Thursday, January 10, 2019
Today I am grateful for modern hospitals. I had occasion the other day to visit a friend in a very large teaching hospital. This sweet thing had endured several strokes a few months ago and her hair needed cutting badly, so I went to the hospital to take care of it.
The hospital is nearly an hour from my house and a fog was rolling in so I left plenty early. Knowing that her lunch and physical therapy were manipulated so that I could cut her hair at 1:30, when I got there 45 minutes early I decided to grab a bite myself, so as to not screw up the schedule.
Sitting in a large cordoned off dining space that was pretty much a hallway, near the educational theater, I had ample opportunity to people watch. Looking around I notice how spotless the floors and windows were. Not a smudge or crumb anywhere.
When whatever session was going on in the theater ended, the doors opened and eager students, some young, some not so much, burst through, each one wearing a pristine white lab coat and carrying a computer. They scattered in every direction.
As often happens, for reasons I can never explain, my memory was thrown back to twenty years ago when we lived in Jakarta, Indonesia. I had a very dear Indonesian friend whose husband suffered a medical condition regarding his heart and had to be hospitalized. When expats had a situation that needed hospitalization they flew out on the next plane to Singapore. Edy was in a local hospital.
I asked my friend, Tati, if Himself and I might be able to visit Edy? She agreed to take us the next day but warned, “Is very much different than US, Meddy.” Okay, so what isn’t in Jakarta, I wondered? Everything was very, very different. But I had no clue.
Tati arrived to pick us up with a car full of clean clothing and copious containers of cooked food. “Are you bringing his favorite foods for him,” I asked, “Is he allowed to eat them?” The aroma of spices assaulted my sense of smell. “No, Meddy,” she answered. “Here you must feed family in hospital.” Meals aren’t included. The family is expected to show up several times a day to provide them. I’m not sure if that’s always the case, or if it is an option, or if it was just this hospital, or if it has changed since then, but that’s the way it was back then.
When we arrived at the hospital corridors were lined with many families wearing colorful clothing, each with their picnics spread out all over the hallway floor (no chairs). You had to goose-step past them. The smell of food, sweat and body functions in the un-air conditioned space was almost nauseating. “These are poor family,” Tati explained. “Their person have small room with many people and is no room for all.”
With few doors and all windows open, the place was dusty and grim all at the same time. There were few trained medical assistants, meaning that Tati helped Edy take care of daily needs. If she needed someone she had to go find them because there were no call buttons. She helped him to the toilet down the hallway. If he wanted his bed raised or lowered, she had to get the crank and turn it up until he was comfortable. It was grim at best and depressing to say the least. Edy survived that stay, but passed years later, not long after Tati. I still think of them daily.
I suppose that experience from long ago, in a foreign hospital in a developing nation presented itself when I was sitting in the mega-hospital because of the contrast. My chair was comfortable. Indeed there WERE chairs. Windows were closed and clean. There was central heating in winter and air conditioning in summer. Floors were polished enough to see your reflection. There were not just stairs, but elevators, too, plus a cafeteria where anyone could get food. Patients had food served to them and also bathrooms right inside their rooms.
These are things I took for granted before living in Jakarta, Indonesia, but I never do anymore. Although they are often understaffed, huge and costly, I am still eternally grateful for modern hospitals.