Sunday, September 2, 2012

Things To Do in the Cardiac ICU Family Waiting Room


1) Use ear buds and iTunes to block out disturbingly funereal Celestial Kingdom -style music that is being piped in for the benefit of those in various stages of fear or grief.  I'm not sure how we should be expected to think positively with the auditory assault of "Nearer My God to Thee" drifting through the air. It would seem we're only minutes away from an alter call at a tent revival and an old woman playing beseeching spirituals on a Hammond organ.

2) Lacking as one might (in an emergency situation) an available sleep mask or even a burlap sack to pull over your head, you'll need to bring polarized sunglasses on the off chance that you will wind up bunking down for the night on one of the sofas provided since the lack of a dimmer or off-switch makes it nearly impossible to sleep due to the visual sting of florescent lighting. I've never been to the "Land of the Midnight Sun", but it's probably a lot like this. You have been warned.

3) Destroy all healthy eating habits dictated by the "Lose It!" app on my phone and--instead--eat  greasy cafeteria pizza, white powdered doughnuts and Twizzlers from the vending machine. As a bonus, inexplicably rack up a $20 credit with your bank card on those same vending machines which--when you need it most--refuses to cough up a lousy package of Cheetos.

4) Bring a sweater and a blanket. Possibly a light parka. It's like "Ice Station Zebra" in that waiting room... all day every day.  I've watched enough ER and Grey's Anatomy to know that sometimes heart patients are put on ice to keep them alive. I didn't think it was supposed to happen to those of us who aren't queued up on the surgical tarmac awaiting the knife.

5) Finish Stephen King's "11/22/63" (849 pages). Did it. On to the next thing.

6) Have roundtable discussions as to reasons why the largest art installation in the waiting room depicts an enormous painted Jesus presiding over similar smaller renderings of an EKG readout,  people having surgery, families waiting on ill loved ones and a person in recovery. Also?  A picture of a man bowling.

7) Finish grading three sets of tragically lettered spelling tests without forgetting how many letters are in my own name. It's harder than you'd think.  Join me for a victory dance, won't you?

8) Listen to stories about how your critically ailing father-in-law--an imposing local attorney who had just arrived by ambulance-- was describing his symptoms to the doctor in the "cath lab" and cutting up about that BBQ-ed pork sandwich he'd had earlier when his heart stopped beating. Just like that.  I'm thinking it's a rule of thumb not to crack wise about your impending multiple "code blue"(s) unless you want God to smite you with something that requires the doctor to shout "CLEAR!" before applying cold gel and some paddles.

9) Give your youngest brother-in-law a temporary "pass" for behaving like one of the biggest assholes in the entire hospital, including any you could stumble over on the proctology floor. And it's not just because his father is ill. He elected to castigate me for referring to our 10 and 12 year old niece and nephew as young kids. SRSLY, dude?  He wanted to go to the mat with me over those two words. I'm not even sure what his real issue was, but he spent the rest of the afternoon passive-aggressively saying and doing crappy spoiled baby things (including forcing me to step over his unmoving feet and legs when they were in the way and everyone else was moving theirs so that I could go use the bathroom). Trust me when I tell you that it has taken everything in me not to grab him by the lapels and "schrisper" (scream/whisper) "I know way too much about you for you to think you can get the upper hand here and now, Mayor McCheese. Don't make your personal life failures all about me." In the words of Will Smith, "Don't start somethin' and it won't BE nothin'". Also? Take off those sad bastard/sagging emo skater pants, busted Teva sandals and start dressing like a MAN for a change.

10) Realize anew that outside this building we're all moms and dads, lawyers and shop owners, gardeners, and baseball players, musicians and writers. Inside this building? We're bones and blood and flesh and terribly, terribly vulnerable. I remain profoundly grateful for the fact that there are people here who know how to attend to our physical human frailties. The man 20 feet away from me has a hideously annoying ringtone and his voice is far too loud. His assembled family includes young children who are too young to go into the ICU and serve no real purpose in the waiting area (just my opinion) but to create havoc and get bored. But I'm going to give him a pass too. He's waiting on the same kind of news that we are. Still hoping God gives my father-in-law the same consideration.


  1. I hope everything went okay! Your description of a Cardiac Intensive Care Unit is spot on. Been there myself, waiting on my dad...

    Also? The immature brother-in-law...oh, the stories I could tell...

  2. We were just in ICU a few months ago after my grandma got out surgery (and passed shortly after). It was a week that both bonebreakingly sad and achingly inspirational. You get to know your family deeply (maybe too deeply in your BIL case). You describe it well! -Jessie from Derfwad Manor

  3. I've been having BIL issues of my own of late, so I know of what you speak.

    I hope things turn out well.

  4. Can't live with 'em and the cliches are overworked.

  5. How dreadful--here's a spot of hope and a prayer coming in from the Dairy State.

  6. Wonder how the real, live, in the flesh physicians and nurses feel about jaysus, murray and yosef taking all the credit in the waiting room artwork? (and that bowler? he's on fi-ya) And what kind of hospital pipes in religiousy music? Are only Christians admitted?

    One last thought, I'm just hoping the next time Mayor McCheese sticks his teva sandals in your way you will step on them and say, "Ooops. Did I crush your toes? I meant to break them."

  7. Oh, lolly. Thinking of you and your family. And major kudos for keeping your sense of self and sense of humor.

  8. I know too well of the 'specialness' of ICU waiting rooms. I hope your FIL is doing better, and may the BIL get a raging case of athlete's foot from his nasty sandals.
    Kelley from Derfwad Manor


Be nice. It's not as hard as it sounds.