As I type this, I am sitting in the waiting area at Gwinnett Duluth Hospital, waiting for my husband, Mike, to have his shoulder surgery. I have to say, this is the cushiest hospital waiting area I've ever been in. There are comfortable arm chairs and sofas. And -- get this -- the coffee is FREE! And so is the wireless. And it is appropriately hushed. So hushed that I don’t want to make the phone calls I have to make for fear of disturbing the hush. And there are some tables to spread your stuff out on. I may have to gather up my work projects and bring them here more often so I can actually get something done without interruption. But for worrying about my husband, I would be in paradise.
They have the funky-coolest system here. When we first checked in, the lady at the front desk gave me a pager like I was waiting for a table at Chili's. This way I don't feel tied to this fabulous waiting room and can wander at my leisure and know I will be beckoned if I am needed. I was also given a super-secret black ops code, which was easy to remember because it contained the first two letters of our last name and my husbands first two initials, with a random number in between (3) to fool people. This code is connected to this big screen TV hanging on the wall which lists all the people having surgery by their super secret code and where they are in the process (pre-op, surgery, recovery, etc.) This is such a simple and effective system, I'm betting the hospital was able to trim two people off its payroll whose sole job used to be to answer almost every question with, "They'll come out to get you when they're ready for you." I liken this system to the uber-efficient system at Five Guys, which I wrote about in one of my first posts.
Thankfully, there is not, as there tends to be in every other waiting room on planet Earth, some TV blaring with either a 'news' show preaching loudly to the choir, or some 'seriously? that's a tv show' show like, "World's Nastiest Hamburger Joints" or “Real Clerks at a Wal-Mart in Iowa.” I hate these things. I find it impossible to think complete thoughts or read a book or do anything worthwhile while being attacked by this kind of audial and visual stimulus from all sides. In this waiting room, there is another silent TV playing some kind of internal Power Point on a loop that gives 'helpful' health and diet tips like, "When eating french fries, order a small instead of a large" and "Drink diet soda instead of the kind with sugar in it." I didn't watch it for long, but I suspect, "Always wear your seat belt when driving" and "don't run with scissors" were next. In addition to these fascinating facts, I also learned that I was privileged to be in the waiting room during Perianesthesia Nurse Awareness Week. I have to say, up until now, I was completely unaware.
This is not to say that everything here is perfect. After 7 or 8 cups of free coffee, even I have to switch to something milder. The coffee is free, but not the water. There is your standard complement of overpriced vending machines. It is impossible to eat or drink anything healthy from these machines. After feeding a dollar sixty into the machine, I pressed the button for the one non-artificially flavored beverage, water. (I still find it insane to pay that kind of scratch for filtered tap water, but when you are thirsty, you are thirsty.) Naturally, at 9:45am when I attempted to make the purchase, it was already sold out. Since I had used dollar bills in the machine and couldn't figure out how to retrieve them, and since I was bound and determined to follow the no-sugared drinks rule that was in heavy rotation ten feet to my right, I was forced to choose between diet caffeine free Coke and Coke Zero. I only ever drink sodas when my tummy is sad, because otherwise they taste more or less like battery acid to me. I didn't want the additional caffeine, but I cannot bear the taste of saccharine, so Coke Zero it is. The sweetness is just making me thirstier, the caffeine is making me shakier, and I can feel the pits forming in my teeth as they dissolve from all the acid. I guess if I go into cardiac arrest or a diabetic coma, at least I'm already in the hospital. I'm considering just dumping the Coke out and filling the bottle with tap water.
It is a sunny day, and the sun is coming through the skylights that surround the room, making this the least depressing hospital in the world. (That and the fact that this is an outpatient facility, so no one is having life-or-death procedures.) I'm typing this, using enough fingers to make a typing teacher proud, and thinking of my poor husband who will have to do everything as a lefty for the better part of six weeks. I know that he will be in a lot of pain, I know that for the foreseeable future I will try my best to ease his pain and be his right hand, and I know we are in for a rough time ahead of us. Still, for the moment, all is peaceful and quiet out here in the waiting room, and Mike is on the kind of anesthesia and accompanying nerve blocks and pain killers that are only available in a hospital, so neither one of us is feeling much pain. This is a rare treat for both of us. These peaceful moments are hard to come by. I'm going to enjoy it while I can.