudge you back to health. 

Nurses command you to do things you do not want to do! Stand up, walk, cough, walk some more. I heard a patient yell, “You are killing me,” more than once as she walked around the nurses’ station, followed by a very encouraging nurse (sort of like a drill sergeant). One patient yelled, “Leave me alone. I am too sick to walk,” as he dutifully got up and went through the paces.  

Hospitals have night sounds that pulse through the halls like a beating heart. The steady beeping of monitors is offset by an alarm from an IV. If hospitals are busy places in the daytime, they become quiet, reflective sanctuaries at night. Patients miss home and only the sick remain, each hoping for a better tomorrow, a chance to leave, less pain, more progress. Night is the lonely time when corridors are darkened, and visitors leave.

Do you know a doctor or a nurse? Thank them. They are worn out. Dear readers, stay well. Hospitals are great, but home is better.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local Realtor. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at judy@judybluhm.com.

PT