When my wife and I visited Germany a few years ago, we were guests of a remarkable woman, I swear she was born with a smile on her face. A few months ago she lost a leg to diabetes, the operation was not successful and the doctor was forced to take her other leg. Within weeks the hospital said she would need another operation but, although she knew the outcome, she said enough is enough. During the trying year before her passing, her son sent us many photographs and emails, each one depicted this brave lady smiling or laughing. Those images of her being unphased during her ordeal bothered me for quite some time until I remembered when my own mother was in hospital. I visited Mom every day and she always had a funny story to tell, moments of levity, comedic situations and living skits which evoked laughter from both patients and staff.
The man across the hall was prone to taking jaunts from one room to another then forgetting exactly where he should end his journey. One most memorable day he wandered down the hall in just his undershirt. Some remarked that from the back he looked like a shrivelled up old parker house roll and others were not sure what he looked like from the front but gathered from the expressions on the nurses’ faces when ushering him back to his room, it must not have been a pretty sight.
Mom’s roommate rarely got out of bed, she was convinced she was dying but that was far from the truth. Nurses had a difficult time getting her to even just sit in a chair. Mom used her wheel chair to get to an area where she could look out the large windows. I don’t know how, but one day Mom convinced the woman to accompany her. After finally maneuvering their wheel chairs to the area, Mom nudged the woman and in a teasingly voice said, “So, do you come here often?”
Patients suffer from various maladies but they still have a sense of humour, some times though, that humour can be a bit snide. One lady continually rang her buzzer calling for nurses. Staff expected nothing would be wrong but they came anyway knowing she rarely received any visitors and was just lonely. She generally prefaced with some loud moaning and groaning enticing the nurses to respond when a man across the hall hollered, “hey, keep it down over there.” But that only made her moan louder, “ I want to roll over because my bum hurts.” she hollered back. Everyone in earshot broke into laughter when the man retorted with, “of course it does, it has a hole in it.”
Hospitals are no laughing matter, nor are patients there to be the brunt of other people’s humour. Many areas of the hospital demand and should receive the respectful quiet it deserves, but on the floors where patients are in stages of convalescence, they do not want to see visitors standing at the foot of the bed wringing their hands. Every time I entered Mom’s hospital room, she grinned from ear to ear, oh yes, I learned a great lesson, laughter is the best medicine.