Christopher J. Schayer, MA, RN
New Haven, Connecticut
Reading Devotions to Grandfather, Albert Ankler, 1893, Switzerland-Bern
In walks another set of new faces. More white lab coats, asking their questions, poking and prodding at me, lifting my Johnny coat as if I’m a mere object for their scientific minds to investigate. They come and they go, new faces all the time. None of them truly see me for who I am, or was. Who I am now is a sad, pathetic, lonely man, stuck in an awful hospital room with a portion of my colon protruding from my abdomen. They don’t see me for me. They see my ‘prolapsed colon’ as they call it, and the ‘sediment’ in my urine. They see my pale skin, emaciated frame, and my lack of desire to be here. They ask me the same medical based questions each shift. They update me on the status of my surgical date, and wish me a good day on their way out. They don’t know me. They don’t care about me. They care only about my medical ‘case’ and how they can use their Ivy League silver spoon holding hands to cut, suture, and repair me.
I have no get-well cards, no balloons, and no pictures of family or friends. All of my loved ones are gone. I have no one to talk to, laugh with, or love. I sit in my bed, look out the window to the beauty and mystique of New Haven, and try to remember life outside these walls. I, too, have Ivy League hands, only mine worked with paper and pencil rather than scalpels and scissors. My hands led a prosperous company in New York City and provided my wife and me with a dignified life. I, the businessman, and she the socialite, we enjoyed many wonderful years of marriage and companionship together.
My wife has been gone for four years now. I always daydream about the elegant galas she brought me to, the art museums, and the Broadway shows. The restaurants we’d go to and the friends we’d meet up with. She would walk with me each Saturday to the local newsstand, where we would purchase a copy of the New York Times and then head to a small coffee shop where we would divide up the paper, drink coffee, and gaze at the passers-by through the window. She would read the fashion and arts sections, and I the business and world news sections. We would stay long after our coffees had gone cold, until each article had been read. Then we would leave the papers on the table in hopes that the next customers would pick them up and enjoy their contents.
I still read the New York Times every day, even while being detained in this god forsaken institutionalized infirmary they have me in. Just this morning, I was reading an article about the advancements our soldiers have made in Operation Desert Storm. The article was detailing how close they’ve come to finding Saddam Hussein. I was right in the most interesting part of the article when I must have fallen asleep. When I woke, I could not find it. It was not under my blankets or on my side table. I made the nurse check under my bed for it and hollered across the room to my ‘roommate’ to see if he took it. No luck! Those ignorant white coats must have taken it!
After looking for my missing paper, an act I seem to do often in here, the nurses bring me my ‘meal.’ They always bring me the same thing each day and then stay with me forcing me to eat it, and watching me to ensure that I don’t choke. To have someone babysit you as you eat is the most undignified act possible. Because of this I no longer eat. I didn’t eat their food yesterday, I won’t eat it today, and probably won’t tomorrow. The nurses will yell at me, tell me how I am losing weight and need the nutrients, but I don’t care. I have no one here to talk to, no one who cares about me, and nothing to do. Why should I eat? What would I do with the ‘energy’ the food provides me with? I just want to return to my apartment in the city, lie beside my wife, and plan what restaurant we will walk to for dinner this evening.
Christopher Schayer is currently a registered nurse and is completing his MSN and acute care/oncology nurse practitioner program at Yale University. He enjoys writing from the patient’s perspective because it helps him to be reflective on his own clinical practice. Prior to nursing, he spent seven years as a middle school science teacher.