Sitting naked on a bench in the bathroom of my hospital room while two nurses, complete strangers, washed me down from head to toe, is one of the more perplexing ordeals I faced several times during my recent three-plus weeks in the hospital. Adding to my confused state of mind was the fact that my wife sat outside just a few feet away. I am not sure it was embarrassment I felt—well, yeah, a little I guess—as much as it was my basic shyness about the whole situation. I could not help but wonder how the two nurses felt. Sure, it may have been just another day at the office for them, but still, washing down a naked 76-year-old stranger, may have them feeling a little uneasy too. I suppose everyone attending this party felt a lot better after I was dressed anew and packed up in bed once more, happily eating my morning bowl of oatmeal…what naked old man? Where?
And so it went, one situation after another, as they all began to blend into a daily routine of pill-taking, blood pressure checking and a constant pulling and tugging of my t-shirt as one medical guru after another peered at the trail of stitches and staples that ran like railroad tracks over the contours of my back. “Hmmm, looks good,” each would say, fully aware that I had no idea whether their assessments were accurate, given I could not see the exhibit at which they poked as if I were the Pillsbury doughboy. Hmmm indeed.
Did I mention the three-a-days? These were sessions with the physical and occupational therapists. These good people would assign me all kinds of challenging tasks…like walking, something I now could not do without the aid of a helping arm or a walker. It was going to be a long recovery back to Normal, although I suspected that location will have changed a bit once I approach its border.
The hospital food was simply not bearable the first week after surgery. I lost ten pounds for cry’n out loud. But as time went on I either grew hungrier or they hired a new chef. Meals became the highlight event as each was hastily brought in three times daily by my new friend, Wilson. Wilson, I noticed, was especially adept at hustling in and out of the room faster than a speeding antacid. He probably had heard just about every complaint and request regarding the offerings we patients usually stared at while wondering how many different ways chicken can be prepared.
As they say, all good things must come to an end. Likewise, all other things too. And so it is on the morning you awake in your hospital bed keenly aware that this day is different…it is the day you go home! With all the exuberance of a sixth-grader hearing the final bell before summer vacation, you find yourself packed up, dressed and ready to go hours before the nursing staff has processed your release papers. But with the end goal in sight, you cool your jets and savor the moment. There is something to be said for the value of familiar surroundings…your own bed, the over-stuffed couch in your living room, the freezer load of ice cream in the kitchen, your own bathroom…and especially your own bath—alone!