Waiting rooms

Recently, I spent several days at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Hospital waiting for my brother in-law to undergo two days of 12 hours a day surgery. After coming home again, I reflected on what I experienced in the waiting. This is not the first waiting room I spent a lot of time in. Whether going to the local doctors or dentist’s office all of us to spend some time in some sort of waiting. For that matter, even if you’re going to have your tires rotated or your car worked on, you spend time in the waiting room.
M.D. Anderson Cancer Hospital has patients that come from all over the United States and the world due to the level of specialist that are at the hospital. Even though many of the waiting rooms at my doctor’s office are full, the waiting rooms at MD Anderson are very large and very busy.
When I first got to the waiting room, I was taken back by the size of the area. Not only that, I was surprised about how many people were sitting in the chairs and walking the hallways. This waiting area has its own group of volunteers to help connect the patient and the people there with the patient. There are so many cases going on at any time, that there is a television screen with numbers that correlate to the patient that shows the status of the patient for those people in the waiting room.
I noticed that in any section of the waiting room there were small groups of people sitting in the chairs are standing up talking to each other. On a regular basis a hospital employee would walk out amongst the people in the waiting room and call out a last name. When the people associated with that patient’s last name were located they were taken to a very small room with a few chairs and visited by a nurse or Dr. who will inform the people of the status of the surgery.
As the hours went by I noticed many of the people of other groups still waiting for information on the status of the patient they are there for. I was surprised to find that there were people from all over the United States who had to stay in a hotel near the hospital, so they could be at the waiting rooms early each morning to late each night.
When I first got to the waiting room area I was greeted by my family members and was updated on the status of my brother-in-law. Then as the hours went on and on I noticed other groups of people waiting. Most stayed in the small group that they were with while others walked around the hallways. Occasionally, a nurse would come out and call a last name and a group of 3 to 15 people will follow her to that same small room, the consulting room, and receive a short five-minute report. As it would walk back to the waiting room area their eyes would look out amongst the rest of the people in the waiting room area and eventually conversations would occur amongst others in the waiting room.
This hospital specializes in cancers, each family was there waiting for the dramatic are nondramatic events of their loved one was undergoing multi-hour surgeries. As one man began to talk to the group I was with I found that he spoke for a long time. It didn’t take long to learn where he was from who we lose therefore and the history of the fight on cancer that he and his family has taken on.
I was somewhat taken back by how courteous most of the people in the waiting room were. Other than an occasional outburst of crying after being briefed about their loved one, most the people were very quiet and courteous. If somebody was walking along and dropped a paper or an item on the floor, several people would rush to pick up the item and return it to its owner.
Like most hospitals, there were people in scrubs walking through the waiting room area. Every time one of those employees walked through the waiting room area, the eyes of every one of the group in the waiting area would look to see if that person was coming to talk to them. Most of the time the people walking in the scrubs were employees headed to the cafeteria. I noticed that those people tried not to make eye contact with the people in the waiting room, as they knew that if they looked at someone they would probably start asking them questions about their loved one in the hospital. Another thing I noticed was that the hospital employees walked quickly to the waiting room area.
Like most families, my family gathered in the waiting room area and spoke about many things about the history of our family or some humorous events that my brother-in-law was involved in. But each time that a person in scrubs and walked down that hallway we would stop our conversation and quickly look at the person in hopes that they were connected to our brother-in-law’s case.
While in the waiting room, many people were looking at their wireless devices while others were reading books. I noticed several women knitting and several of the men trying to fall asleep on one of the wooden and steal chairs. Occasionally, you found a loveseat in the waiting area so that after the many hours you been there you could lay down on it and try to sleep.
I think that sleep in the waiting room is hard to find. Everyone is there expounding positive thoughts about the procedures while worrying that the next briefing would bring bad news. As positive as you try to be, there is that looming threat that all is not going well. In my case, each briefing on my brother-in-law’s condition was a positive. But in the many hours that a stayed in the waiting room I could see that other groups did not receive such good news. And each time I saw that someone else do not receive good news I felt very sad and nervous.
The hospital did a good job with their volunteers. The volunteers and make sure that if you need is some coffee or water they were there to provide it. The volunteers age ranges from 60-year-old men and women to 20-year-old men and women. I was surprised about how many volunteers there were at this hospital. I reached out to one of the volunteers and thank them for being there. I know that many people in the waiting room would focus on the volunteers in vain efforts to get information on their loved one, the patient.
One of the things in the waiting room that seems to be a recurring theme in all waiting rooms, are the chairs and any other furniture in the waiting room. I’m not sure if this is intentional, but the chairs are incredibly uncomfortable if you have to spend hours in them. And in today’s world, there are not enough outlets on the wall to accommodate all the people who want to plug-in their wireless devices.
While in the waiting room, there was always someone on the wireless device updating others about the progress of the patient. Many people were calling their loved ones just to make sure everything was going all right while they were at the hospital.
There was something else that happened at this waiting room that I must comment on. I watch the passing of the baton, so to speak, as me and my sister found that our children were the ones that help the rest of us through the hard time. As a parent, I was always trying to be strong in trying conditions and I concentrated on taking care of my children and the others around me. This time I found that my son and my niece both were the ones taking care of me and my sister. They make sure that we had things to eat and drink and that if there was something I needed to be checked on they would volunteer to do that. Both kept positive in their attitudes and cheerful in their conversations. While I and my sister used to be the one who worked hard on taking care of others and making sure that we had a positive face on. As I watch the passing of the baton from my sister to her daughter and from myself to my son, I realized that I’d taken the baton from my father some years ago and I my son someday will pass baton to his son. As I looked around me in the waiting room I witnessed this passing of the baton from the older family members to the younger family members play out continuously.
The negative part about a waiting room, is that your waiting for the information. Even though the hospital tries to update you when they can, there are many hours that go by with a horrible silence of no information. What is also interesting is that every waiting room has a television somewhere. Usually, people in the waiting room are not quick to change the channel. In some waiting rooms you’re unable to change the channel. But, it is almost like an unwritten law that unless you are an employee of the hospital you do not change the channel. Usually, the first employees in the waiting room in the morning set the channel and it stays there all-day long. I tried to watch the television screen while unable to the hear the television. But it didn’t take long that I paid no attention to the screens except for the one that showed the case in patient’s numbers and where their progress was that.
Most waiting rooms are close to the cafeteria. And most of the cafeterias in a hospital serve hospital type food. MD Anderson is an exception. It had a Chick-fil-A station inside the cafeteria. In the waiting room by the volunteers for several coffee pots. They reminded me the same kind of coffee pots that I found in my offices at the police department. The coffee that comes out of machines are both the same. Very strong and if it’s close to the last liquid in the pot very nasty. I appreciate the fact that the volunteers had the coffee there, but I did find some humor that the coffee out of the old coffee pot is the same whether in a waiting room or in a police station.
The waiting room does provide an atmosphere that produces meaningful conversations amongst family members. These conversations do not last for hours, but they do seem to happen during the time that you are in the waiting. I found out some things about my parents for my nieces and my sister that I do not know before. I was able to visit with my nieces and my son and find out more about their lives as adults and parents themselves.
No matter what group it was during the long hours awaiting somebody would break out their phone and start showing family pictures to each other. I was surprised when my niece broke out actual 5 x 7 printouts of photos of her son. I haven’t seen anybody actually showing prints for years. Almost every time I’m shown the picture it is from a phone or tablet.
The waiting room is a place of great worrying and anticipation. It is a place where you go from 0 to 100 mile an hour in seconds when the nurses or doctors come out to report on the patient. It is a place for most people prepare for bad news and the delivery of good news is not only celebrated by the people who are there for a patient but are celebrated a little bit by all of us.
When you see a group of people crying for joy and hugging each other after receiving good news about the patient you feel good along with them. In this case, I and my family received very good news is my brother-in-law did well in today’s of being in surgery for 12 hours a day.
Now my sister and daughter, will spend many days visiting my brother-in-law in his hospital room and although I cannot be there I can feel the joy and relief of such an event.
My thoughts today are about waiting rooms. They are necessary to have and usually uncomfortable to stay in. In most doctors waiting rooms there is just the anticipation of going to see the Dr. In a hospital waiting room there is the anticipation and the extreme pain of waiting for news of your loved one, the patient
I don’t know if there’s a way of making the waiting room any better or more comfortable, but MD Anderson did a great job of trying. I hope that it’s a long time before I go back to the waiting room. I think it’s easier on me just to be the patient, and harder on me to be the one waiting for the news of the patient.

One thought on “Waiting rooms”

  1. Little sisters need their big brothers. You being there for yours reminded me why I’m grateful for mine.

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