Tuesday, September 10, 2013

1985: The flow of 7-Goodman

I wrote in my journal on my second day at National Jewish that "the only thing that makes this place seem like a hospital are that the nurses and doctors wear stethoscopes over their shoulders."  The seemed to have gone out of their way to make our stay at the asthma hospital as much like home as possible.  

Our day was highly structured, and I'm confident the reason for this was to keep us busy so we didn't get homesick and so we didn't get into trouble.  I remember being homesick quite a bit the first week, but there was so much to do there was little time to think about it.  And before you knew it, you were so comfortable around the place, with the people, that it was as much as home as your home was.  

Most of our morning medicines were due at 6:00, and we had a half hour leeway.  That meant we had to take our medicine between 5:30 and 6:30.  The first day I woke up at 6:00 and had to wait in line for the nebulizer, and I got into trouble because I didn't get my treatment finished before the deadline.  

Plus I was a little nervous around all the kids, most of whom I didn't know yet, so I opted from then on out to get up at 5:30.  This turned out to be great, because it was just me and one other kid who got up that early.  It also allowed me time to get to know the night shift nurses, one of whom was Pat, who would later become a major asset for me.  

Then breakfast came.  There was no TV in the main lounge room of 7-Goodman, so if you wanted to watch TV you had to go into the south room.  Most of the kids didn't go into the TV room before school, and I was one of them.  As soon as I was done with breakfast I left for school.  One of the rules of 7-Goodman is any time you leave the floor you had to sign out, and we had the "buddy system" rule:  you had to go with someone.  

I had to follow this rule because I was on the bottom level, level one, of the behavioral chart, because all new patients had to start there.  Once I made my way to level four I could be a leader, and I could sign out and go places myself.  That was one of the incentives of good behavior.  Once I made my way to level four I was one of the kids sought out when one of the newer kids wanted to leave 7-Goodman.

So we went to school and traveled through the tunnels under the campus.  The Kunsburg school was in another building, but thanks to the tunnel we never had to go outside.  Although we could go outside if we wanted, so long as we didn't leave the campus.  I think it was around February it got so cold, a blizzard struck, that we were ordered not to go outside  This was because cold air is a major contributor to asthma.  

After school we had free time.  This was when we sat around the tables in the lounge and did homework.  I usually took this time to sit in my room and write in my journal.  Okay, so I used some of it to do homework, although I wasn't the most disciplined person with my homework.  However, as time went on Mr. Rose spent a lot of time working with me during school hours, and I ended up getting all As on my last report card for the year.  That was something I did only once before, and it was in the sixth grade, and only because Mr. Anderson spend a lot of time with me.  

Of course there were other things we could do.  We could watch TV in the TV room.  We could play pool.  We could socialize (something I wasn't good at and still am still not).  Or we could scuffle, something that didn't elude me.  

Around 5:00 p.m. it was dinner time.  I remember sitting around some evenings starving and waiting for dinner to arrive.  And most of the meals were pretty good. Earlier in the week the nurses usually sat down with us and let us pick what we wanted for each meal during the weak.  Sometimes I didn't like any of the choices, but most of the time it was pretty good.  

Oh, and of course we had to remember when our medicine was due and go to the nurses station.  I supposed the nurses station was the only other thing in here that made the place look like a hospital.  Yet the nurses were very friendly, so that kind of offset the setting.  

Most of the patients didn't like Lee, but I really liked her. She was a nurse who was really strict, although she loved to give hugs.  I think I liked that she was strict, and I really enjoyed her as my nurse.  I guess I just needed that.  And boy did I love her hugs.  I remember the three biggest hugs she ever gave were when I was lonely after my mom left, when I was supposed to go to 2-May, and when I was going home.  Of all the nurses I thought I'd miss, Lee was one of them.  

My nurse was Kathy.  She's the one who sat down with me to make a list of my medicine and added the new ones and crossed off the old ones.  She created a list of all these and what times they are due.  It was her job to make sure I took my medicine.  It was her job to make sure I understood all my medicine.  She created a variety of note cards, and on each one she listed: the medicine, brand name, generic name, side effects, action, doses, frequency, and why I was taking it.  It was my job to memorize all of them.  My incentive was a trip to Dairy Queen, compliments of her.  

After dinner we had free time again until about 6:30 or 7:00 when we had to go back to the school and to either the gym or the pool.  In the gym we started with stretches, and then 20 minutes of aerobics.  We were encouraged to keep our legs moving, no matter what activity we did, whether it was basketball, volley ball, kick ball, or whatever else we did.  After aerobics were played a game of something, if that game wasn't incorporated into the aerobics session.  

On other days we went to the pool and had a vigorous workout.  We were told that pools were the ideal place for asthmatics to exercise because you could get a workout just my trudging through the water.  I remember one of the activities we did for aerobics was race back and forth, and I always lost because I was among the smallest kids.  Although I was always worn out by the end.  

At first my asthma would act up during aerobic activities, although as my asthma got under better control I was able to participate more freely.  Although I was encouraged to pace myself, I was scolded if I didn't work hard enough.  They pushed you to the limits regardless of how bad your asthma was, and excuses were never excepted.  However, they also made sure you took a time out when your asthma was acting up.  

We walked down the tunnels back to 7-Goodman, usually too worn out and tired to complain.  Back on 7-Goodman we took our nighttime medicines and then we had free time until bedtime.  I think bedtime was 9 or 9:30 unless you were on the higher levels, than I think it was 10:00.  This was a time that we participated in various activities, which included playing games with the nurses.  They would take time out from their busy schedule to play games.  One common one we played was spoons.  I can't remember how to play this game, but I know it sure was fun.  

Another thing the nurses did was stage activities for us.  I remember some of the kids participated in an talent contest, and the girls sang, "Girls just wanna have fun."  They were good, and I had no choice but to vote for them even though I was cheering for the guys.  The nurses also held an occasional meeting where officers were chosen.  I remember one time I ran for president, and lost in a close election.  Because I lost I have no idea what the role of officers was, beside representing us kids when rules and discipline was made.  

Then it was time for either studying, TV or bed.  I remember sitting in the TV room with Tim.  He was my best friend while I was on 7-Goodman.  He was 18, and he loved science fiction.  One of the shows we watched most often were old episodes of Dr. Who, or any old TV show.  He knew all the old actors, and perhaps it was him who got me interested in movies and such.  We also sat around and played chess, and he beat me nearly every game.  He was pretty smart  

I don't know what ever came of him.  I remember on the way to an out of town adventure, on the bus, I sat next to him, and listened to him tell of his dreams for his life.  He said that he was working on the fourth Star Wars movie.  He had the story all worked out in his head.  Plus there as another movie had made up in his head that he told me about.  I'll have to look it up and write it down here.  I Googled that movie recently, and never found it.  I also looked in the credits of the fourth episode of Star Wars to see if I could find his name.  I never found it.  

The first two weeks on seven Goodman were the busiest, as this was when you had to go for all the testing, and meet your social worker, psychologist, and all the other people who do all the tests. Of course you also had to meet all the nurses, PE instructors, nurses assistants (like Pat on nights) and all the asthmatic kids.  After that you started to feel more comfortable, and the place started to feel more like home.  Tests were less often, and you could be a normal kid doing normal things.  

I remember I would leave 7-Goodman at times to go walking around with my friend Dean.  We were both good Christians, so we looked for a church.  We were told there was one somewhere on campus.  We also looked for a workout room, considering we were on steroids we might as well work out.  

At some point I had to sell tickets for something.  Later on in life, and perhaps before 7-Goodman, this was something I'd hate to do.  But at the asthma hospital it allowed me an excuse to get away.  It gave me something to do.  I don't remember what the tickets were for, but I remember one of the places I made my way to was the adult section of the hospital.  I remember spending time with the nurses there, and they made me feel really comfortable.  So later on I would make special trips just to visit them.  Sometimes, if they were slow, we would play games.

There were a couple patients there, both on oxygen.  As I look back I think they were COPD patients, the same type of patient I take care of today.  I got to know them really well, and I would often travel down to (was it 7-Goodman or 3-Goodman) visit them.  I remember that every time I'd walk into their rooms they would smile.  They loved to see me.  Whenever I was feeling sad I would go to visit them and every time I'd leave in a better mood.  

References:
  1. Frea, Rick, "My Stay at National Jewish Hospital, "1985, Denver, Colorado

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