Tuesday, May 4, 2010


   You'll have to pardon me for not having prepared a post ahead of time, but we've had a rough few days here at Casa MFA.

   The local Major Teaching Hospital here is the place you most want to be if there is something really, really rare and really, really wrong with you, but it's also the place I least like to go.  The place is in my blood; my grandfather ran it during its "boom" years, my mother went there for nursing school, my father spent weeks in-patient when he had his stroke and all of his heart surgeries,...I can say without resorting to hyperbole that I or an immediate family member has used the services of every single world-reknowned specialty clinic there and you'd think I would have some sort of affection for that accursed institution (probably I do on some level) but mostly?  Its hallways are where possibilities go to end in dead ends and in its basement is a morgue full of dreams.

   From the Life Flight landing pad on the roof down to the cavernous ambulance bay two stories below street level, the entire campus, every brick and pebble of it, is full of places I have slumped sobbing and helpless, bloodied or splashed with vomit, barefoot in pajamas.  There's a surreal quality to going there, even if it's just to take my husband for bloodwork, walking casually hand-in-hand with my youngest child past the genetics department that finds him so fascinating, through the hallway where my own five-year-old self played hopscotch in a flowered nightgown waiting to see if my father would live or die, years and moments of fear, choppy like scenes from Kubrick film, fucked up like a bad acid trip.

   That's the thing about having kids, parents, spouses with special needs: you have to keep going back into the arenas of your nightmares.  Do any of you have a visceral reaction to a particular hospital or doctor's office?  Feel like sharing any coping strategies?  I've got to go back there next week, and I'd pretty much rather have a boil implant.


  1. I have this sort of reaction to the Children's Hospital in Dallas where we were told, repeatedly, that our son was going to die. The fact that he didn't doesn't seem to make any difference to my subconscious brain, which starts quivering like a rabbit cornered by a dog whenever I had to go back to that place.
    Luckily we moved 2000 miles away, so the problem doesn't come up very often.
    My heart also starts racing whenever I hear sirens and I immediately think for a split second they are for Connor-- even if he is sitting in the back seat of my car and I absolutely know they are not for him.
    As for dealing with it, well, I tend to use deep breathing techniques and reassure myself that the sirens are, in fact, NOT for us this time. Other than that, I've got nothing, sorry.

  2. I have this reaction in a small community hospital where an incompetent radiologist assured my mother and I they could beat her 3rd lot of cancer, that it was 'nothing to worry about, of course we'll get you through this episode' only for mum to pass away less than 6 weeks later.
    Deal with it? I snap and snarl if I ever have to go to another clinic inside this hosp and take deep breaths afterwards.

  3. I've had to stop my car and pull over to the side of the road on the way to Children's Hospital. Deep breathing, yes. Avoidance if possible, yes. If avoidance is not possible, back to deep breathing.
    One thing that has helped me to deal with the hard memories is simply praying for help. I read somewhere that the two most powerful prayers are "Help me, help me, help me" and "thank you, thank you, thank you." Sometimes, that's enough.
    Another thing that has helped is taking a gift to the place where hurtful memories happened...something for the staff, or for other patients. That's one reason that I started Katie's Comforters, making blankets. It feels good to bring comfort to a place where I know it's needed. We also took glassybaby candleholders to the staff at the hospital. It might sound crazy, but it has helped to make good, new memories for me.
    Blessings and peace to you as you go back to this place. May it become a place of help and healing for you.

  4. I spent 6 weeks on bedrest in a super cushy suburban hospital while pregnant with our twins. Then spent 3 weeks there after they were born teaching them to eat. Since I was only in one of two rooms the whole time I was there I still feel lost every time I'm there. Recently spent 5 days with my son at our urban children's specialty/teaching hospital and we stayed on every floor for some period of time while we were there. It is less cushy but I now know it better than the other place and feel more comfortable with it. When I took my son to our regular pediatrician for a check up after the hospital stay _he_ totally freaked out. He hadn't even seen this doctor at the hospital, but there must have been a smell or "aura" of some sort that made him want out of there pronto. In this case I knew the doctor would just listen to him breathe, check his throat, maybe check for fever and ask if I had any questions, so I knew it was going to be OK. This helped me be more calm and support my son. If you can't take someone with you who can be that calming influence, maybe you can imagine someone or bring a picture. When I was a new mom I used to stare at my grandma's pictures and ask them for some wisdom...between them they raised 12 babies and I was struggling with just one newbie. Anyway I say familiarity, knowledge, and a calming presence are all in order,,,

  5. I hear a loud bump and think it's my daughter, falling from a seizure and splitting her head open, every time -- even when she's not in the house. I also despise going to any hospital, frankly. I don't have coping techniques for these, either, other than awareness, which I think goes a long way. I am able to breathe through them, then, and be mindful that they are, in fact, just moments and will pass.