Why Hospitals Don’t Suck: Notes From a Former Hater


I don’t remember much after fainting.  It’s all abstract confetti of snapshots, sound bites and smells like the exam room that suddenly became the size of an Altoid, echoes of, “we’re almost there” from inside the ambulance and then warm pressure from Jenáe’s cheek against mine, hushing me in the darkness.

I was sick.

Really sick.

And scared.

Six days earlier my gallbladder was removed.  It was supposed to be a routine procedure with a routine result: no more gallbladder attacks and a return to the beloved cheeseburger. But it was not routine.

I had a series of complications: stones in my common bile duct, an infected bile duct, pancreatitis and, the pièce de résistance, hepatitis.  The infected bile duct was what landed me back in the hospital; the other stuff was what kept me there for over two weeks.

It’s no secret that I have had a quiet loathing of hospitals.  I think it’s been that way since age 4 when I tripped on Grandmere’s rust-colored shag carpet and broke my face on the base of her dining room table.  I was rushed to the hospital then.  And a few times since.

I’ve always found hospitals to be a deceitful sort.  The way they embrace you as you walk in.  The way they’re often filled with light and flowers and a calming waterfall stocked with lily pads and unassuming fish or a player piano, which is just weird. The way the air is heavy and sterile, masking the scent of death, illness and suffering.

The way it so easily is the last place some will ever see.

But let’s be honest.  I’d never had an extended stay before.

I’d never formed bonds with nurses and doctors, dependent on them for my every waking need.  I’d never looked forward to morning blood draws on the off-chance they’d reveal something different.  I’d never been so comfortable being nude before multiple pairs of eyes, looking at me with only my return to health in mind.

In truth, I had never been so vulnerable.

We became like family, FHN Memorial Hospital’s 3rd floor medical staff and me.  Patient ID 216570.  Room 3308.

I made friends with everyone.

I knew their faces; I knew their names:

Captain Carter took me for MRI’s and CAT scans.  Betsy took me for walks.

Jennifer and Erica squeezed my hands during my liver biopsy (note to reader: never get a liver biopsy), while Elaine cradled my fears.

Jena brought me laughter, OPI nail polish and a recent issue of Cosmo.  Jackie brought me peace.

Sam, who smelled of lemon trees, quietly confessed the contents of her car: 3 bags of cookies and 2 bags of M&M’s hidden from her personal trainer husband.  Paige confessed she’d never know anyone as brave as her mother and showed me the underside of her wrist inked in homage.

There were others, of course, but these I count as family.  As sisters.

They helped me inhale blessings and exhale anxiety and lament.

In the deep of night, they were there.  When my bed became a tangled web of breath, lines and limbs, they were there.  And when I didn’t even know it or couldn’t feel it, they were there.



At the end of February, I was released.  And while I still have a long way to go, I couldn’t have done anything without my hospital family.

I hope to go back for a visit once I’m feeling better.  And I also hope to go to nursing school, so I can be the one who holds hands in the dark and hearts in the light.

For now though, I am a reformed hospital hater.



And utterly thankful.

“Too much icing. Not enough cake.”

I stood in the mirror this morning and, like I do every November 17, watched myself turn another year older.

As I stood there, I took some heart notes:

My hair has darkened and thinned.  My skin is less vibrant in the right places and more translucent in the wrong.  My nose is more freckled (the kind that don’t fade after the long days of summer do).  And, in general, I feel creakier than ever.  Like that annoying floorboard in our master bedroom that sings its song with every passing.

I’m not complaining, mind you.


When I was younger, I wanted to look like this:


And be named Samantha or Alexandra.

NOT D.a.n.i.e.l.l.e.

Not a name that encouraged the boys to bow to me irreverently in the hallways:

“Ah…yes, Daniel-san.  You VERY special Daniel-san” (the Karate Kid generation will get this).


It was NOT fun.

I didn’t change my name.  And I don’t look like Christie Brinkley (not that I’d want to now, though she is lovely…she really is).

I just worked on my cake.

Those who know me will tell you that I’m not much into makeup.  I wear it, sure.  I. just. don’t. make. myself. up.

I was always told less is more:

“Show off a pretty eye or a pretty lip, but not both.

Never. both.”

So, I graduated from the minimalist’s school of outward beauty prep (or “the icing”, as I like to call it).  My icing consists of cream blush and ChapStick/lipstick.  That’s all I have patience for (with the exception of special occasions, like the one below):


When I was younger, being outwardly pulled together was of the utmost importance since inwardly I was falling apart.

I had always been relatively cute and slim until the waves of adolescence battered my charming shores and a lack of movement (coupled with an excess of junk food and emotional eating) lead to a heavier, then heavier, then still heavier version of myself.

At my heaviest, I weighed nearly 180 pounds.

My icing then was designer clothing.  I thought that if I was overweight, at least I was wearing the “right” clothes.

It was all in my head, of course.

Guess jeans didn’t stop me from being called a cow by a previous “best friend” during Senior Pep Rally and Coach purses didn’t stop me from hearing the words, “Hey…fat girl” ride the autumn wind while walking campus as a college freshman.

And nothing saved me from my own self-hatred and demeaning heartlogue.

My weight and my love/hate relationship with food have been relative non-issues since I took back my health in 2006.

And designer clothes aren’t a part of my current reality.

I’m a Kohl’s girl at heart.

And. proud. of. it.

But I’d like to think (no, I have to believe) that I care more about my cake than my icing.  That being inwardly beautiful means more to me (and to you) than a beautifully painted face or a beautifully adorned body (that’s me below…NO icing…post-wake up and pre-hair fluff (forgive the bed head and the dragon breath)):


Every November 17, I will stand in the mirror and watch as I turn another year older.  And while I’m sure I’ll have more to notice as time rushes on, I hope that I will always be more cake than icing.

That the moments that take place between the heartbeats are more important than the size of my jeans, the shade of my lipstick and the wrinkles on my face.



Hollow places


Last week I submitted a piece of writing that is more dear to me than anything I’ve ever written.

The beats of my heart were on those pages and with one tap of the “Enter” key, I sent them off to be judged.  To see if they’re good enough.  If I’m good enough.  If my retelling of heartbreak and heartache is good enough.

Two days later I was in the ER.

Let me start by saying that these two events were not related.  But in some way, both Divine and lovely, their themes were.

My husband and I were heading to the wedding of a lovely friend when I started having horrible pain in my lower abdomen.  My immediate thought was that I was in the early stages of pregnancy and was miscarrying.


I don’t pretend to know the thoughts and feelings of those other women who have suffered this heart-shredding emotional pain (we are sort of a secret society, aren’t we?), but, for me, the tidal wave of emotion was nearly too much to bear.

My husband insisted that we head to the ER where we were admitted by an all-too-perky-for-the-occasion staff member.  She led us to a room where they took my vitals and into another room where I was asked to undress and don a lovely green polyester number, while waiting to be seen.

The walls, painted with an Under the Sea theme, seemed to be closing in as they hooked me up to lines and told me that it would be a while.  I noticed how the “fish” looked like bowling pins with fins and how the curtain separating me from those caring for me was covered in starfish and seahorses that seemed to be laughing.


I believe they were.

Since it is my extreme privilege to be a woman, the nurse told me that it could be a myriad of things (we have many more parts and delicate places, of course) and that they’d be doing lots of tests.

I turned the TV volume up to drown out the elderly woman screaming for help and the man talking about how his ladder “had never done such a thing”.

They did a pelvic, then sent me for an ultrasound.

I didn’t feel totally helpless being wheeled around, not until we arrived in the room.

I was left there to wait.  The lights were down low.  The monitor was black.

My memories were too.

I have had a few ultrasounds.  Each was supposed to be an introduction to our son or daughter, but we were never so lucky.

We haven’t thus been so lucky.

As I laid there, a woman was pushed past me.  She had kind eyes, fragile wrists and no hair.  It was her third ultrasound of the day.  Cancer does that.  I guess.

When the technician finally arrived, she started prepping me; she shimmied up my hospital gown, shimmied down my toasty blankets and spread a thick layer of warm jelly on my abdomen.

I forced myself to look at the screen


I waited.

And listened.

To. The. Silence.

I don’t know if it is the misfortune of every woman who has lost a child to wait for the woosh, woosh, woosh.  I wonder if I’ll still wait for it well past child-bearing age.  If I’ll always wait for that sweet sound of life and love and a million expectations all knit together.

That day, that moment really,  reminded me once again of my hollow places.  The ones I’ve cried about, screamed about, prayed about and, more recently, written about.  And how they’ve taught me more than I ever thought they could.

They continue to teach me.


I pray.

They. Always. Will.