The Waiting Room

I did a little more hospital sitting this past Friday, this time as my brother underwent surgery on his injured back. Only three months into his new Occupational Therapy job in Charlotte a patient panicked as he was trying to teach her to move from her wheelchair to her bed. She fell against Raymond and they both went down, with Raymond breaking her fall and seriously twisting his back in the process. That was last May. He has been out on disability ever since, working his way through the complexities of the worker’s compensation medical process. After all other remedies failed to relieve the pain, finally, eight months later, it came down to surgery.

In some ways being out of work came at the right time. His husband Jesse was sick with cancer and would pass away in November, so Raymond was able to spend those last few months at home with him. On the other hand it also caused financial distress at an already difficult time. Finally getting to this point of having the surgery brings huge relief. Fingers crossed and prayers lifted, he will be able to go back to work in a few more weeks, able to get on with some semblance of normalcy. Anything even close to normal has been missing since they moved to North Carolina last February.

So as I sat at the hospital in the surgery waiting room I was struck by the odd “community” that develops in that unique environment. We were at Novant Health Charlotte Orthopedic Hospital. I must say that all the professionals were extremely kind and accommodating. The waiting area was large, relatively comfortable, with an attendant to offer blankets or coffee. (Yes, it was a little chilly in there.) There were several TVs showing different things, but all muted except the one with HGTV. I guess you had to read lips to watch the others as there was no closed captioning. (I also noted no news channel was on, thank goodness. A respite from the endless assault on our senses!) There were also two large monitors showing the names of every patient in surgery and what stage of the process they were in: prepping for surgery, surgery in process, in recovery, moving to a room. This did a very good job of alleviating some of the anxiety of wondering what was happening.

Community – a group of living things having the same enviornment


Waiting rooms are full of people in various levels of worry and distress. Some patients have large groups who turn out for the festivities, and others, like my brother, have a single loved one to await the outcome. Everyone stakes their territory and backs the moving van in to disgorge the assorted books, electronics, snacks and drinks needed for the vigil. I chose a corner seat specifically because it was next to an electrical outlet. My cell phone is on it’s last legs and I was pretty sure it would need a boost before the day was over. I also had my IPad on which I read my books, plus a little social media scrolling and game playing. The other items in tow were my brother’s duffel bag, my purse and a comfy wrap. My roomy corner provided floor space and an extra chair to hold the essentials. I was set. Let the people watching began.

I LOVE people watching. I am fascinated by the many little dramas that unfold around me. The family group of 6-7 people at the other end of the room had claimed the corner with the official charging station like you see in airports and proceeded to plug in multiple phones, which even so, rarely left their hands. They were loud and jovial, somewhat in contrast to most of the others in the room. There was one woman who sat in a middle section in a kind of double seat that I have seen lately in the many doctor offices I’ve been in and out of. I actually think it’s intended for plus size individuals so they can be more comfortable. This woman did not fall into that category, but it made a nice place to spread out her bag full of stuff. And then she proceeded to talk on her phone loud enough for us all to hear her conversations……for hours.

On the back row were three women who, as I learned over the course of the day, were the wife of the patient, her mother, and mother-in-law. When the doctor came to talk to them he stayed a good 30 minutes and was doing his best to be encouraging about the situation, which I gathered was pretty serious. In the early hours there was a man I had assumed was a patient’s husband, but it turned out was tag-teaming with a woman who showed up awhile later to take her turn waiting for a friend in surgery. I had to appreciate these two who cared enough to be there for a friend who maybe had no family.

And finally in my little corner was a quiet African-American man, probably about my age, intent on his phone like so many others. At some point after his mother’s surgery had begun he was joined by a much older gentleman, very spiffy in slacks and a blazer with a hat. And a short time later came a third man, also much older, in a dark suit. In my subtle eavesdropping I gathered that the younger man grew up in Charlotte but now lived elsewhere. The older men were from his mom’s church but they had known him as a young boy. They were just as dear as can be and spent most of their time there quoting scripture and asking probing questions of a possibly wayward native son. I did feel a bit of empathy for this man who probably felt trapped with these two, and was surely wondering if his mom had set him up.

I spent a total of about six hours in the waiting room. I finished a book and started another. I texted a bit with friends. Of course, I checked Facebook and Instagram, and played Words with Friends. I drank a not too bad cup of coffee, and made a couple of trips to the vending machine. I adjusted my position in my chair at least 49 times and used my wrap like a blanket. I also nodded off more than once. (It was a really early morning.) And finally, after several reassuring updates and a visit with the doctor, I was told I could go to Raymond’s room. Though I was relieved to know his surgery went well and maybe, just maybe he could start getting his life back, I was a tiny bit disappointed to leave the waiting room. There were so many unanswered questions, so many dramas left unfinished. The community would go on without me and I would never know the outcome for that solitary woman sitting diagonally across from me with nothing but a book.

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