5 Fun Things to Do at the Hospital (And a Message for the Nutjobs Who Work There)

After the last month’s maudlin, weepy, emotional post about my Dad’s open heart surgery, I thought I’d provide you with the other side of hospital life. The fun side, man! ‘Cause the hospital isn’t all bad, you know. It can actually be pretty fun.

Without further ado, here are:

5 Fun Things to Do at the Hospital

IMG_25791. Science Experiments

Hospitals are all about science, so hospital staff LOVE IT when you conduct science experiments there.

“AWESOME,” they think when they see you Doing Science. “We ADORE science, and there you are DOING it. What a GREAT IDEA,” and then they are very encouraging and want you to continue.

If you’re not sure what kind of science to do at a hospital, I can help you.

IMG_2578Did you know, for example, that if you buy a Seltzer water and then decide you wish you’d bought a Diet 7Up or Diet Sprite or Diet Anything That Doesn’t Taste Like Seltzer Water, you can add a yellow packet of sucralose like Splenda or Sweet Life, and the result is a geyser?

It’s true!

A GEYSER.

An enormous, spewing geyser of soda and Splenda all OVER the place.

Of course, it’s important to choose an appropriate spot to do science. Personally, I recommend the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit waiting area. I’ve found the quiet atmosphere really makes the exploding soda sounds and your cries of, “OH MY GOSH. OH MY GOSH. OH MY GOSH,” reverberate, and causes the most people possible to pay attention to your scientific demonstration. 

P.S. Be prepared to be soaked by the end of doing science. I hear that happens.

2. Case the Joint for Good Advice

You can find informational signs just everywhere in a hospital. I didn’t have a ton of extra time on my hands while I was at the hospital, but I did find some helpful new information, like this:

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Keep that in mind next time you’ve punctured your groin. SAFETY FIRST.

3. Photograph EVERYTHING

Photograph everything — EVERYTHING — so your friend or family member who’s hospitalized can relive it later. They may THINK they don’t want to scrapbook this experience, but they’re probably not thinking straight what with all the surgery and trying not to strain their groin punctures. Ignore them and take pictures anyway. BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY, I always say. 

For example, when that large, burly man appears in the doorway with a razor and a grin and says cheerfully to your macho, Marine father, “Hi, I’m Gavin. I’m here to shave you.” YOU WILL NEVER GET THAT MOMENT BACK, friends…

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… not EVER.

4. Decorate

Decorate the patient’s room. This is crucial. Hospital rooms are, well, a little cold, emotionally speaking, and scientific studies have shown conclusively that patients recover more quickly in warm, home-like environments. (I can’t site a reference for those studies because I just made that up, but that’s no reason to believe it isn’t true.) Therefore, you owe it to your friend or father to decorate his or her room with comfortable, familiar items.

picstitchThis does NOT have to be expensive or break the bank.

picstitch (1)For example, we decorated my dad’s room with artwork from his grandkids, cards from well wishers, and pages from his favorite magazines, like People and US Weekly.

Yes, my dad says he detests People and US Weekly.

And yes, he always grumbles and groans and generally throws fits while my sister-in-law and I thumb through them and talk about Kim Kardashian’s latest hair change. 

But he is just kidding. He secretly, deep down inside loves People and US Weekly. Deep, deep down inisde. And he doesn’t think we’re “wasting our lives” or “carelessly throwing away brain cells” for devoting an afternoon here or there to discussing who wore it best or why everyone’s wearing pasties to awards shows these days. 

That’s why we tore our favorite pics from these magazines and put them on his wall, far, far above where he could reach with his newly cracked chest and included encouraging messages like, “Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus, Cher and Nicki Minaj are rootin’ for you, Dad!” and “SEE? Kim’s TOTES sporting a ‘get well soon’ face for you!” because the only thing my dad likes better than People and US Weekly is when I butcher the English language with words like TOTES. 

5. Ask Questions

Seriously. ASK QUESTIONS, friends. Good healthcare means being part of the team. While doctors and nurses are specially trained in medicine, YOU need to advocate on behalf of the patient. 

Good hospitals, like the one where my dad was treated, will give you a number of opportunities and various methods for communication with the medical team. USE THEM.

When there’s a white board, for example, with questions like What Is Most Important To Me Today? and Questions for My Care Team, USE IT. ASK QUESTIONS. Important questions, so they know how to help.

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Which brings me to the end of my list with one final, important note:

Dear Doctors and Nurses and Hospital Janitors,
and Dear Night Shifters, and Food Servers, and Bold Blood Draw-ers,
Dear All of You Nutjobs Who Make Healthcare Your Life’s Work,

Thank you.

For all of you who are spending your lives serving yahoos like us,
who went to school for countless hours
to learn to do work for which people aren’t always grateful, 
giving your time and your energy and your love

day in and day out,
to make the world a better, healthier, happier place,
one person and family at a time,

THANK YOU.

Your work is
outrageously beautiful,
and super gross,
and wildly awesome,
just like your patients,
and our family joins millions of others
(even the ones who forget to tell you),

in abiding gratitude for all you do.

With love,

Signature

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
18 comments
  1. This was hilarious! I had my first baby on Christmas Day and felt so sorry for the poor nurses who had to spend their holiday checking my hemorrhoids and massaging my uterus.

  2. As one of those crazies who has made nursing her career… this made me smile, and laugh out loud. Thank you for noticing what we do. It is our honor to care for you loved ones.

  3. Oh my word… I laughed really loudly at the science experiment (and thanks, btw, for a great idea for one for my son to do in his homeschooling!! We love hands-on experiments. Especially when he has no idea what’s going to happen…) 😉

    I hope your dad’s surgery went well and he recovers fast! With an awesome family like yours around him, I think the future looks bright. <3

    1. Have fun with the science experiment! I suggest doing it OUTSIDE. The geyser covers a truly enormous amount of space.

      And thanks for the well wishes for my dad. He’s doing GREAT.

  4. I love this so much – all of it. My family has been in and out of hospital in the past few years, and we are always, as in never not, the family that is asked to please keep it down,or how did six of you get in here???, only four people are allowed at a time, or wine is not allowed in the room (at which point the only thing to do is offer a cup to the nurse!).
    Praying for your dad this morning, and for you friend.

  5. I recently spent 15 days in the hospital after surgery to remove a tumor from my tongue and complete a reconstruction using tissue from my forearm. I was in ICU for the first seven days and then in the surgical unit the rest of the time. I came out of the hospital with tremendous respect for the work that the nurses and the lvn’s do everyday…backbreaking, messy, challenging work that most of us wouldn’t even dream of attempting. I learned that a good nurse can make those incredibly long hospital days and nights not so scary and awful. Thank you to all of you who give of yourselves so that we can heal!

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Gayle! Part of my nose is reconstructed from my ear tissue, so I LOVE stories like yours. Rock on!

  6. NICU nurses played a part in saving my Forth. I will forever be grateful. I spent 5 minutes. . Collectively. Staring at the sky, trying to practice being still. It turns out that I am not super awesome at the first day of relent, but considering today involved a migraine on my husband’s birthday and his party was at Dave and Busters, I consider surviving/ remembering relen a success!

    1. NICU nurses were there for my 4th and 5th, as well. I adore them.

      Also, you ARE super awesome at ReLent. A+, friend.

  7. And social workers! (I’m fairly sure if my husband ever had a family like yours on his floor it would be the highlight of his week and he would print up a ‘Best Science Experiment’ award for you, point you to all the interesting signs, and assist your dad in hiding the pictures of Kim Kardashian.)

  8. 18 months ago, I spent 10 straight days in the hospital by my husband’s side after he went to the ER in the middle of the night and then BOOM, You’ve got kidney cancer. I think I left the hospital twice for less than two hours each time. As sad of a time this was, I do look back on it fondly and recall the glimmers of humor throughout this time as it relates to the hospital stay itself. Especially when my husband was helped out of bed for the first time post surgery and the little nurse yelled because she wasn’t expecting him to be so tall. Hilarious.

    The men and women that helped me through the darkest time in my life will always be in my memory. Such special work to take care of patients, but even more special to take such care of the family too.

  9. I will always be grateful for the care with which my family was treated as my mom was dying, and the grace and dignity they gave her as they removed the machinery that was prolonging her suffering. The patience (ha!) of the many doctors who saw my dad in the ER in the last 2 years of his life. The gentle humor the urgent care staff uses to reassure my frightened children when we must visit there. Hospitals can be bewildering and terrifying for patients and their families; the people who work there make such a huge difference.

  10. Beth, what a timely post – as I am currently sitting at my daughter’s hospital bedside after surgery earlier today. While she is doing well, I think I will hold off on the science experiments for tonight. But you are so right about all the hospital staff…they rock!

    1. Sending love and prayers for your daughter’s swift recovery, Kim, and waving in the dark to you. xoxo

  11. LOL Loved your list. Nurses are also awesome for making you laugh. For instance, I was in the hospital 10 days ago – it turned out my gall bladder needed to be removed. In the emergency room, they asked if I was pregnant. I said, “Well, I’m 49, on my period, and haven’t had sex since my husband died in June of 2005, so if I am, it’s definitely an immaculate conception, and I just don’t think I qualify for that…” They did a pregnancy test anyway. Then, each day I was in the hospital (2 more before the surgery), they asked if I was pregnant and I repeated the same response. The day of the surgery, the nurse woke me up at 4 a.m. She had to do a pregnancy test before the surgery, just to be sure. LOL I literally was not even mad that they woke me up and laughed all the way to the bathroom.

    1. Oh gosh Maria, that’s hilarious and slightly overkill! I’m sorry about your husband and hope you recover quickly! I had my gallbladder out when my oldest was 5 weeks old and I promise, you slowly recover the ability to eat greasy foods without running madly to the bathroom half an hour later. But you might want to tread lightly for awhile. 😉

  12. Thank you! We love our gross, awesome work but it is great to be appreciated for it!

  13. As a night shift nurse (not in cardiac ICU but still has gross, awesome work to do): You’re welcome, anytime!

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