Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Please God, don't let me die in a place like that

For centuries, people have been designing magnificent churches. They've also been designing beautiful and comfortable homes. Nowadays, companies spend millions to design beautiful stores and shopping centres. My question is - with all these gifted designers in the world, WHY hasn't anyone figured out how to design a decent hospital emergency room???

I've been in quite a few emergency rooms, and I have NEVER been in one that is designed well. They are the most depressing, ugly, cluttered, disconcerting places I have ever seen. Why? This is the place where people face fear, pain, death, loneliness, and all sorts of crazy emotions, and yet they're forced to spend time in a space that does absolutely nothing to make any of those emotions easier to bear.

There are so many things wrong with emergency rooms. The waiting rooms are cramped and ugly, with the most uncomfortable utilitarian chairs in the world. The only things adorning the wall are public health posters warning you of the infectious diseases you might catch to add to the pain you're already going through. The nurse's desk is designed purely for function (and badly at that), with no attempt at making it friendly and comforting.

When you get past the nurse's desk, through the horrific institutional doors that make you feel like you've stepped into prison, it gets worse. Beds are lined up against the wall with thin pastel curtains between them. There are tubes and wires everywhere. The nurses and doctors have to work in tiny cramped spaces. The walls are some nondescript colour that does nothing to soothe or comfort you.

In the portion of the emergency room we were in today, someone had made a feeble attempt at making the space more welcoming. They'd taped hundreds of calendar pictures all over the walls in a haphazard manner. It was enough to make your eyes dizzy, with splashes of unrelated colour in images everywhere you looked. It was a very sad attempt at redeeming an ugly space.

That's just the SPACE. Don't get me started on hallway medicine, where people have to spend hours and sometimes days lying in beds in the middle of hallways because there are not enough spaces for them elsewhere. More than once, I've had to lay on one of those hallway beds for several hours.

I could go on and on, but to tell you the truth, this rant is probably just my lame attempt at masking the real reason why I'm a little out of sorts tonight. We were in an emergency room tonight. Marcel's dad is back in the hospital. His heart is deteriorating. He needs surgery, but it's taken too long for them to book it, so he ended up with another heart attack. This time, they probably won't send him home again until they can manage to schedule his surgery. Between by-passes and valve replacement, they practically have to rebuild his heart.

There is so little I can say about this. It's not really my story to tell, since I am the in-law. But I can tell you that it hurts. No one wants to lose him, but nobody can change the way he has chosen to live his life. Nobody can hold him here. They can try to rebuild his heart, but they may not be able to ensure that it keeps beating.


Jenny said...

I work in a hospital and they just finished redesigning the ER. Wood floors, soft lighting...really gorgeous. Of course you could be waiting on a gurney in the hall for hours before you get there, but once you do get a room it's all good.

Karla said...

I have yet to meet a single soul who has had a positive ER experience. You are right, for a place full of fear and pain, they certainly aren't condusive to easing anxiety.

My thoughts are with you and Marcel.

Joyce said...

Heather- I'm sorry you've had to study the emerg. My love to you and Marcel, and grandpa.

Krista said...

I. Hate. Hospitals.

If I don't have to go back to one for a long, long time, I will be a happy girl. Let's start a letter-writing campaign or something...

I'm sorry you had to be at one, and for something so sad. My prayers are with you.

Gina said...

I am so sorry for that.

You, Marcel, and the family will be in my prayers.

Liz said...

My thoughts are with you and Marcel.

Melissa said...

I don't even want to think about hospitals anymore. I'm sorry you had to spend so much time there. My thoughts are with you and your family.

Hope said...

Heartfelt prayers to your family heather.
Our ER has been nicely renovated, with many of the things you talked about being addressed. Not the wating area or time though.These continue to be ongoing problems. I have seen excellent, butt busting staff.
The rest of it is really great.
I have only visited three times since the remodel... with my sports loving boy in and out pretty quick.
I suspect that any environment would look pretty bleak when you are in such great distress as a family.Hopefully his care will be good and all will go well.

Amber said...

I, too, hate hospital and am soooo sorry for the time you've had to spend there.

Jamie was rushed there last year for heart problems and baby Hadley had just learned to wave and decided to try it out on the ER patients. She couldn't quite figure out why they weren't waving back....

Linda said...

You'd think that with all the research that a good environment promotes healing "they'd" find a way to improve emergency rooms. They're awful places.