The Hospital Visit | Teen Ink

The Hospital Visit MAG

October 22, 2008
By Catherine O'Donnell, Arlington Heights, IL

It was the day before Rosh Hashanah, but I wasn’t Jewish. I was heading into the hospital, but I wasn’t sick.

The lobby was like the starting gate at a racetrack: a line of wheelchairs filled with former patients, a group of healed people with their blinders on, chomping at the bit to go home. Many of them had balloons, teddy bears, and family members for their entourage. Lucky ducks.

My back pocket buzzed; I paused in a corner ­neatly arranged with cushioned chairs to take the call. It was Mom: “Honey, she’s not in the best shape right now. She may be asleep the entire time you’re there, but, you know, that’s okay.” After a few sighs and a good-bye, I managed to move my cinder block feet toward the elevator.

“Oh, he’s just doing so much better. It’s unbelievable! I mean, just yesterday he was practically comatose and now he’s up and walking,” a young woman with a colorful paisley scarf said into her cell phone as she exited the elevator. Lucky duck.

My fellow elevator riders were an older woman and two kids, presumably her grandchildren. The woman pressed the button for the third floor; I was going to the eleventh. I did the usual routine of ­gazing at anything but the other people in the ­elevator. Finding nothing terribly interesting about the certificate of inspection, I threw a quick glance toward the children. Their eyes glimmered with ­excitement. One hugged a teddy bear and the other grasped a construction paper card, complete with stick figures that, as children, we thought ­comparable to “Mona Lisa.” The elevator crept to a stop, the doors opened, and the kids bolted; the sign for the floor read “OB-GYN.”

“Let’s go see your baby sister.”

Lucky ducks.

The elevators opened with a ding on the eleventh floor. I walked to the nurses’ station and asked for ­directions to Room 1155, her room. 1151 … 1153 … 1155. I waited outside for a few seconds, becoming my own coach for a pep talk.

“We have to be strong for her,” my dad had told me the last time we visited. “She’s going through a lot right now, so we have to keep smiles on our faces.”

With a quick exhale, I entered the room. The woman on the bed had white hair and wrinkles. Her eyes slowly noted my presence and then lazily drifted back to the ceiling. The whiteboard next to her read, “Smith, Evelyn.” She wasn’t my grandma.

I stepped to the other side of the curtain. The woman on the bed was sound asleep, her mouth agape, her head tilted to the side. The cancer treatments left a halo of curly hairs on the pillow. Her nails were manicured, but her hands were swollen. She was hooked up to a menagerie of machinery and had a growing collection of bracelets on her left arm. A picture of the Virgin Mary and a rosary sat on her bedside table. Her whiteboard read “O’Donnell, Adonai” with a lopsided smiley face underneath. She wasn’t my grandma.

My 5ƈ" grandma had the heart of a lion and the fight of a tiger. She would tell stories about Boobie and his sister Boobette, troublemakers in the same league as Dennis the Menace, who always managed to cook up mischief. My grandma would sit us in front of her vanity filled with bottles of perfume and makeup, and brush our hair with her silver-­handled brush, a makeover of sorts. She would run her manicured nails through our hair and ask my ­sisters and me who our boyfriends were. When we told her we didn’t have any, she would throw out a few names, her way of “giving” us boyfriends. Mine was Templeton.

A cough roused me from my daydream. She wheezed twice and then settled back into her ­slumber. I rubbed her swollen, latex-like forearm.

“You lucked out with your room, Grandma. You got the window seat.”

The only response was a low grumble from her respirator.

Dad said conversation usually helped her, so I kept the news coming: Major League Baseball, my classes and activities, the details of the homecoming festivities.

Leaving the hospital, I felt slightly reassured. While I had been there, she hadn’t taken a turn for the worse, she wasn’t put on more medication, she didn’t develop further symptoms. She slept. With each of her breaths, each beep of the heart monitor, I felt more certain that she would pull through and be back to her normal storytelling self in no time.

That Thursday, Grandma’s game of ping-pong ­between the hospital and her nursing home added a new destination: hospice.

It was the day after Yom Kippur, but I wasn’t ­Jewish. We were saying good-bye, but I could barely speak a word.



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This article has 72 comments.


on Nov. 19 2010 at 5:36 pm
Proserpinas_Garden SILVER, Arlington, Virginia
7 articles 0 photos 7 comments

Favorite Quote:
You want to be famous? Then do something about it.

This piece is really deep, so much better than any of my own work.

on Oct. 28 2010 at 2:05 pm
BrookXoxo BRONZE, Andrews AFB, Maryland
4 articles 4 photos 22 comments
'lucky ducks'. Ive felt this way too. so sorry for your loss. :(

iheartmaria said...
on Oct. 6 2010 at 8:03 pm
iheartmaria, Hialeah, Florida
0 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
Even if you dont achieve your goal but tried your hardest you ahieved half of it.

This was amazing and real deep

on Oct. 6 2010 at 7:59 pm
Stefegg PLATINUM, Maysville, Missouri
21 articles 0 photos 78 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited, imagination encircles the world."

I love your writing style in this piece. I also love the first and last lines. My only question is: What made you think to use Jewish holidays?

on Oct. 6 2010 at 7:59 pm
LostInTime SILVER, Charlotte, North Carolina
8 articles 0 photos 7 comments

Wow this was amazing. Made me think of my own grandpa. I love your writing style! I hope you never stop writing.

 

I'm so sorry about your grandma.


on Oct. 6 2010 at 1:15 pm
Swindlewick SILVER, ..., Washington
8 articles 2 photos 51 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." ~Voltaire

I love this article to death. I've been in that position before, with my great grandfather. We thought he had another good 20 years on him, but alas.

I'm sorry about your grandmother. Keep writing, your style is amazing!


amybug said...
on Aug. 31 2010 at 5:16 pm
amybug, Penrose, Colorado
0 articles 0 photos 33 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Always remeber there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name." -The Avett Brothers

I LOVE IT! Great job, so sorry. It was really sad.

AsIAm PLATINUM said...
on Aug. 23 2010 at 8:54 am
AsIAm PLATINUM, Somewhere, North Carolina
48 articles 3 photos 608 comments

Favorite Quote:
"According to some, heroic deaths are admirable things. (Generally those who don't have to do it. Politicians and writers spring to mind.) I've never been convinced by this argument, mainly because, no matter how cool, stylish, composed, unflappable, manly, or defiant you are, at the end of the day you're also dead. Which is a little too permanent for my liking." — Jonathan Stroud (Ptolemy's Gate)

This is so amazingly written.  I loved how you told the story but saying what didn't happen, and allowing the reader to figure out what did.  I especially like the first and last lines.  Never stop writing! ~AsIAm

on Aug. 1 2010 at 12:57 pm
kielymarie SILVER, Sandy Hook, Connecticut
6 articles 0 photos 86 comments

Favorite Quote:
"When you do dance, I wish you a wave 'o the sea, that you might never do nothing but that." -William Shakespeare

This was so sad. Beautifully written. Great job!

on Jul. 10 2010 at 9:36 pm
fictionlover10 SILVER, Scottsdale, Arizona
6 articles 0 photos 59 comments

Well not only does it give us a time period for when all of this happened, it kind of gives a sense of disconnectedness that the author has. It's like she's vaguely thinking that though the outside world has a holiday it's celebrating, she's not Jewish so there's nothing she has to celebrate.

I hoped I explained that well enough, Catherine. This is beautifully written and shows real talent. You deserved to make it into the magazine because you show amazing writing skills. Thank you so much for writing this!


Curly_Sue said...
on Jul. 10 2010 at 1:20 pm
Curly_Sue, Sand Springs, Oklahoma
0 articles 0 photos 76 comments
beautifully written but so sad. i couldn't stop reading it though.

XCLover GOLD said...
on May. 27 2010 at 8:44 pm
XCLover GOLD, Sandpoint, Idaho
18 articles 0 photos 92 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I know I run like a girl, try and keep up!" ~Anon
"You only ever grow as a human being if you are outside your comfort zone." ~Percy Cerutti
"The hug is incomplete without you :3" NinjaMan

@Rachael P.: Hospice could be looked at as the final step at the nursing home, when doctors and nurses simply cannot do anything more to help the person, and they instead devote their time to making the patient's last days as comfortable as possible.

 

Catherine, I hope I explained that okay. I really enjoyed reading this, it reminds me of my grandpa who died almost four years ago. One of the hardest things to do is watch a loved one and know everything you can do to help won't be enough. I love how you tied in the beginning and ending.


on May. 27 2010 at 2:36 pm
I really like your article. I'm sorry about your grandmother. I loved the repetition at the end about not being Jewish. I tend to do that in my stories or articles. Very Nice!!

on May. 5 2010 at 7:45 pm
Xblue_raspberryX SILVER, Greensburg, Pennsylvania
5 articles 10 photos 17 comments

Favorite Quote:
I may not be Mrs. America or popular at school, but i do a lot of nice sh** in life. I want some attention too!

aaww thats so sweet. just curious whats hospice or whatever the owrd was at the end?

on May. 5 2010 at 3:14 pm
awesomeaugust GOLD, Boston, Massachusetts
10 articles 0 photos 176 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground"
~Theordore Roosevelt

I loved the article and I'm really sorry for your loss. My Grandma's in her 80s and I worry about her sometimes, too. I esspecially liked the repetition at the beginning and end, about not being Jewish. You really know how to evoke feeligns from your readers- keep writing!

mikky said...
on Apr. 13 2010 at 5:12 pm
i love this! i mean u really know how to capture peoples attention. i giggled when u siad it was...but im not jewish. i loved that. and im glad i read this it gives me a little taste of what my fam goes through when im in the hospital bed....keep writing! and im so sorry for ur lost

on Apr. 13 2010 at 12:56 pm
I know what it is like to have someone you love in the hospital, and not being sure that they are going to pull through. Hang in there and keep writting!

on Apr. 13 2010 at 11:36 am
spiritchild BRONZE, London, Other
2 articles 0 photos 15 comments

Favorite Quote:
As Albert Camus once said 'Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair offering us for a minute the glipse of an eternity that we should like to strech out over the whole of time.'

I dont get the ''but im not jewish' sorry could you please explain?

on Apr. 13 2010 at 10:43 am
live.create16 GOLD, Dedham, Maine
11 articles 4 photos 23 comments

Favorite Quote:
Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.
- Louisa May Alcott.

i love this so much!

on Mar. 22 2010 at 10:15 pm
Charlotte_Bukowski SILVER, Austin, Texas
6 articles 2 photos 4 comments
Great piece. I like the way you said "It was..., but I wasn't Jewish ." It was very interesting. Great job, and I wish my condolences about your grandmother.