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.


TaraMisu said...
on Feb. 28 2010 at 9:12 am
I, love this piece. It reminds me of when I went to see my older brother at the hospital, 2 weeks ago.

on Feb. 28 2010 at 7:47 am
tennisislovee34 GOLD, Sterling Heights, Michigan
15 articles 3 photos 91 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Every moment of your life, you're writing. Even in your dreams, you're writing. When you walk the halls in this school you meet various people and you write furiously in your head." -Frank McCourt

this is a very good piece. it's very different than other things i read, which is reallly good!:)

on Feb. 6 2010 at 7:45 pm
Dandelion PLATINUM, Franklin, Massachusetts
20 articles 8 photos 173 comments
This was an excellent work! It is amazing how you captured the emotion and used such good descriptive language. I especially like the place where you say, "Lucky ducks," on a separate line. You really captured it.

on Feb. 6 2010 at 9:22 am
AMCLRIDCA PLATINUM, CDA, Idaho
31 articles 2 photos 226 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take... but by the moments that take your breath away.

Wow. This poem is really sad.... Im sorry about your Grandma. She seemed like a really good person. Your a great writer, and i hope you keep writing...

Holy Cow! said...
on Jan. 15 2010 at 7:11 pm
Holy cow, that's amazing! Incredible how the loss of someone close can inspire such great work... I hardly cry, and I'm in tears! Keep up the great work:)

mania27 SILVER said...
on Jan. 15 2010 at 5:12 pm
mania27 SILVER, Princeton Junction, New Jersey
6 articles 0 photos 6 comments
Wow, you are an amazing writer. the way you expressed yourself was beyond words. So sorry for your loss.

cass said...
on Jan. 15 2010 at 3:30 pm
you are a truly amazing writer. you had wonderful detail and i loved your repetition. you are great. im so so sorry

<3 cass

omgloljkgurl said...
on Aug. 18 2009 at 12:14 am
thats like when my nana died she had lukemia and c-diff..... she was on a resporator and finally took her off and her last words were to thecdoctors goodbye, and she died 5 min l8r in my aunts arms..... that happened january 5 2009

on Jul. 14 2009 at 7:36 pm
practicerandomkindness, Rindge, New Hampshire
0 articles 0 photos 46 comments
I love your writing. you are so talented. I wish that our grandma didn't have to go through this in order for you to write this piece.

on May. 3 2009 at 6:35 pm
nothingbutme BRONZE, Port Jefferson Station, New York
2 articles 0 photos 7 comments
This was amazingly written.... Sorry for your loss

on Apr. 4 2009 at 4:14 am
I'm near tears... You write beautifully.... I'm sorry for your loss.

on Apr. 3 2009 at 1:34 am
middlesage BRONZE, Dillsburg, Pennsylvania
1 article 0 photos 3 comments
I loved the beginning and ending of this piece.

I'm sorry to hear about your loss, but it portrayed your talent well.