Today the littles had their semi-annual dentist appointment. We arrived in the office on time to find that the “let us take your picture to check you in” computer was gone. We are back to signing in. I don’t know why, I didn’t ask questions, I am just so happy it is GONE. I hated that thing. It was incapable of taking a decent picture. It gave you ten seconds, counting backwards from ten. Try to pick a right expression in ten seconds–right now. I can wait.
You changed expressions half a dozen times, didn’t you? Now imagine doing that while looking at yourself. Exactly. Not a good thing.
So we sat down to wait. The television that seems to grace every single doctor’s waiting area was there. With a news channel on. I don’t watch enough tv to remember which one, but they were covering the George Zimmerman trial. Words were floating through the air, “Murder…..gunshot…..screams…..violent.” And so much more. I often try to distract my littles when the television is on a channel that I’d rather them not watch, but today it was impossible. The volume was up and it was a small waiting room. My Princess asked, “Mama, what is all that about?”
I don’t intend to keep them out of the loop forever, but there are some things that I don’t think their innocent little hearts or minds can grasp, and this is one of them. I hate that I’m not given a say in this. The channels are on what they are on. Fortunately, my two were called back just then, and I asked the hygienists to please put their channels on children’s programming. (Later, I found out my little guy had been watching Cartoon Network. Great. Some programs on there are okay, but mostly, ummmm, no.)
We were at another doctor’s office a few weeks ago and they had the TV on a talk show. Someone on there was discussing the latest pictures taken of Miley Cyrus. I hadn’t seen them before this, but I could only imagine what was coming, so I took that commercial break opportunity to ask the receptionist to change the channel. As usual, she was very nice about it, but honestly, do these people not realize children are coming in? Do they let their own children watch this junk? And they have a lovely little play area RIGHT. UNDER. THE. TV. Makes sense, right?
While I was waiting for the littles to have their teeth cleaned, (yes, I have graduated to letting them go by themselves!) I thought about the TV’s at the hospital during Mama’s HospitalStay. Mama never wanted a TV on during her time in the hospital–neither last August nor during her latest stay in January-February. She’d offer last fall for me to watch what I wanted to, but we rarely turned it on. I take that back, I think we watched some of the Olympics. She was sedated during most of the first two weeks this last time, but one of the nurses told us that Mama could hear what we were saying. I don’t remember how we discovered it, but my sister and I found a music channel that had calming music and streamed beautiful scenery with no breaks or interruptions. We put it on that channel with the volume at a pleasant level. One of our dear friends came in and said, “Miss Barbara, this is a lot like a spa. You’re gonna wake up telling us you dreamed about being at a spa.” The room was spacious, the halls were quiet, and the music was relaxing.
Then one morning we came in and the TV was on Dr. Phil. Now I don’t usually use foul language, but I promise you one thing, the expletives were lined up, ready to flow. Ain’t NOBODY got time for that! Like my Mama needed to be listening to that drama. Seriously, you’ve got a patient who can’t speak for herself and you put the channel on what YOU want to see? For the few minutes you are in and out of there? Unacceptable. We changed the channel and scrounged for some paper. We used medical tape to attach a note to the remote–“Please leave on Channel 74. She really loves it.” Well, why not? Might as well leave them wondering.
It was about a week or so later when Mama had been moved down to the STINKU (okay, STICU), that I walked in and found her channel had been changed again. These folks were already off my birthday list; the unit was loud and crowded and it was hard to get people to be timely in responding to urgent needs. They were very strict about their very limited visiting hours just when Mama was coming out of sedation and really needed us there. I’ll be upset over this one for years. And to top it all off, the channel was on ESPN, with replays of the big basketball game from the night before. I know exactly who changed it because this nurse talked about missing the game from the day before because of work. Never in her life has Mama cared about the big basketball games the first time around, never mind the replays. I was livid. It was the ultimate in not being able to make sure that Mama was being cared for properly–the fact that her needs and wants were not being respected made me sick. We talked to the floor supervisor about it and a computer generated sign was placed below the television–“Do not change channel. Please keep on Channel 74.” Finally.
At the same time that Mama was at her HospitalStay in Macon, our elderly cousin whom Mama was guardian of was in the hospital in Warner Robins. My sister and Mama’s neighbor and I took turns checking in on her. I made sure that the channel stayed on a “safe” channel for her. As she was mildly developmentally delayed, Mama was very careful about what movies and shows she gave her to watch. Finally I settled on Disney channel. She seemed to enjoy the tween/teen shows. One time I was visiting with her and she pointed at the TV and said, “She’s not very nice.” I’ve seen it. She was right.
About two weeks after she’d been admitted, she was not doing well. Hard conversations were had, and I found myself having to make a hard decision. The first of many without my Mama to guide me. I lay there that Saturday night on the couch/bed in her hospital room with blankets and pillows brought to me by the patient care tech, bless her heart. As I listened to our cousin breathing and watched her vitals on the monitor, Disney flashed across the screen. I had muted it much earlier in the afternoon. It occurred to me that I was on Holy Ground, so I got up and turned off the TV. It just didn’t seem right. And it stayed off, all through my signing papers the next morning and all that followed that.
Mama said quite frequently, “There’s a time and place for everything.” I think she was right. And I’m beginning to question the right times and places for things like televisions in doctor’s offices and hospitals. At least, if they have to be there, please let them be for the patients and not for the folks who are working there. And seriously, would it hurt any of us to sit in quiet or to actually talk to other people? Or to remember to take a book along? I’m thinking no, but then, I haven’t had a nap today. And I might just need one.