It was a chilly Monday morning. We were running late, but my wife Joyce was in no hurry to get to our destination. She fumbled with her purse and I could see a small tear running down her face. She was really nervous but she finally said in a shallow voice, “Let’s go.” I opened the car door for her and drove slowly down the street. There wasn’t much conversation and the radio didn’t help. I turned it off and suddenly the silence was deafening.
We didn’t say much for the next ten minutes but we finally arrived and I pulled slowly into the parking lot. I had never been to Rancho Springs before, but the sun was cresting over the horizon and caused a eerie glow over the Spanish tiled roof. We walked in the door and found the place deserted. I looked at my watch and it said 6:30 exactly. I called out, “Is anyone here,” in a loud voice and I heard a muffled sound from the dimly lit room off to the left. We entered slowly and that’s when we met Marge.
Marge was the type of woman you would expect to find in a place like Rancho Springs. Faint whiffs of her last cigarette lingered in the air as she took down our information. She was pleasant and hurried but she seemed right at home behind the messy desk. She asked question after question and put all of the answers on the blue card. Then she turned to me and handed me the pen. “Sign here,” she said in a raspy voice. I took the pen and scrawled out a signature, unsure of the ramifications. She grabbed the card quickly and put it in the transparent blue folder.
We were finally done and we took a seat in the main hallway. Marge motioned to someone in the distance and we were quickly escorted thru the courtyard and into the back corridor. A pleasant woman came up to us and called out, “Joyce?” My wife responded with a nod and we were quickly ushered thru the large green doors into a room full of noise and commotion. Voices were all over the place as uniformed employees ran back and forth. Joyce sat down and then the unthinkable happened.
I found myself covering my eyes as the needle went in. I could hear Joyce moan as the cold steel pricked her skin. They laid her back on the gurney, covered her with a blanket and then they came and pushed her down the hall. I followed briskly asking numerous questions, being assured that it would be over within the hour. As we passed a carpeted room, the woman motioned for me to wait inside until she returned. I was worried but I obliged.
The room was cold and lonely with a ripped and torn magazine the only comfort in an otherwise barren room. I fumbled with the worn pages but soon lost interest. I was cold, hungry and worried… really worried. I waited for almost an hour and finally ventured down the brightly lit hall. I knew there must be a coffee pot somewhere and I followed my nose to a distant smell of caffeine. I poured a cup of the warm brew and took a seat. Crazy thoughts started to run around in my head. When would they bring her back, I wondered?
I drank the cup down quickly and headed back to the first room. Joyce was being pushed back in. I ran quickly to her side where she lay motionless. I looked into her eyes and there was barely a sign of life. All of a sudden I jumped as her eyes suddenly went wide open. I was relieved to find that she was already awake. The procedure was a success.
She raised her head and said a groggy “hello” to me and then she closed her eyes again. I told her to sleep and she dozed off again. I sat in the chair next to the gurney and noticed we were behind a dingy green curtain, yet I could hear the sounds of others in the room. As Joyce slept I tried to read a book but was distracted by the ongoing commotion in the room. I peeked from behind the curtain and noticed a grizzled old man being pushed in a wheelchair. He raised his voice and mumbled something about a prostate operation.
I could hear them hooking him up to the heart monitor as the blips of the machine could be heard faintly behind the curtain. Another nurse could be heard across the room with a knee replacement patient. I felt compelled to listen to the conversations, drawn in by the stories of pain and discomfort. The conversations were uncomfortable yet interesting. The old man behind the curtain turned out to be a famous race car driver. He had raced with the best, including Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt. He had reached the pinnacle of success in his career and yet he was now at the mercy of the nurses and doctors.
The knee replacement man groaned as they lifted him from his chair. His story of weeks of therapy was gripping. I could visualize the slow agonizing steps it must have taken just to walk across the room. Another voice could be heard from another bed about a kidney stone and another about the dreaded c word. It was a very uncomfortable experience. I wanted my wife to wake up and I wanted to leave… right now.
I looked down at my book, the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and found it uninspiring. The people in this room were facing very unpleasant things and here I was forced to sit and listen. It suddenly dawned on me that I was a very lucky person. I wasn’t facing any of the things that others in the room were. I could go home in a short while and forget about this whole experience, yet I was feeling somehow different than when I came in.
I noticed some very important things going on in the room. The nurses were very pleasant, providing comfort to all of the patients. The visiting doctors were giving assurances of good outcomes. The student assistant had a smile and a good story. When it came down to what was really important that day, it was the people who worked in the hospital. It was their positive attitude and caring touch. I feel really lucky that my wife’s heart test had a good outcome. The doctor assured her that with some new medication she would be fine.
I learned some things that I hadn’t expected that day. The comfort of a caring touch and the uplifting power of a warm smile. It was an uncomfortable yet powerful day at Rancho Springs Hospital.