It was Monday. Julian’s accident had happened on the previous Wednesday. We were so happy he was going to be released from the hospital.
Partly, of course, this was happiness and gratitude that Julian was going to be OK and getting better. But also we were running on fumes. We’d tried as much as possible for one of us to be at the hospital with Julian all the time, and there were the other kids to take care of. Tag-teaming, and the handing-off of the parental relay-race baton after Nicky and Mathew were asleep, had got really old.
In Children’s Hospital, we thought the world of the trauma team that met Julian’s ambulance. A special thanks to trauma nurse Stacey, with seven kids of her own, who helped us formulate our new climbing rules: 1. No climbing on any tree limb smaller than your thigh; 2. No climbing higher from the ground than your toes to your nose; 3. If you absolutely have to climb higher than your toes to your nose (a) get an adult’s permission; and (b) wear a helmet.
We thought Julian’s treatment in intensive care was pretty good. But when he left the NICU and headed for a plain hospital ward, the quality of care definitely deteriorated. Most significantly, the order for the anti-cunvulsive medication he was started on in the NICU never made it down to the surgical ward. Phyllis noticed this at 2AM, and by 4AM we were kicking up a fuss and getting him the medicine he needed.
Then there was the horrible Doctor Lin, a resident who took it upon himself to have Julian discharged on Sunday without having bothered to study Julian’s chart or consulting with the neurosurgery team. This doctor, an appallingly bad listener, called me “confrontational,” to which I responded by calling him “patronizing.” Our conversation only got worse from there. Oh, the nerve of a mere parent challenging the almighty doctor!
Dig an inch below the surface, this hospital is wracked by workflow and communication problems. The saving grace is the province of the nurses, who are very good for the most part and actually run the place, no matter what the doctors think.
Julian’s bed was right next to that of a teenager, who played his television loudly all night. Julian hated this, and couldn’t sleep because of it.
I decided to get him moved somewhere quieter and went to the charge nurse. Marsha (thank you, Marsha!) was wonderful, and had him moved to an isolation room off the ward where at least he had some peace.
Even so, we were delighted ecstatic happy relieved that Julian was getting discharged and was coming home.
The nurse discharging him was an older biddy taking her precious time, making his follow up appointments for us (nice of her, but a waste of time as we’d probably need to reschedule most of them anyhow). I conveyed my impatience. She told me to “hold my pants.” Julian was delighted when I made a slightly rude gesture behind her back.
Finally the forms were filled out and the medical directions handed out. I asked for a wheel chair (it would have been impossible for Julian to walk all the way to the parking garage).
Nurse Biddy gives me a hard time about this. She says that people take her wheel chairs to discharge patients and then don’t bring the wheel chair back. I promise to be a good boy and to return the wheel chair.
We are at the hospital in two cars. I wheel Julian out, with Phyllis carrying his things. We are so happy! Zip-a-dee-doo-dah!
We cross the street in front of the hospital and roll towards the parking garage elevator. Zip-a-dee-doo-dah!
I roll Julian up to Phyllis’s car. Zip-a-dee-doo-dah! Julian gets in, I’m going to return the wheel chair and meet them at home. Zip-a-dee-doo-dah!
My, oh my what a wonderful day!
Plenty of sunshine heading my way
To give you fair warning (although it is probably already too late) the Zip-a-dee-doo-dah song is an earworm. It’s not the easiest thing on earth to track down the Disney movie featuring the Zip-a-dee-doo-dah earworm. The movie is Song of South, which Disney has buried as deeply as it can because of its rascist overtones.
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah! What a beautiful day!
I am a man of my word. I must return the wheel chair to the ward and the awful nurse (who, no doubt, will find all her suspicions about actually letting kids with skull fractures and neck braces ride in wheel chairs justified if I never bring it back). Zip-a-dee-doo-dah!
Down the elevator, I start racing to make the traffic light, singing at the top of my lungs. It is kind of fun pushing an empty wheel chair as fast as it will go on a bright sunny afternoon with my son coming home from the hospital in more-or-less one piece. Zip-a-dee-doo-dah!
The wheel chair catches on the lip of the curve at the far side of the cross walk, and I go flying head-over-heels crashing into it. The mouths of spectators are opening wide in amusement (or is it shock, or contempt?).
If this were a modern comedy of manners like Along Came Polly, the next cut would be to the ambulance taking me away, and then cut to the trauma team meeting me at the ambulance, with Phyllis and Julian in his neck brace appearing.
Being real life not a movie, fortunately I could be a bit of jerk and come away with only a few scrapes and bruises. I picked myself up with what was left of my dignity (not much!).
I handed off the wheel chair to Nurse Biddy, who seemed surprised to ever see the thing again, and headed home slowly and cautiously to be with Julian.
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah! What a beautiful day!