Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Hospital

You never know who you will meet in a hospital.  It is a place we all visit at one time or another, some of us more often than others.  Whenever there is someone close to me in hospital, I spend an inordinate amount of time there and I discover that people I know are also there.  They might have been admitted due to illness or an accident.  They might work there.  They might be visiting someone they know. 

Hospitals are interesting places.  Everywhere you look something is happening.  Babies are born there.  People die there.  Children need plaster or stitches after some kind of adventure.  Tired parents bring their sick offspring to the emergency room.  Ambulances come and go.  Families reunite in the midst of a sick or injured relative.  Nurses and Doctors see all kinds of people in various states of wellbeing.  There are bright lights and dark corners.  There are court yards and stair wells and elevators.  There is a cafeteria and a kitchen.  There are coffee machines and vending machines and lounges and chairs and beds and curtains and televisions.  Chaplains visit and pray with patients and families.  People hear good news and bad news at the hospital.  They get tests and they wait in lines.  They eat and they shower and they read and they listen and they sleep and they laugh and they cry.  The hospital is a world of its own. 

The very essence of humanity can be found in a  hospital.  The most personal moments occur in adjustable beds.  We are at our most vulnerable when we finally surrender to the linens and the medicines.  Other people are suddenly responsible for us and they want to know the most intimate details of our bodily functions.  They ask silly questions expecting us to reduce every sensation to a numerical value.  Complete strangers care for us, take our blood, feed us and even bathe us.  We trust them.  We realise that in spite of ourselves we do not want to be alone.  Yet, when surrounded by bright lights and people and noise, a hospital can be the lonliest place on earth.  A hospital where we are cared for also leaves us cold and hurting.  It reveals the wonder of human invention and the limitations of our knowledge and ego. 

Hospitals are unavoidable.  Next time you are there, regardless of the personal drama you may be living, take a look around.  Listen to the conversations.  Remember the last time you were there.  Think about the human standing before you who is simply doing their job.  Accept its shortcomings.  Take notice.  Let it happen.  Then leave.