If you’ve ever spent time in a hospital, perhaps like me, you’ve noticed the sharp contrast between patients and everyone else that make up the mosaic of humanity in such a facility.
Disease-laden people look frightened and forlorn, lost in thought or like they were just hit with a brick. People suffering from pain seem to have permanent creases carved into their foreheads. I see deeply sagging eyes and facial skin that has lost nearly all its elasticity. Some avoid eye contact altogether or keep their eyes firmly closed. Relatives and friends of patients are visibly burdened by concern and helplessness. Words of anger and fear are exchanged over a cup of coffee. Tubes are attached to limbs and hidden organs. An Asian woman in designer clothes who stands by an elderly man who appears to be her father – hunched over in a wheelchair – gently rearranges his hospital gown with tenderness and a smile.
At the other side of the spectrum, the medical hive buzzes with activity, the pulse of life (and the haunting specter of death) beats at a frenetic pace: Medical staff rushing to their next appointment, janitors sweeping and gathering up trash, secretaries carrying loads of files, orderlies laughing amongst themselves in Spanish while transporting patients, and emergency technicians rolling empty gurneys back to their ambulance. And so many people waiting, waiting, waiting.
Today, like an errant bee, I was called back to the hive.
Early this morning, the orthopedic clinic waiting room was sparsely populated – fortunately so for the secretaries whose computers were on the fritz. After being directed to a consultation office, the long wait continued until a couple of young residents entered and posed a few questions. They’d obviously seen my chart because, as their eyes scanned me up and down, their faces barely masked the unasked question: you survived THAT fall?
The x-ray technician, despite her best efforts, was unable to help me find a comfortable position. I lay on my back, on top of a thinly-padded table… in thinly-disguised agony. I was subjected to three hits of radiation in relatively quick succession. Still, it was only when I heard her say breathe out and relax after the last zap that I realized I’d been holding my breath the entire time.
My last meeting, with the orthopedic surgeon, confirmed the non-verbal messages my body was sending to me for a long time: My bones healed but my sacrum was still displaced inside my pelvic cavity – with the coccyx partly lodged in my tush. The persisting pain might be from neurological damage, Dr B., guessed, and it might not subside. There’s nothing else to do other than wait to see if my condition improves with time. A reality check. And more waiting. Gulp.
As I exited the building I was overcome with sadness. A grey and rainy day might very well have triggered tears from deep within my eye-ducts. But the dazzling sunshine lifted my spirits. And since I’m neither inclined to self-pity nor to sinking to the depths of despair, it was time to forge a new strategy to get me to the finish line.
So I made a pact with my body: I’ll continue to swim and walk and rest when needed, I’ll take good care of you if, in turn, you promise me this; to replicate my healthy cells of hope and determination, and to keep spreading them from my sacrum to the tips of my fingers and toes.