Surviving Hospitalisation: Bonding with nurses and roommates (4 of 7)

Ameena Meer is a writer and single mother of three girls living in New York City, who runs her own advertising agency.  As a person who went through traditional cancer treatments for several months and was also hospitalized for other illnesses in the past, she thought it would be useful to create a guide to navigating the medical system when you’re stuck inside.  This is an excerpt from her blog www.amazonsofnyc.blogspot.com 

How To Shrink Your Hospital

ameena meer overcome choriocarcinomaThe idea is to turn your big, scary hospital into a small, loving place. You want to make it a place where they will really look after you. You can even become a cheer-leader for everyone else along the way.

Here are some ways to do it, starting with the intangibles, which make the most difference.

Staying in good spirits

One of my best friends, Sancha Mandy, a beautiful writer herself, who has been hospitalised way too many times, says “Be an optimistic fatalist.” You know you have to do it. Be brave and walk in. Keep in mind that it will all go well. Speak to your angels and the Divine source and ask them to keep you safe.

Be appreciative and kind to all the people who help you there. There are orderlies and administrators and cleaning staff. It is a hard job looking after sick people, it’s emotionally draining. If you’re in a cancer hospital, it can be devastating. Imagine how hard it is to come in to work every day.

Pretend that you are actually a celebrity incognito or a princess (not the Lindsay Lohan kind of celebrity, think more Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday). Be elegant, generous and kind, behave with the grace of a princess and people will treat you like one.

Thank people.

Bonding with your nurses

Be thankful to your nurses
Be thankful to your nurses

Make friends with all of your nurses. Learn their names if you can. Ask them how they are. You’d be surprised how rarely anyone asks a nurse how she/he is. Nurses work crazily long hours and are often overwhelmed. They leave their kids for great stretches of time, they rarely get enough sleep. They deserve some attention and you can end up having a good conversation that can distract you from your own drama.

A good relationship with your nurses is your key to a bearable hospital stay. They are the ones who can get you a vase for the flowers or give you a painkiller when you’re in agony and all the doctors have gone home. They can make concessions for you. I had a lovely nurse who switched all the generic pictures in my room with the ones in the hallway and other rooms, because I was desperate to look at seascapes, after a week of gazing upon close-ups of flowers.

If you have to go back and forth to the hospital, you will see the same nurses over and over again, so it’s worth it to get to know them. The nurses are your friends.

Often, when you ask a nurse a question about your condition, she/he won’t tell you the answer because only the doctor is really allowed to discuss your case, due to confidentiality or maybe insurance liability. But if you do get on well with your nurses, they will have lots of useful information for you, especially because they’ve dealt with lots of people who’ve had similar situations.

Be nice! Smile and look every person who helps you in the eye. Everyone. From the guy emptying the rubbish bins to the cleaning crew to the doctors. They are human, too.

The one compliment I can give Memorial Sloan Kettering is that they had the best nurses ever. The hospital really is pleasant, clean and extremely well-organized. One might not always agree with the treatment methods, but it is very well run and there is a nice view from the windows.

Bonding with your roommate

If you’ve really warmed up to a nurse, they might arrange it so you always have a private room. But sometimes it’s just a very busy time and it’s simply not possible.

Having a
Be a nice roommate

If you have to share your room with another patient, be neighborly and considerate. Ask if it bothers them if you leave your toiletries on the bathroom counter.

Introduce them to your visitors and have your visitors be especially quiet if your roommate is trying to rest. I used to give my room-mates a heads-up, i.e., “my daughters are coming at 2pm, I hope they’re not too noisy for you.” If you can walk around, take those noisy guests out of your room. Unless of course, your room-mate is enjoying their company, too!

Sometimes your roommate wants to talk, sometimes they just want to close their eyes and rest. If you have the energy, take a moment to be human and ask your roommate how she/he is feeling. If you’re more mobile than your roommate, ask if she/he needs help. Sometimes, it’s just nice to have someone else there.

Reflection

  • Where can you the warmth of love and care in a depressing hospital environment?
  • Your caregiver, other patients and the hospital staff may feel the same ‘gloom’ that you sometimes feel. How can you make it your little ‘happy place’?

More from this series

Title About the article
Part 1 As a person who went through traditional cancer treatments for several months and was also hospitalized for other illnesses in the past, Ameena Meer thought it would be useful to create a guide to navigating the medical system when you’re stuck inside.
Part 2 I am not a doctor, but I want to offer people the basic stuff I’ve learned through years of experience as a successful patient.
Part 3 Unless you are a wealthy, high-profile celebrity, you will not get special attention at a factory. Which is pretty much what a hospital is.
Part 4 The idea is to turn your big, scary hospital into a small, loving place. You want to make it a place where they will really look after you. You can even become a cheer-leader for everyone else along the way.
Part 5 It’s still a hideous proposition if you must stay in hospital, but there are ways you can make it more bearable, maybe even pleasant. Sometimes it’s as easy as a list of things that you might bring, or have friends or relatives bring, that makes it feel more at-home.
Part 6 All this stuff may seem absurdly expensive given your circumstances, but I suggest you invest in it anyway. It makes you feel chic and aristocratic and helps you continue to behave in a dignified fashion. And in the end, it will be the way you treat the people who help you that will make all the difference.
Part 7 This is one tip that may not practically affect the tone of your stay, but it will ease your mind and help you feel like you are part of the process

 

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