Life with Your Loved One Hospitalized
No part of life in a hospital is easy. The tension, the dread, the food, the wardrobe; everything is institutional and built to try to save the system a minute and a dollar. Jo was in a hospital that had a recent active shooter tragedy and thus didn't let guests in the ward until 10am and promptly kicked us out at 9pm. This exasperated all of these frustrations. My general routine went like this; arrive as soon after getting the kids on the bus as possible, generally around 9:15am. Fight with the guards to see if I could get a sympathetic nurse who would vouch for me and allow me up early so I could get up in time for rounds to hear an update. Half the time this wouldn't work because nurses are busy and the security guards (who knew me well enough to start the call to her floor before I made it to the desk) had a strict rule prohibiting them from using experience or common sense in their job. If we failed I would sit in the lobby, often missing rounds. Rush up at 10am and try to track down the nurse or doc for updates* and then sit. And sit. And sit. Rush home for time with young worried kids and then repeat. During all of this I was forced to lean uncomfortably heavily on my social network. I pray that your people gracefully step in the way mine did and that you have a clear enough mind to accept their help. You can let them know how important they are to you and your family later. This was a hard one for me. Stoicism runs deep in my genes but it has no place in a scenario where you have no control over timing or outcome.
Jo's condition compromised her brain function (hepatic encephalopathy for those of you unfortunate enough to be dealing with liver issues) and thus there was very little conversation. Even without mental decline hospitals have a way of sucking the life blood out of everyone involved. I did little bits and pieces of work at the hospital when I had to in order to not lose lifelong clients but mostly I worked in bed at night while not sleeping. The hospital was a place where my presence was needed for support. So I sat and searched for ways to make her life in that room a little better. I largely came up empty.
I have always been a flower guy; I send them to clients and friends and always have them around the house. I still am and would have definitely had them in her room but her entire wing banned live flowers to reduce the risk of Hospital Caused Infections (HCIs). This is becoming common place with only 65% of the rooms in hospitals accepting live gifts and that number is rapidly decreasing with patient health in mind. Balloons were on the outs in our community for eco reasons years ago so that was a no as well. But here is the thing; I wasn't searching for a way to make her mood a little brighter, I wanted to make her perceived experience better and to constantly remind her psychically that she had a team rooting for her.
One of the shoots I had to pay attention to during stolen moments was a big summer project with an NFL future hall of famer. We rented a stadium in Texas for a day for the shoot and time was tight as we only had two hours to accomplish two different setups, one of which involved building a lux bathroom in a breezeway under the bleachers that had to go up and come down in one day. He is 6' 6” so we needed to build him a custom wardrobe. I was in charge of making sure all of these pieces came together and our crew of 38 each had directives and could execute regardless of weather conditions. These emails, slacks and dm's were sent out during quiet moments. I was a little stressed about the project and a lot stressed about Jo. I did not want to add anything to her plate of worries so never mentioned it to her. She would have insisted I stayed in our office to produce so I never was able to tell her about one of my biggest projects.
The big takeaway I had from that scenario was that while I was sitting in a room feeling helpless about not being able to provide comfort to my love I also had a team that was literally fabricating a reality from nothing. I was collaborating with a costume designer who regularly made outfits for crews of 50, artisans who turned our vision into wardrobe, a chief creative officer who took my photos and videos and packaged them to tell a brands story to the masses, and a digital architect who placed my work where it needed to be for the world to see it. I had the skill set to solve this problem but not the time to learn a new industry or personal prior experience necessary to grasp the finer points of the need. This would change but not in time to help Jo.
*we are developing a free service to solve this problem as thanks to our community