I don’t remember much after fainting. It’s all abstract confetti of snapshots, sound bites and smells like the exam room that suddenly became the size of an Altoid, echoes of, “we’re almost there” from inside the ambulance and then warm pressure from Jenáe’s cheek against mine, hushing me in the darkness.
I was sick.
Six days earlier my gallbladder was removed. It was supposed to be a routine procedure with a routine result: no more gallbladder attacks and a return to the beloved cheeseburger. But it was not routine.
I had a series of complications: stones in my common bile duct, an infected bile duct, pancreatitis and, the pièce de résistance, hepatitis. The infected bile duct was what landed me back in the hospital; the other stuff was what kept me there for over two weeks.
It’s no secret that I have had a quiet loathing of hospitals. I think it’s been that way since age 4 when I tripped on Grandmere’s rust-colored shag carpet and broke my face on the base of her dining room table. I was rushed to the hospital then. And a few times since.
I’ve always found hospitals to be a deceitful sort. The way they embrace you as you walk in. The way they’re often filled with light and flowers and a calming waterfall stocked with lily pads and unassuming fish or a player piano, which is just weird. The way the air is heavy and sterile, masking the scent of death, illness and suffering.
The way it so easily is the last place some will ever see.
But let’s be honest. I’d never had an extended stay before.
I’d never formed bonds with nurses and doctors, dependent on them for my every waking need. I’d never looked forward to morning blood draws on the off-chance they’d reveal something different. I’d never been so comfortable being nude before multiple pairs of eyes, looking at me with only my return to health in mind.
In truth, I had never been so vulnerable.
We became like family, FHN Memorial Hospital’s 3rd floor medical staff and me. Patient ID 216570. Room 3308.
I made friends with everyone.
I knew their faces; I knew their names:
Captain Carter took me for MRI’s and CAT scans. Betsy took me for walks.
Jennifer and Erica squeezed my hands during my liver biopsy (note to reader: never get a liver biopsy), while Elaine cradled my fears.
Jena brought me laughter, OPI nail polish and a recent issue of Cosmo. Jackie brought me peace.
Sam, who smelled of lemon trees, quietly confessed the contents of her car: 3 bags of cookies and 2 bags of M&M’s hidden from her personal trainer husband. Paige confessed she’d never know anyone as brave as her mother and showed me the underside of her wrist inked in homage.
There were others, of course, but these I count as family. As sisters.
They helped me inhale blessings and exhale anxiety and lament.
In the deep of night, they were there. When my bed became a tangled web of breath, lines and limbs, they were there. And when I didn’t even know it or couldn’t feel it, they were there.
At the end of February, I was released. And while I still have a long way to go, I couldn’t have done anything without my hospital family.
I hope to go back for a visit once I’m feeling better. And I also hope to go to nursing school, so I can be the one who holds hands in the dark and hearts in the light.
For now though, I am a reformed hospital hater.
And utterly thankful.