When one patient in a shared room has several visitors, with another patient lying in the bed two feet away, where is the courtesy? Where are the rules?
When I was younger, we used to call these rules “Visiting hours.” Visiting hours were well respected and rigidly enforced. I remember as a teenager visiting my dad in the hospital. I stayed for 30 minutes. Since we both had the same sense of humor, and I felt the need to entertain him, we cried from laughing so hard over something silly that I can’t recall. Dad held his side, trying not to burst his stitches. The short visit boosted his spirits, and mine.
Fifty years later, I was now the patient. All I could do pretty much was just lay in the hospital bed, conscious, but really weak having lost a lot of blood. It was around 10:00 a.m. when my roommate’s visitor arrived. Soon there’d be three people at her bedside. They talked. The patient talked. In fact, all of them talked for 10 hours straight, until 8:00 that night. How do folks converse for that long anyway! Isn’t the patient supposed to be sick? Doesn’t she need rest? At this point, I wish I had been comatose, because I was going crazy.
“When are visiting hours over?” I asked the nurse.
“Some floors have visiting hours and others do not,” she said.
Sadly, my floor was one that people could come and go freely, and stay as long as they wanted.
By 9:00 p.m., the visitor switched to reading aloud. I heard the distinct words, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego”
More reading followed, and again, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.”
So, now, anyone within earshot – that would be me -- was listening to passages from the Bible. Bible verses are a good thing, of course, but with the Bible being a fairly lengthy book, I wondered how long this reading would take.
“The constant chatter is driving me crazy,” I said to the nurse, pointing to the drawn curtain.
Within the hour the visitors were gone and I fell asleep.
The patient was discharged the following afternoon, but not until after a full morning of…you guessed it…visitors and talk!
By 3:00 p.m., peace ruled. I could once again concentrate. Even though I didn’t have the stamina to read or write anything, I could enjoy my inner thoughts, my husband and daughter’s short visit, close my eyes, and snooze. The procedures the doc had in store for me would be biggies and I needed the rest. (Don’t you love the way they call these yucky ordeals, “Procedures!”)
Around 2:00 a.m. medics wheeled in another roommate. No big deal and I fell back to sleep. In fact she was so polite to ask the next morning, “Did I disturb you last night?”
No, she didn’t. We were just fine, that is until….
In walked her two visitors, her daughter and granddaughter, who, naturally, started talking. The lady had a 3-hour procedure coming up mid afternoon, so I knew I could have silence at least during that time. As she was wheeled out, the visitors climbed into her bed, chatted with each other and talked on the telephone. This went on and on and on ….I mean, isn’t there a waiting room for that???? Had I not been down a few pints of blood, I would have HIGHLY SUGGESTED that room.
After five blood transfusions, two colonoscopies, one endoscopy and a head filled with other people’s chatter, I welcomed my discharge. I wonder if my roommates had any idea I’m a writer. Who’s talking now!