Tag Archives: Hospital

A Love Letter to My Magnolia, by Carole Howard

Back in P.S. 106, in the Bronx, I learned that the magnolia is the only tree that gets its flowers before its leaves. I think it was Mrs. Sills who taught us that little nugget in 3rd grade, though I can’t be sure. It’s amazing that I remember it at all.  But there’s another reason that magnolias are special — to me, at any rate.

In 1984, my husband Geoffrey was in the hospital for a month. His illness wasn’t life-threatening, but it did require time to kill all the little beasties that had taken up residence. (Remnants of his long-ago days as a Peace Corps Volunteer, perhaps.)

While he was the sick one, it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park for me, either, as anyone who’s ever been a caregiver knows. I went to the hospital every day with magazines, treats and moral support, and with whatever good cheer and/or firmness was necessary to run interference with doctors and nurses.

“I’m here, I’ll shave him, you don’t have to do it.”

“I absolutely insist the tropical disease specialist include Geoffrey on his rounds. Today!”

“Would you like some of the cookies I brought in today?”

I also cared for our daughter and kept our consulting practice alive. I would have done anything to help Geoffrey get better; I didn’t mind any of it. But I was weary.

The day before Mother’s Day, I was feeling rather low, maybe even a bit sorry for myself.   I’m not proud of that, but there it is. I went to my friend Barbara’s plant nursery to buy myself a present. Walking into the greenhouse, with its powerful smell of earth, fertility, and growth, was the beginning of the cure for what ailed me. I walked around and looked at every plant until I saw a perfectly-shaped magnolia. I knew it was the one for me and my mood lifted as I took it to the register.

But Barbara said it had already been sold – “See that ribbon around the pot?” – and I should pick out something else. I cajoled and groveled. I tried to cash in on our friendship. I really wanted that magnolia. No dice. I didn’t see anything I liked nearly as much, so went home empty-handed and petulant.

The next day, Mother’s Day, the nursery truck pulled up to my door with a delivery. The driver went into the back of the truck to find it, and I felt a kind of pre-gratitude. I gave myself a peptalk: “Ok, it’s not the magnolia, but it’s so nice to have been thought of.”

When he emerged, I was overjoyed: It was MY magnolia. It turns out that Geoffrey, the day before my visit to the greenhouse, had called Barbara from the hospital and asked her to “pick out the nicest thing in the place for Carole.” And, amazingly, Barbara had picked out MY magnolia before I did. When I came shopping and picked out the same one, she knew. All the time I was cajoling and groveling, she must have been smiling inside, maybe even thinking of The Gift of the Magi. This story still gives me chills.

This year, the magnolia bloomed very late. But I knew it eventually would, as it has for the past 30 years. Its tender-pink flowers are as glorious as a burst of fireworks. To me, they are fireworks: joyous, boisterous, celebratory.

magnolia copy

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Carole Howard lives in the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York State.  She is the author of Deadly Adagio, published by Second Wind Publishing.



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Surgery by S.M. Senden

It takes a lot to slow me down, but when I fell and tore the meniscus in my knee, that did it.  Most people have had some sort of major surgery in their lives and I finally joined their ranks.  It was an interesting foray into a world that I do not visit often: the world of hospitals, operations and medical personnel.

In and of itself, the medical world is an interesting phenomenon.  I remember working, many years ago, in a hospital for a while, and the ‘culture’ of that environment is interesting.  Unless you are a part of it, usually will not have a clue about the ‘hospital’ culture and think nothing of it.  It is filled with really wonderful people who work hard and many do thankless jobs day in and day out. The people who come into their world linger for a short time, and then are only too happy to get away and back home to familiar surroundings.

So, there I was, back into the world of doctors, nurses and a myriad of technical people that work to keep us well, repair what is broken and send us back out into the world, hopefully healed, or at least on the path of wellness!  There was much to do before they would do this surgical procedure.  There are tests and a myriad of questions one is bombarded with pre-surgery.

I have been fortunate in that the only real problem I have had over the years is a wonky thyroid that needs medicating.  Over they years, when I have had to change doctors because I moved across the country, they ask about other medications I am taking. When I say that I’m taking no other medications, they look at me, baffled that I could have reached my advanced age and am not lumbered with a dozen medications to deal with any number of problems.

The doctor, who would be doing my surgery, asked me four or five times if I was sure I wasn’t on blood thinners or other drugs.  Being perfectly cognizant of the medications I take every day, I assured him each time that I was not taking any blood thinners or anything else of a prescribed nature.  Also I assured him that I was not on any un-prescribed medications either.  He persisted in asking about blood thinners, so I informed him that my blood coagulates quite nicely and normally.  He looked like I had just tried to sell him a bridge or Florida swamp land.  Is it so rare to have reached the middle ages and still remain nearly drug free in our society?  I’m very grateful that I’m reasonably healthy!

Then the big day loomed closer and closer, it was time to be scheduled into the operating room.  My first time was 6:00 am.  I do hate to get up at O-dark-thirty, because I believe it is too rude to get up before the sun.  However, I got a call a little later telling me that I had been moved back to 9 am.  Then, again, another call informed me that I needed to be there at 11:00 am.  Well, I have to admit, that tried my patience one too many times, and I let them know that it was not all right to keep bouncing my time, as there were other people’s schedules to consider in order to get me there since I was not going to be allowed to drive myself home.

They were nonplussed that I would dare to complain.  They called me back and gave me an earlier time again.  To me, it made them appear as if they didn’t have a clue about what they were doing as far as ability to schedule.  Then there was always the ever present possibility that an emergency would call the doctor away, and all surgeries would be cancelled.  Thank goodness there were no emergencies.  The nurses were wonderful, and the doctor came to make sure he was really going to operate, and on what part. He marked it with a pen, so he wouldn’t get mixed up by the time he got me on the table.  It is all for insurance reasons, since somewhere, sometime a doctor operated on the wrong person or part.

The trip to the operating room was short, and all too soon the drugs took their effect and I was out!  They gave me some oxygen, and I remember many years ago that the doctor told us that if my grandmother (in hospital and on oxygen because of emphysema) got too cranky, turn up the oxygen and she would sleep.  Well, it worked on me too. Zap.

I was out, and pleased to be so, because I really didn’t want to be cognizant for the operation.  I woke, knowing time had passed, just not how much of it.  Nurses checked on me, still a little hazy, but coming back to reality quickly.  After they thought I was sufficiently able to function they got me up and shipped me home, stopping only to pick up major pain killers.

The healing process has been interesting to deal with.  I was amazed at the stiffness that took over the joint.  That was what I had to work against with exercise and movement to get the knee back to normal.  There were days when I truly identified with the Tin Man of Oz who got caught in a rain storm.  I needed the oil can of healing to work some magic on the stiffness that was reluctant to give up its hold on me.  I persisted, and it was like the fog in San Francisco suddenly lifting, the stiffness, well at least most of it, was gone!

As a writer, everything can be a form of research.  This journey may, in some way, appear in a book one day.  Though I am still wondering how I can work in my other hospital experience that happened when I was in my early twenties.  It was an experience that evolved more and more into a comedy routine, even though I was seriously ill.  But that is another story entirely!


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