I was sitting on a chair at Cedars, an IV sticking into my hand, a tray next to me with big bottles of medication to drink. Nurses were bringing in other patients, each waiting for another exam. We all sat next to each other on a row of chairs, somewhat reminiscent of a train station or a gate at an airport. Except we were in gowns, each assigned a staff member to accompany us during the procedures.
A male nurse was busy with my tray, about to inject something into me. He handed me a blue bag, somewhat similar to an airline sickness bag. “Most patients want to vomit,” he said, “it will be fast, you will start throwing up within less than a minute.”
A lady seated two chairs from me looked up and said: “But others do not, so say you are one of those who do not.” As she did, he injected whatever-it-was he needed to inject. The seconds marched on, but I was fine. I was concentrating on what the lady said, so without noticing the dangerous time zone passed, and I was saved. I was ready for the next stop.
The lady was older than I, but not an old lady. She was wearing a hospital gown given when we have to change from our clothes into something more “suitable” for tests. White not green ones that do not close completely. She was not concerned one bit that I was holding the sickness bag in my hand and any second might throw up on her. Instead, she bid me good luck, or farewell or just plain “be healthy.” I do not remember exactly, but she was my guardian angel.
The nursing staff sitting together nearby was also good, all twelve of them. I am not sure what they were all doing, although Joe, the male nurse, was talking about moving with his wife to the Stanford Hospital, and Tania was just coming back from some meeting she had to attend. A third was making arrangements for a staff meeting at nearby Capital Grill (apparently they are paid handsomely enough to afford such treats).
They were all working as a group, assignments shared, although primary responsibility per patient remained the individual nurse’s. They were committed, concerned, professional, but something was lacking. It was that human touch a fellow patient had brought when she ignored for a moment her own concerns, worries and fears, aches and pains and dispensed advice to a complete stranger.
After it was all said and done, I was once again in a waiting room, told to drink a lot of water to help the body drain itself of some of the poisons injected into me. An older lady on a wheel chair in a fur coat turned and said: “Young man, are you standing behind me?”
I moved around so she could see me, and she said: “What did you say, I cannot hear you, I am ninety-one you know!”
She was there alone, and in the next minute or so gave me an earful of what she thinks about Newt Gingrich who was then on the CNN nightly news. “Oh, what a disaster to the United States,” she said. “If he becomes POTUS, President Of The United States. And what is FLOTUS? First Lady Of The United States,” she immediately added. Young people today have to be taught everything, so little they know.
Clearly I was in the presence of an old-yet-lively die-hard Democrat. I knew it is not the place to argue the ill wills of our current President, or the imperative for change, unless I wanted a kick in the butt from a not-so-young-yet-feisty lady. So I said, “I cannot switch the channel, it is set on one channel only. But this is the nightly news, in a few moments the subject matter is bound to change.”
“What did you say, young man? I am ninety-one and I cannot hear. Speak louder!”
At that time, another technician came out and pronounced her name. How did I know it was her, having met her for the very first time just moments ago? Since other than her, there were only two of us in the sitting area, neither of us a woman. The technician thought I was with her, a family member or a companion. She was alone. “Young man, I am ninety-one and I cannot hear,” she said as he introduced himself.
I saw her later at the main entrance, as she directed staff with arrangements on how to get her back home. You see, she is ninety-one and she told me how Cedars Sinai came into being (the merger of Cedars of Lebanon and Mount Sinai). She went into detail, but I was otherwise “out,” focused on getting water into my system after seventeen hours of fasting and all sorts of unidentifiable chemicals newly inside my body.
There was another guardian angel, a cleaning lady. I paced up and down the corridor, waiting for a CD with the test results, and a cleaning lady mistook my pacing as an urgent need to enter the restroom she was about to clean. “No, thank you,” I said, unaware I would be rushing in just a few minutes later, even before she finished its cleaning.
She, too, bid me good health, as if looking out for my wellbeing, protecting me. A complete stranger, and I did not even have tubes or needles, plastics or bandages attached. I was not in a gown, nor was I in a hospital bed. Yet, somehow she knew. Somehow she made certain I was okay.
Complete strangers, each one an angel in disguise. Actually not in disguise at all, just angels guiding and protecting, smiling and accompanying. A blessing surrounding us.
Remember how important it is to be an angel the next time you are rushing into or just plain sitting in a waiting room. Stop, look at others, smile at them and offer a listening ear or a helping hand. It is a two-way blessing. First for them, then for you. Complete strangers, like candles in the darkness, or the sound of bells or lights on the holiday.
May it be a holiday season full of blessings, primarily good health, and sprinkled with laughter. May we know to recognize, enjoy and appreciate all we have.