A Lesson in Hospital Etiquette: Let’s Forgive Others, Not Judge Them

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by Ari Anderson |

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Here comes the latest adventure in the saga to remove my kidney stones.

Spoiler alert: I came close to leaping over the hurdle of getting the surgery done. Unfortunately, though, I didn’t quite make it to the operating room.

Relax. The reason had nothing to do with me.

Before I get into this story, let’s set the scene: A few days before being admitted to the hospital, I told my mom about some things that caused me worry. One of my main concerns was how the nurses would treat me. I was afraid that because they didn’t know me, they would treat me like I didn’t have much of a brain.

This was a legitimate fear, to a certain extent.

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I’ve written before that for people who don’t know me, it can be hard to understand what I’m saying. Most of the time, I’m surrounded by people who do know me. If I’m not, I usually have my laptop attached to my chair so that I can use my computer voice.

In the hospital, not only would I be around people who weren’t used to my speech, but also I would be in bed most of the time. Being in bed means that I couldn’t use the computer voice emitted from my laptop that attaches to my chair. How would they know what goes on inside my head?

Another factor supported my fear. The last time I was in the hospital was in 2006. A lot of the staff at the time really did treat me well. Most tried to lighten my mood by telling me funny stories, except for one.

Before I went home, a respiratory therapist was telling me jokes. That’s when a nurse asked him, “Does Ari even understand anything you’re saying?” This single comment made a terrible lasting impression on me.

Yet, remember when I said that my fear was legitimate only to a certain extent? Here’s why:

First, my mom is always with me during the day when I go to the hospital. She assured me before being admitted a couple weeks ago, as she did in 2006, that if anybody made ignorant comments toward me, she would “set them straight.”

At night, I would be equally protected from ignorance. My main nurse that works the third shift at our home would be staying in the hospital room while my mom was getting rest.

A rare off-beat comment could only occur if my mom or my nurse from home stepped out of the room for a moment.

Getting back to my surgery, everything went well at first. I got to the hospital on cue, the IV was inserted in my hand on cue, but the OR was booked. The surgery before me was going way over the allotted time.

As morning turned into afternoon, I knew that the later it got, the more of a chance they would have to reschedule my surgery. Then, it happened. The surgeon came in and announced that his partner, with whom he was planning to do the surgery, couldn’t wait any longer, as he needed to be somewhere else. It just wasn’t safe to go forward without him. They would reschedule, and I would go home.

I was so excited to be getting away from people who might make ignorant comments that I forgot some things. For example, I need this surgery. Kidneys were never designed to hold countless stones. The heavy possibility of permanent kidney damage could weigh me down if it’s not taken care of. Therefore, I should look forward to the procedure, not be excited to put it off.

Also, I didn’t pay enough attention to the fact that my ability to go home was probably due to someone else’s misfortune. I don’t know for sure because of patient privacy, but for the other person’s operation to extend hours longer, something wrong may have occurred. That’s never a reason to celebrate.

I shouldn’t have been so happy to get away from people making ignorant comments. Such comments were probably never going to be spoken, and they have no meaning in the long run. The truth is, I am intelligent.

I will return for my surgery later this summer. Thankfully, I’m still not in any pain. When I go back, I hope I don’t judge the hospital staff too harshly this time, just like I don’t want to be judged.

I’ve been through too much to lower my moral standards.

Genentech, the pharmaceutical company that markets drugs like Evrysdi (risdiplam), recently wrote about some of the things I’ve been through.

Until next time, think about how everyone says something wrong at some point. Let’s learn to forgive those moments and care for one another, regardless of any verbal mistakes.

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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