Friday, July 31, 2009

Love Affair With a Hospital

Gene shared this morning how he'd fallen in love with Staten Island Hospital. It's where births and deaths of family occurred and where he interned and later served as a doctor. Retired, he spoke of the grief he experienced when he last visited and found this place that had meant so much to him, where he'd spent so much of his life, where he'd done his first autopsy, where his children were born, was now chained and locked close. The bay where ambulances had stood was empty. He shared his thoughts and feelings about this all with respect and sadness.
It set the tone for the meeting as one doctor after another shared of the first doctors and first hospitals in their lives. There was dedication, sacrifice, love and misery with just a touch of awe all wrapped up in these vignettes from older doctors, surgeons, internists, pediatricians, gynecologists, psychiatrists. Some were revered in the country. All spoke of the importance of home.
I felt deeply touched to be present. I remembered my own doctor coming to the house when I was so sick with pneumonia. My mother was beside herself and my father was at a loss. I had a fever and was coughing and cold lying in my parents bed with both of them hovering about. I just felt so very tired. Then the doctor arrived with his black bag and no nonsense manner. The stethescope was cold. My flannel pyjamas were wet. I lay back in bed. My parents and the doctor spoke sometime in the hall way and then he was gone. My parents were better then. He' d helped them so much. He gave me some medicine that let me go to sleep and not worry about them any more.
I don't much think about the hospitals I trained in or worked in. The University of Manitoba Medical School is always fresh in my mind. Yet the hospitals are usually memories of functional corridors and industrial underground connectors. Nothing was much more than utilitarian until I worked in Brandon Mental Hospital. Now that was a hospital. An solid old building with bricks and beautiful grounds.
That comes first to mind when I think of hospital. With nothing much to do for the months I was there, living on the grounds, on call with few demands. I explored every part of the historic buildings, finding back wards, old charts and seeing all the patients. It was all very peculiar. The place wass unique and extraordinary. The patients were all history and character as well with kindly white haired staff who'd worked since teen years. In a way I felt similiarly about Riverview Hospital .
These old asylums carried some of the building genius of the Lake Louise and Banff Hotels. They were edifices meant to last. Works of art. Not the pre fab sterile places of modern days. These old places were where staff and patients lived. Tacked up at nursing stations were often pictures of children or a young child's latest crayon art. I took my dog to work with me.
And yes all the hospitals I worked in hold meaning but these are first to mind. I love the great institutions and the people who worked there alongside me.
Listening to the men and women share I was proud to be a doctor, thankful for the training, reminded of the idealism of medicine. Inspired.

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