“We are here on Earth to do good to others. What the others are here for, I don’t know.” ~ W.H. Auden
I was back at UAMS last week visiting a friend, who is going to be fine, thank goodness. As I tried to find his room I thought of mom, who had spent many days at this hospital during the last year of her life, and I remembered one time in particular.
She had spent a few hours of that day in a small examining room. Mom’s cardiologist, who she loved, decided to try and get her moved to the hospital for a day or so for tests. He had already decided to lower her blood pressure medicine.
Apparently moving her over to the hospital and under the care of the entirely different fields of geriatrics and neurology would take some doing. I heard her doctor say she would be admitted for evaluation and not as a patient. If she tried to make an appointment as a patient it would take, he said, six months. I didn’t really doubt it because I had called for a dermatology appointment the second week in January and they told me to be there on March 3 (it takes time to gather those leeches).
So we waited. Mom was hungry and asked for a BLT with ranch dressing and pickles from Sonic. “What, are you pregnant?” I asked. She laughed and called me a nut and then I left on my mission. It was nice to have one away from the hospital.
The next day the evaluations began. They kept her the night before in a nice private room in the old hospital, which is connected to the new hospital. And the food’s pretty good too, although mom missed her salt.
I got there early that morning, hoping to speak with a doctor about her tests. When I arrived at her room a nurse had just come in with her breakfast. Mom was sitting up and in good spirits, which was how she usually rolled. The nurse got the tray in front of her and said, “Now here’s your breakfast and it’s gonna be soooo good.”
“I’ll bet,” Mom said. (I come by my cynicism honestly.)
The nurse moved in for the unveiling. I was curious but not very hopeful. There wasn’t even a smell. And there was a reason for that, which we saw when she lifted off the silver plate cover. There was nothing there. I don’t mean small portions, of powdered eggs and shriveled up sausage. I mean nothing, as in a shiny plate right out of the dishwasher.
“Well mother, Congress is cutting back on healthcare and it begins right here.”
We laughed, even the embarrassed nurse, who was on her way to find some food.
Later that afternoon I was standing in the hall waiting on two doctors who were doing mom’s motor skill and memory evaluation. When they were finished they came out of her room and over to me.
“Well your mother seems to be doing pretty well. We still have a couple of tests this afternoon but overall this looks pretty good. She is still having some confusion however.”
“What kind of confusion?”
“Well I don’t think it’s that serious,” the doctor told me.
“What is it,” I asked again, a little nervous now.
“Well, your mother seems firmly convinced that the staff brought her an empty plate this morning for breakfast.”
I laughed and the doctors gave me a “must run in the family look.”
I straightened them out and wondered how things might have progressed had I not been around. But we’ll never know.
Jay Edwards is editor-in-chief of the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.