Reflections on National Hospital Week
My earliest memory of a hospital… is probably buried somewhere deep in the deepest wrinkles of gray matter. Of the few I’m able to consciously access, I remember the smells of sickness and disinfectant, a dis-easing sense of long corridors with cold walls and polished linoleum floors. In those earliest memories back toward the middle of a previous century, the hospital struck me as a place of sternness, strict rules and no tolerance for children.
In point of fact, children were quite explicitly not allowed. If you weren’t at least twelve years old, you were denied entry, unless you were a patient or your parent was near the nebulous portal between life and death. Even then I think maybe there had to be a special meeting with formal review by the chief of staff.
And so I wasn’t permitted to visit my mother when I had just turned seven and my baby brother, John, was born. I wasn’t permitted to visit my thirteen-year-old sister, Patsy, when she was severely burned just a few weeks after Johnny’s arrival. In one of the final vestiges of those days, some sixteen years later, I wasn’t able to be in the delivery room when my oldest son, Michael, was born.
I was present, however, at the designated arrival times for each of the other five. While the miracle of birth remains pretty much the incomparable wonder that it was back then, my, what wonderful changes have taken place in the mindset of medical care since those days!
In my own quite limited personal experience as a hospital patient and my more recent and continuing experience as a hospital employee, it is a wonderful thing to witness the joy, warmth and humor. While I know there are those whose own encounters may make them beg to differ, I am repeatedly impressed with the skill, dedication and attitude of hospital staff members.
I experienced it first-hand as an out-patient at our “rival” hospital in Winfield where I couldn’t have asked for better care or treatment. I have read the testimonies of our own patients at SCKMC. I have witnessed the care and professionalism as a semi-participating observer. As marketing director, I confess that I am quite likely the single most “optional” player in the picture.
If an orderly, aid, housekeeper, pharmacist, cook, nurse, lab tech, maintenance worker, physician, therapist, admitting clerk, financial processor, records worker or anyone else doesn’t show up and do their job, it’s noticed immediately. Things take a downhill turn right away.
Go without a marketing director for a few months and eventually someone says, “Hey, who’s gonna run the Bingo game during Hospital Week this year?” Not exactly indispensable… and I’m okay with that. Even so, I do occasionally try to contribute a bit to help things move along.
Someone said, “It takes the whole village to raise a child, but only one idiot to ruin a kid.”
Well, I can tell you, that in the village that makes a modern hospital, there’s no room for idiots and it takes every single person working hard, working together, and working well. There’s not one job that doesn’t matter. Even a marketing director can help. Doesn’t really matter if it’s Nurses Week, Doctors Day, Hospital Week, National Vitamin and Paleolithic Therapy Month or just the third week of Whenever I Got Sick, hospital staff play a crucial role.
Whether it’s one of those times when minutes matter most or a fairly routine lab test, they go about their business, trying to help people in their hour of need. Whether it’s doing the finishing sutures on heart surgery, cleaning the toilet, drawing blood or replacing light bulbs, when it comes to ministering to the sick, everyone involved has the opportunity to minister to the least of the family of Christ.
And to be the personification of his presence in the world.