It is 9pm at night. On a small TV screen that is playing in mute, Guy Fieri is in that diner show. I have forgotten my glasses home so I cannot see clearly either. I am still staring into the TV screen while watching Gina do things around the room and use the foamy hand sanitizer every 30 seconds. She looks at another little screen behind my bed and makes some notes with great concentration. She shuts the blinds and layers another blanket at my feet.
“It is raining outside, it will be cold tonight.”
She is about to exit the room when she re-assuring tells me, “Everything looks good. Did you have dinner already?”
“Some soup earlier. I think I am hungry again now.”
She hands me the menu card and the phone, “Order away, you have room service. It’s your weekend getaway.”
“Yeah right ! May be a NY cheesecake and a glass of wine too,” I say winking at her.
“Mmmm. Jello will be just fine, Order the Orange one. No wine, of course. They tell me you had quite a few shots last night.” She smiles non-matronly.
She is back in a hour with some extra pillows.She clears the food tray away and places a cup of hot tea.
“Here, lets put on this foot massager for you. It will help you sleep better.”
She wraps my legs in a cushiony fabric wrap, switches on a button and I can hear the low hum from the machine. My legs feel warm and fuzzy. The mint tea is calming. I feel like I am drifting away in sweet slumber. Yet, sleep eludes me. I simply adjust positions on the bed or adjust the bed the next two hours or look at the big white analog clock on the side of the bed.
At midnight, very hesitantly, I call the front desk. “Can you please send Gina over to 330 please ?”
There is a knock on the door 5 minutes later. She has come in prepared. She hands me a plastic cup with a white pill in it. “You really need a few hours of sleep. Have this.”
The pill quickly transports me to oblivion. The next time I see the clock it is 3:30am in the morning. My stomach feels stiffened, knotted or bloated. I cannot tell which one. I know the customary 4am morning walk if one is awake here. But I decide not to wait and press the call button.
“My back and abs. I need to stretch. ”
“Yes, lets unplug you a bit first,” she says while taking the thing off my foot, the extra pillows, blankets and everything attached to me.
She helps me out of the bed. My feet is wobbly as I begin to stand up. She holds my hand firmly and off we go for a walk around the centre. The smell of fresh coffee wafting away from the staff room, the impeccably clean corridors, the silence of the early hours of morning, a few uniformed people walking in the corridors. I notice fresh flowers in the corners. I stop by at a desk to read the San Francisco Chronicle for a bit while Gina attends to a call. It is then that I make an observation. There are no smart phones around, everyone looks up while walking and most often offers a smile.
“No smart phones?” I ask Gina.
“No, we have these, Just what we need around here.” She points to a light blue portable mini-handset with a sleek gray key pad on it.
“There are far more important things than social media and smart phones,” I chuckle.
“Oh yes ! When you are just about focusing on how to help and pass through basic things in the day like breathe, respond, brush your teeth, shower or even have a bowel movement, everything else does feel very trivial.”
I could not agree less.
“No hashtags here. We do what we need to do, ” she adds a few seconds later.
And then continues with a hint of humor in her voice, “If we hash tagged what we do in the day or through the night, one it would be not appropriate and two we would never be doing our job in time.”
We are barely a mile away from the hub of tech minds and innovations of Silicon Valley. But this place seems untouched by technology other than the ones involving human lives. Gina is at least a decade younger than me if not more. But she is calmer, clearer in her mind, jovial and I can tell she loves what she does. Her sense of service almost surprises me. Her typical work days are 12 hours long but they always extend to more.
She walks me back to my room.
“I am sorry,” I say after a I burp super loudly.
“See, this is the most important thing for the moment. Passing gas is next,” She says giving me a thumbs up.
Noticing that I am visibly embarrassed she says, “Goes back to what we were chatting about fairly basic things in life. They are the most important ones. You cannot hash tag them.” She smiles at me and then hands a plastic cup again with two white pills, props the pillows, arranges the blankets and hooks on a few other things.
“Give me a holler if you need anything else,” she says and exits the room.
I get some sleep before it is time for the morning rounds, change of shifts, routine checks, vital signs and discharge procedures. Amidst that Gina manages to smuggle in a mouthwash, another hot cup of tea, some lip balm and helps me to the bathroom quite a few times.
“I am going home now. Farida will take care of you. Hope you get to go home today.”
“Thank you for taking such good care of me,” I say squeezing her hand lightly.
Gina leaves and Farida takes over. Nothing changes much. The same warm smile, the selfless attitude, the sense of caring and the absence of the smartphone. Everything remains pretty much the same. A few hours later, I thank Farida too before making my way home. She offers a sane advice in return.
“Take good care of yourself. Mommies never do.”
There are more people I wish I could go over and thank. The nurse in the ER from two nights ago. Thank you for the painkillers (Morphine was it ?) and for being patient while I howled and screamed. The nurses who were working on a thanksgiving evening. The doctors who walked in on their day off. The chef and the room service guys who serve liquid broth and jello in the most appetizing way. The big guy who wheeled me from one floor to another for the surgery, all the while pretending he was the captain of the flight I was on. He must have sensed my tensed nerves.
This place remains unaffected by a holiday, a national event, Black Friday or Election Day, whatever it may be.Human lives matter here the most. Every cell, every breath, every living moment is of paramount importance.
Gina’s words often ring in my ears, “No Hashtags here”
One often reads about the sterile atmosphere of hospitals and the sky rocketing financial bills that a patient is left with. But there is also so much else that goes on there, that in my experience makes me very very grateful to doctors and nurses and all of the staff for doing what they do and how they do during their everyday work day. Gratitude is needed plenty more in today’s world and it is the time to spread some cheer, joy, gratitude and all good things in general.
Written By : Piya Mukherjee Kalra
Pictures From The Chatoveracuppa Photo Repository.