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Take a Seat

If you have a medically fragile child or one fighting a chronic illness, you spend a lot of time in hospital rooms, and you’re familiar with the chair.

The chair isn’t just a place to sit, it signifies so much more than the square footage it occupies. For the days, weeks, months or more that your child remains in the hospital, the chair is your workstation; your breakfast, lunch and dinner seat; your bed; and your prison.

I am sitting again in the local hospital for the 32nd time in three years. Nick remains a medical mystery to the entire medical community, and the puzzle pieces involved continue to become more complex.
Upon admittance, he was diagnosed with pneumonia, then they added sepsis, which extended our stay — and my sentence to the chair.

So here I sit watching the rainbow of scrub-wearing personnel enter and exit, fill orders, check vitals then repeat. By now, I know the nurses by name — and Nick does too; he signs each of their names — and we’ve become regular patients of the specialists treating Nick.
We are back on the sixth floor, but we have a new room this time. Of the 36 rooms on this floor, Nick has been an occupant in 26 of them. He gets excited when we add a new one to the list of beds he’s been in. He knows which ones he prefers, which have the best views and which ones he’s hoping never to go back to.

For me, the rooms are the same. The chairs are all the same. They may have a different orientation in the room, but that’s it, so I assume my post.

The hospitalist, a physician whose primary focus is the general medical care of hospitalized patients, enters the room. This person sees my child the least but seems to hold the most power, doling out signatures for consults, medications and discharge forms. The hospitalist is, my friends, my worst nightmare as the parent of a disabled adult child. The hospitalist literally comes in for maybe 5–10 minutes a day and looks at me like I have two heads and am speaking a foreign language when I ask questions or voice concerns. When he’s in the room, it’s obvious that the chair exacerbates my limitations. He sees me as nothing more than a worried parent. I may not have a medical degree, but I’ve been caring for my son for several years now. I know which drugs need to be administered through an IV and how much to give and how to hep lock a central line, among lots of other things.

The nurses and techs that serve Nick around the clock, on the other hand, allow me to relax — dare I say, get comfortable in the chair? Thank God for them. I breathe better when they’re in the room and release my tense grip on the chair’s armrests. These men and women humanize a hospital stay. They pop in just to say hi and they genuinely care about my son. From where I sit, these are the most important people in the room, aside from Nick, of course.

It’s when I am awaiting test results and follow-ups that I hate the chair the most. It’s almost like the place I’ve been sent to for a timeout, each passing minute feels like an eternity. I pray the test results produce answers. Tell me why Nick’s health continues to decline, why he gets worse instead of better.

With each hospital admittance, I come in with such high expectations, that this time, the doctors will be able to pinpoint the cause of Nick’s health woes, and every time, I meet disappointment; the doctors just don’t know.

I actually hope that there aren’t too many readers who can relate to my relationship with the hospital room chair. For those of you who can, I know that you sit and you wait and you watch your incredibly strong children fight. And from where you sit, you do everything you can to protect, care for and love them. Thankfully, these seats are on wheels, so you roll up right next to the bed to comfort and hold your child and sit for awhile.