The Do's And The Don't's. Part I


Once again, I'm belated with my updates. My best friend, Janet, calls periodically and snarks at me about it. This is as it should be.

Truth is, I had a nice lengthy post written and waiting to go. I was actually wandering around the 'net looking for a nice public domain picture to slap onto it before posting, when a little voice in the back of my mind said, "Wait. It's not ripe yet." When the inner-editor speaks, I usually listen, so we'll take that one back to the drawing board for a while.

In the meantime, I thought I'd list a few do's and don'ts of hospital etiquette that I discovered along the way. These ought to be common sense no-brainers, but you'd be amazed...

For the Patient:

DON'T order eggs for breakfast. I don't care what hospital you're in. The eggs will not be warm when you get them. For that matter, I'm not entirely certain they'll be eggs.

DO sleep when the opportunity arises. Sleeping through the night is not going to happen, because of those inevitable "vitals checks" and visits from the vampires, so if you can, nap like you've never napped before.

DO ask questions. In fact, badger someone into giving you a notepad and pen so you can jot down your concerns as they pop into your head. The things I didn't remember to ask during morning rounds could fill up a blog entry all by themselves.

If you happen to be on oxygen, DO be careful while shampooing in the shower. Trust me, that air pressure will shoot the water right up your nose and power-wash your sinuses!!!

DON'T forget that there are other patients around you. When you see a stampede running down the corridors with the crash cart, that's probably not the time to buzz the nurses' station to ask for more ice in your water pitcher. Okay, I'm exaggerating a little, but there really are times when it's not "all about you."

DO question the unexpected. If you're being given a pill that doesn't look like any of yesterday's pills, ask about it. If you hear or see something weird, push the call button. In all seriousness, during my first night in Oncology, I heard a crashing noise and assumed someone dropped a chair. Fifteen minutes later a nurse discovered that the man in the next room had fallen down while trying to get to the bathroom. I felt about two inches tall.

DO be honest. It's a hospital. The stiff upper lip schtick isn't going to impress anyone. Be up front about how you're feeling. If you're in pain, say so. If you're hungry, thirsty, constipated or the other extreme, nauseated, depressed, uncomfortable or dealing with insomnia, don't keep it to yourself. Sometimes there's nothing the nurses can do but sympathize, but quite often there are things that can be done to alleviate the problem.

DON'T get too attached to a specific television show. If you do, I guarantee that all future tests and procedures will be scheduled during that time.

For the Visitor:

DON'T overstay your welcome. Seriously, it's not that we patient-types don't love and adore you, but between the tests and the drugs and the vampires visiting in the middle of the night and, oh yeah, being sick, we get tired pretty easily. Don't let our politeness fool you. If we look like we're totally zonked out, give us a hug or a kiss or a pat on the head and be sure to check out the cafeteria on your way out. Just avoid the eggs.

DON'T rub our noses in it. Really, there's a time and a place to bemoan our situation and the impact that this is going to have on our lives forever after and all that stuff. This is not that time.

DON'T engage the nurses in conversation about our condition/prognosis while you're hanging out in our hospital room! Also, don't tell them amusing little anecdotes about our childhood/love-life/whatever. If we wanted them to know these things, we'd probably have mentioned them ourselves. Honestly, the person who has to measure my urine output is not going to be interested in my first hospital visit back when I was in the second grade.

DO send cards. E-cards, when hospitals allow them, are awesome good fun. One day I got over forty of them!

Unless you're instructed otherwise, DON'T shy away from small physical acts of affection. A held hand or a pat on the shoulder is often worth a thousand words and a handful of Vicodin. We feel weirded out enough by the tubes and needles and ugly gowns already. Don't make us feel more self-conscious, okay?

DO listen, if we want to talk. Otherwise, don't pressure us about our "feelings." Sometimes it's just nice to yak about a particularly stupid customer at work or what the dog did to the carpet or something else totally not cancer related.

Unless you've had the exact same illness, DON'T presume to tell us that you know exactly how we feel. Also please, please, please DON'T regale us with horror stories about your Uncle Fred who had cancer back in '72.

DO research our illness, by all means, but DO keep your findings to yourself unless we ask you to share. By the same token, don't assume you know it all. You'd be amazed at how many people I know who've said, "Well thank goodness it's NON-hodgkins!" (Newsflash: Hodgkins was historically considered more curable than non-hodgkins, thus the need for differentiation.)

I might add more later, but I'm going to ask my loyal readers to chip in. What advice do YOU have?

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