Friday, September 23, 2011

Hospital Roommate Etiquette: Rule Number Three

Ready for my third rule for being a good hospital roommate? To review, I’ve already posted my first and second rules for hospital roommate etiquette. They can easily apply to anyone finding themselves in close proximity to another patient. 
This one is a little more obscure. You wouldn’t think it would even need mentioning. But I know from experience it does.
Rule Number 3: Don’t bring live animals into your hospital bed.
Now I love cats. I always have. I know my descent into cancer hell was incredibly hard on my loved ones. But it was also traumatic on my kitty, Allie.
Allie in a bed at home 
She was essentially a one-person cat and I was her person. My family said she was beside herself when I suddenly exited the house for a four-month stay in various hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. 
Luckily, she got through it and so did I.
But never for a minute did I consider having her smuggled into my room to cheer us both up.
That’s exactly what one of my roommates did when I was beginning my life-threatening journey in a hospital rehabilitation room.
As I recall (you learn plenty about the person inches away from you), the injured woman took in kittens from the pound and fostered them until they could be adopted. An honorable cause.
But not so noble was her friends bringing three teeny weeny kittens in large socks to romp on her hospital bed.
Granted, they were adorable. Calendar material. I mean who doesn’t melt at the sight of  a kitty? 
Well, me, when I have a bunch of tubes in my arm and can barely walk to the bathroom.  And I’m supposed to be in a sterile environment.
I was present on many days at different facilities when  therapy dogs came around to meet with patients. But you had to go outside your room to see them. Patients who went said they loved being around an animal. One guy who rarely had visitors said he missed his dog at home so much, it made him feel better to just see a furry friend.
But seeing the kittens brought me no joy. I was dumbfounded at why my roomie and her friends thought this covert operation was a good idea. What if a stray hair or flea ended up in my IV tube? What if I was allergic to cats?

I am, actually. But I’m on allergy medicine at home to allow me to be around my own cat. There were times in rehab when I was on oxygen and needed breathing treatments: what I didn’t need was a fur-spurred sneezing fit.
And worse, what if I tripped over one of the kittens  while haltingly making my way to the restroom or commode. One of them actually jumped off the bed and scampered toward the doorway. My roommate’s friends nabbed him before he reached the hallway. Laughter ensued, but not from my side of the room.
Down the hallway, in a rehab center, were not only nurses and doctors, but food workers and physical therapists and folks learning to use a wheelchair or walker or cane. A runaway kitten could have been disastrous.
Those who know what I experienced in my months in the hospital might doubt this tale. But I know it happened. I have a witness.
Sure, morphine and other pain killers made me see all kinds of things. The night I entered the hospital, before they even found a room for me, I saw imaginary cats. Huge ones. Human-sized, like they were out of a Kliban cartoon.
But I didn’t mention it to anyone. I knew that the cat sitting on an (imaginary) bus bench in my room that night next to my friend Marybeth was a hallucination. 
And the same with the realistic cats that would occasionally scamper across the floor at at different hospital. I knew they were drug-induced visions, so I kept them to myself.
When the kittens came to my room, I was being visited by my friend Mary, who had flown in to be with me while doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with me. 
Months later, after I was diagnosed with lymphoma and treated and finally able to go home. Mary brought the cat incident up. "What the hell?" she said, or words to that effect.

Yes, she said, it really happened. I remember her being there and we were both in shock, beyond words, particularly when one of the kitties got loose.
I should say that she, too, is a cat lover. I’m sure we both also love baby seals and pandas and bunnies and ducks. But I really don’t want to see them in the next hospital bed.

1 comment:

  1. I hope you turned her in (or rather your friend did) - that would seriously send me over the edge!