Thursday, July 31, 2008

Homesick in Pennsylvania

When my sister called last Wednesday to tell me that my mom had been in a car accident, I wanted to immediately whisk her to the Fauquier Hospital Emergency Room, where I knew she’d get wonderful care and attention.

I wanted Dr. Joseph Servideo, director of Emergency Medical Director, looking out for her as she came in the ED door; I wanted Dr. David Snyder, a wonderful orthopedist with kind eyes and an upbeat bedside manner doing the surgery; I wanted Lisa Spitzer, Fauquier Health’s unbelievably empathetic concierge to pay my mom a visit and calm her fears.

The whisking was impractical, since Mom lives in Pennsylvania.

By the time I saw her, my 83-year-old mother had two rods in her right hip, which had been broken in two places. The hospital where she was staying was a traditional hospital – functional, but institutional. It struck me as strange that visiting hours were restricted, that there was no place for a loved one to stay overnight in the room, that there were signs on the walls asking visitors to be quiet. I had forgotten that this is what traditional hospitals are like.

I guess I have become accustomed to the soothing, open atmosphere at Fauquier Hospital. The visit to Pennsylvania reminded me that our little Warrenton hospital is very unusual, if not unique. I think what I missed most in this new environment were the smiling faces of staff throughout the hospital. Everyone I met was pleasant and competent, but the spark of cheerfulness that I’ve come to love and appreciate was missing. No one said “hello” or asked me if I needed anything. They didn’t want to know where I’d driven from or if I had questions about my mother’s care.
I was homesick.

Mom received good care from attentive nurses after her surgery (although she couldn’t eat much of the traditional hospital food), and was transferred by van to a rehabilitation facility after a few days.

My mom is a naturally optimistic person who loves people. Before the wheelchair-equipped van pulled away from the hospital parking lot, I made a bet with myself that she’d have the van driver’s life story before disembarking.

As her wheelchair traveled down the rehab center’s hallways, she explained to me that the driver and his wife had just welcomed their first child. She supplied appropriate details and had him asking her advice on babyproofing his house.
As we got her settled, I was struck by the difference in this facility, compared to what I had become used to – Warrenton Overlook Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Where were the ever-patient, always-smiling nurses, aides and therapists, the pet therapy dogs cheering staff and patients alike? Where was the aquatherapy pool that relaxes while it rehabilitates? Where were the great meals, served when patients are hungry instead of on a rigid schedule?

Sigh… Well, I guess everybody can’t be as lucky as we are in Fauquier.

Mom is doing well. She is working hard in therapy and took 40 steps today. She has managed to charm the staff, as I knew she would. She knows all the nurses’ names and the ages of the therapists’ children. She and her roommate, an alzheimer’s patient in for a knee replacement, spent one evening singing – a little too loudly – along with a boom-box.

I still think I should bring Mom to Fauquier. She’d fit right in.

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