Hospital Phobia

by Bill Brenner on June 8, 2011

During visits to my father in the hospital, I find myself jittery and all-around uncomfortable. It’s not the sight of my father, who is starting the long road to recovery after a stroke. Sure, he’s looked better. But you could say that of anyone stuck in a hospital bed.

Mood music:

http://youtu.be/C6LCttYOO9Q

The discomfort, I’m starting to realize, has to do with the hospital itself.

He’s at one of the best hospitals in Boston, and the staff I’ve talked to are friendly and compassionate. He’s definitely in good hands.

But the sights and smells get to me. The machinery and the sounds they make unsettle me. I had forgotten these things.

It’s a phobia of sorts, the kind that always kept me from visiting my grandparents whenever they were in the hospital, which was a lot. I regret not visiting them as much as I should have, but there’s something about walking into those places that makes you take a hard stare at your own mortality.

I find it odd that I would have this problem, considering I was a frequent resident of Children’s Hospital as a kid.

I figure that should have desensitized me a long time ago. Yet here I am, confronting this reality.

I noticed my father had a swollen hand when I walked in his room. The sight would freak some people out, but I immediately knew what it was: The swelling you get when an IV needle has been in your vein for too long. It used to happen to me all the time. Could it be that it’s not really a phobia, but something even more unsettling — the discomfort of looking at the machines, beds and gray-beige walls and floors and feeling, in an odd sort of way, like I’m home?

Most of us feel the periodic pull of our old neighborhoods. We like to visit the places where we grew up. Even if we had a bad childhood, we feel the need to revisit the scene of the crime. I often do, and can never fully explain why. Maybe I should go visit my old floor at Children’s Hospital. Maybe it’ll break the spell.

Yeah, probably not.

Whatever is behind the uneasiness, I’m not staying away this time.

For one thing, I can’t let something so stupid keep me from doing the right thing.

Also, it’s what a good son should do.

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