Puerto Rico from a hospital room and the roads. That was my routine: spend around 8 to 10 hours in the hospital and drive back to Isla Verde. I know I wore a groove in the road.
Dusty parking, cracked sidewalks, mildew on some buildings, narrow streets jammed with cars and horns, patience deprived drivers, music pouring out of cars and buildings, and blue skies mostly. Smiling people, generous, gentle, and kind. Of course there were those that weren't but there were so many that were.
I am always delighted with the ease with which I can slip into my home town. With my eyes wide open I greet all the new electronic billboards, the jarring bilingual signs, and mad rush with surprise. But especially to hear mi gente, my people hablando espanol makes my heart skip. Laughter here and laughter there, and the pleasantness in which total strangers let you enter their world always calls me home. I love Puerto Rico!
But this week had been planned as my Spring Break to take mom out for daily outings, but instead my 87 year old mother's health called me home to PR a couple of days early. This week would not include a long winding trip to El Yunque or a sunny beach with its bacalaitos and alcapurrias, and mango colored sand. Neither would there be a trip to Old San Juan with the Atlantic churning the deep navy blue ocean with billowing froth off its coast. No, this time I was called to a hospital room in a hospital that I had only stepped into once when I had Brackton Hicks, a false alarm to having my first baby. To say there was a huge contrast would be an understatement.
So when my sisters insisted in placing my mom in El Hospital del Maestro (Teacher's Hospital) I was a bit hesitant. El Auxilio Mutuo was where my three children were born, and where my father in law was a founding member. Yet as we sat together in the waiting room together as mom had her operation, some of that restlessness left me. Perhaps it was the fact we were all together helped to bridge my apprehension with their confidence not only with the doctors but also with the staff.
As the days went by, I became more and more confident that my sisters had a made a good decision. I realized several things about the hospital; they were just as professional there as in El Auxilio. I have always known that many of the same doctors that go to El Auxilio also practice at El Maestro so that wasn't a concern. My concern was more about the facilities and personnel. Yet, I found the supporting staff of doctors, nurses, technicians, and janitorial personnel to be following strict procedure.
Knowing the importance of cleanliness and very cold air conditioning to keep the bacteria count down the room was always at Autumn temperatures. So warm sweaters and fleece jackets are in order. To maintain hygiene the cleaning staff continually cleaned the rooms, even to the point of wiping down the windows. You could witness the nurses strictly following excellent protocol for every test, medication, blood sample, and IV. They worked meticulously and patiently but were also personable. Though they had a large workload, they worked in harmony and mutual respect. I found that refreshing.
I am not going to say there isn't a need for improvement. There is always room for improvement. If they had a beautification department, I would add some large fresh panoramic views of Puerto Rico with uplifting and encouraging messages on every floor, some livelier pastel colors on the walls, and better seats in the waiting areas. These could be seen as a community effort perhaps donated by a wealthy corporation like Microsoft or a conglomeration of private sector companies doing business in Puerto Rico.
Beautifying the hospital not only elevates the perception and first impression of those entering the hospital, but also quiets the spirits of those using its services. When a person is ill, he or she and their families are in an unusual state of unease and peaceful surroundings help to instill calm. Studies show that many illnesses and conditions are psychosomatic so it doesn't hurt to address this aspect of the hospital from the get go. Frankly, you never know when it is going to be you, sitting next to a loved one or you lying on that hospital bed. How do you want that experience to be?