Friday, June 12, 2015

Locked Out

The night before my surgery, around 11:00 PM, my roommate's snoring became impossible to ignore.  I didn't want to disturb her by turning on my reading light, so I gathered my book and wandered down the hall, hoping to find a spot where I could sit and read until I got drowsy.  I found a little room just outside the twin security doors that isolate the patient ward from the rest of the third floor.

Everything was blissfully quiet.  I read until 3:30 AM.  Feeling like maybe sleep could happen even in the midst of the log-sawing taking place in my room, I closed my book and walked the couple of steps to the doors of 3NW.  I waved my hand in front of the sensor that normally signals the door to open, but they remained closed!  Uh oh.  I waved my hand again at the magic door-opening-square on the wall.  Magic Limit Exceeded.  You lose!  It wasn't working; the doors remained firmly shut.  I pushed on the doors manually.  Nope.  They were truly locked.  Am I gonna be sleeping in a chair tonight?  I had my cell phone in my robe pocket, but I didn't know who to call.  I didn't have phone numbers for anyone at the hospital.  What to do?


Surely people come through these doors after hours.  There's probably a sign if I just…oh look!  A sign.  Next to the door, behind a portable stand and fixed to the wall was a sign that read, "After hours press call button."  Underneath the sign were three buttons:  a white one, a red one, and another white one.  None of the buttons were labeled.  Hmmm…I pushed the first button.  Nothing.  I pushed the second (red one).  Nothing.  Then I tried the door again, and that time someone heard me!  A nurse came to the door and let me in.  She didn't ask who I was—it was clear from my plastic ID bracelet, frumpy hospital gown and robe that I was a patient.  She explained that I could "just hit the call button", and then demonstrated by pushing the third button, the one I hadn't yet tried.

I made my way past the first and second nurses' stations on my way to my room at the very end of the hall.  When I passed the third station, I saw a familiar face.  It was the nurse who cared for me on my first night at NIH.

Nurse:  What are you doing up?!

Me:  Oh.  My roommate is kind of a loud sleeper.  I went out to read for a while.

Nurse:  She snore?

Me:  Yep.

Nurse:  You want some earplugs?

Me:  You got some earplugs?!

Nurse:  Sure do.

Me:  Then, yes!  Yes, I'd love some earplugs!

Nurse:  Since you're up I think I'll just go get your vitals now.

We stepped into the darkened room, momentarily flooding it with light.  Abruptly, the snoring halted, but only for a second.  The nurse quietly giggled.

Oh glorious earplugs!  Thank God for...zzz...I slept for three solid hours before transport arrived to wheel me off to surgery.

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