I met a lot of interesting people during my stays in a Pediatric Ward. Some of those folk made daily appearances: nursing staff, interns, the cleaning ladies who all had interesting accents. There were Gurney Men, the men who would whisk a kid off to surgery or to be x-rayed. Sometimes the Person Who Takes Blood would come down the hall, heralded by the clinking of glass tubes in his cart. There were Sisters of Providence in their black-and-white habits, so intriguing to a Protestant child. They came every evening to say a bedtime prayer with me, the same prayer, a prayer that gave me the willies when I thought about the words (...and if I die before I wake...)
There were student nurses, young women who were allowed to give me penicillin shots because (the Head Nurse said) I was a trooper and could take it if they messed up. She said that to a 10-year-old. Looking back, I think she was helping me be brave because I had to have those shots four times a day. In all my time in the hospital, there was only one student nurse who seriously misfired a penicillin shot. It's telling that I still remember that.
I especially remember one student nurse, Julie, who had a natural gift for nursing children. She could go into any room and, no matter how cranky a child might be, have that child soothed and comfortable in minutes. She just had a knack, especially with those of us who were there for weeks and weeks. A special memory: Julie was ending her tour of duty as a student. It was June, time for the Rose Festival, and the Navy had just sailed up the Willamette into town. There was a special naval guest that year, a ship from Great Britain. Julie's boyfriend was on that ship! This was totally cool - not just a boyfriend, but a boyfriend from England! Julie brought him to the hospital to visit. He gave me a book about British naval history and signed my body-cast, drawing the British flag next to his name. When the cast came off a couple of months later, I asked them to cut around his signature so I could keep it. That bit of plaster is long gone, of course, but it was special for a long, long time.
Most people wouldn't link "hospital" with "humor" but many of my memories are of funny things that happened, like the time I came back from surgery in a fresh body-cast. The nurses moved me from the gurney to the bed. I was accompanied by the bedsheet. This puzzled the nurses - neither of them were holding onto anything but me. Behold! The casting people had plastered a significant portion of the bedsheet into my cast. The nurses' comments, once they figured out what was wrong, was really funny, a mix of consternation and amusement. Just imagine the entertainment this provided for an ether-grogged child.
A highlight was the Doctors' rounds. Doctors actually came around every day to see their patients and spend time with them, even when the patients were kids. One of the doctors shared my appreciation for the Marx Brothers and he made a point of coming in and telling me a joke whenever he had patients to visit. He also expected me to have one ready for him. We even had a small competition to see who could make the best pun. He took that time with me even though I wasn't one of his patients.
I remember one of my jokes, discovered within a comic book. Brace yourself:
Me: What was Snow White's sister's name?
Dr.: Hmmm. I give up. What was Snow White's sister's name?
Me: Egg White! Get the yolk?
That joke totally cracked me up when I was 8.
Overheard on Twitter: Dude next to me on the plane is very vocally professing love to his entire family. The ironic potential of this is worrisome.
Next time: The Frogs and the Strawberries. Stay tuned.