Mathilda and I may have stumbled on a minor medical miracle.

I am still out at the barn way too much, but now I am keeping her from doing something stupid. Before, I was keeping her company. She seemed to like it. She’d lean up against the wall & I’d sit at her head reading or surfing. I’d get a very contented vibe from her. When she was feeling especially punk, she’d let me wrap my arms around her head for long hugs. This from a mare who still doesn’t like me. Over a month of solid attention and we have not bonded.

We can’t fix what’s wrong. We can only wait for the muscles to fix themselves. Instead, we’ve been all over the supportive care: extra meals, hay, carrots, grooming, massage, liniment, aspirin cream at How-Much! a tube. All of which makes me wonder if modern hospitals are missing a trick.

One dentist used to have his nurse come in to hold my hand when he gave a shot. First visit, total stranger. It still worked.

I have sat by a hospital bed and had the patient wake up, look around, see the me, smile, & go back to sleep. We like company.

When I have a cold, hubby rubs Vicks VapoRub on my chest. Totally old-school. Puts me right to sleep. And yes, it works better when he does it.

I am by no means dissing Western medicine. Antibiotics were the biggest discovery and greatest philosophical shift of the 20th Century. If I break my leg, I want an orthopod with a cast, please. But does it have to be either/or? What if the anesthesiologist held your hand while you went under?

Vicks isn’t going to kill a cold virus. Soothing music won’t cure cancer. But could it help? A tiny bit? Every tiny bit of relaxation or comfort means that the patient can devote a tiny bit more energy away from self-sustainment toward addressing the injury. A cast for the emotions, if you will.

We recognize this to some extent. Hospitals are built so that every room has a window. We gather at bedsides even when there is nothing we can medically do. Neonates have volunteer snugglers. Kid’s wards have all manner of distractions and activities. Why stop there? We don’t outgrown our need for love and attention when we grow up.

A doodle inspired while attending a friend in the hospital:

The fifth floor pediatric waiting room had a dated orange tweed color scheme with couches of worn tweed and dubious cleanliness. They looked divine to Xandy. Even the ever present television was on low. Heaven. She removed her boots, curled up on one of the couches, draped her scarf over her eyes and was asleep in moments.

When she woke up the room was filled with a low, diffuse light and a vibrantly healthy potted plant rested by her head. Huh? The couch had been recovered in slick matte material that was soft to the touch but looked easy to clean. Her head rested on a low pillow of the same material. The light came from tubes inset to the walls that shown on the ceiling and were reflected down to the floor creating a pervasive but glareless light. The whole effect was restful. It wasn’t the sort of place she would chose to spend time but if you had to be there, it wasn’t too bad.

She took the elevator back down to the 3rd floor. A similar makeover had been effect there but in tan shades rather than orange. She nodded to family members on a few of the couches and went on to Glory Ann’s room. The bed and tubes and screen and wires looked the same but the walls displayed the inside of a tropical jungle. Low rustling and the occasional jaguar cry competed with the beeps and bells of Glory Ann’s machines. She stopped dead on the threshold of the room

“What is this?” She exclaimed.
“You like it?” asked Bob. “We got tired of the beach. It was making Charley thirsty.”

Oh. That cleared up nothing for her. No one else seemed to notice anything so she sat down on a spare chair and asked if there had been any change.

“Animal therapy came through with a rabbit. We keep asking them to bring a horse through but so far no luck.”

A woman in colorful scrubs came in the room pushing a cart. Xandy stood up to leave. Bob and Charley also stood up but instead of leaving they went over to Glory’s bedside. The nurse rolled her cart up next to the hospital bed. Her scrubs were beyond colorful. One leg was neon yellow, the other poison frog green. The shirt was a patchwork of equally vivid colors. Bob picked up one of Glory Ann’s hands and held his other out to Xandy. Unsure, she went over to him. Charley picked up her other hand and lay his free hand on Glory Ann’s ankle. The nurse looked up at them and gave them a warm smile. “There is a wonderful energy in this room. She is a very loved person.”

The nurse lay a small light burlap blanket over Glory Ann’s arms and chest. She touched Glory Ann’s lips with a piece of cotton. “Orange juice,” She said. She pressed buttons on the cart and a Mac Davis song came out of the hidden speakers. More buttons. The jungle on the walls was replaced with a formless changing swirl of perky colors. “We’ll do five minutes of this and move to something new.” No one else in the room appeared surprised so Xandy went with it.

For the next set of sensations the nurse placed a flannel blanket and a small dish of potpourri on Glory Ann’s chest. The walls changed to a blue and green plaid that kept swapping places and the nurse read the first chapter of Winnie the Pooh.

What would you ask to surround yourself with?

5 thoughts on “TLC

  1. The call of birds in the wee hours of the morning or dusk. The chirp of crickets and tree toads in the spring and the rustle of leaves in the fall. The peaceful music I’ve grown to love. The sound of my horses stamping, swatting, chewing, gently snorting. My dogs, either on the bed or beside it. The feel of my husband’s hand entwined in mine and the scent of his skin on a rumpled pillow. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee and cinnamon. The clean taste of vanilla bean ice cream. I’ve been there. Not once, but twice. When you peel back the layers it comes down to basics.

  2. The sound of rain.

    Flowering plants in earth, not vases. Lots of pansies. No lilies. Violets. Woodland flowers. No cut flowers.

    A large screen TV with an unending variety of water scenes and sounds. Waves on the beach, spring freshets with snow still on the edges, Nubble Light, an African savanna in flood, underwater shots of whales and peaceful sea creatures, a rain forest.

    A fireplace with a small wood fire giving off the smell of woodsmoke.

    My daughter coming in and out, bring news of the outside world and vanilla ice cream, dark chocolate and fresh oranges.

    My husband lying next to me, holding my hand, snuggling.

    Maybe other touching by friends, nurses, I’m not sure about that. I haven’t been there yet so I don’t know. Hugs are good but long touches usually make me uncomfortable.

    An older cat to sleep with me and a kitten to visit and climb all over me.

  3. Birds chirping. My wife scratching my head. The smell of sea mist. A window with a view of a deep mountain lake.

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