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From the Heart

by TONI TUCKER

This month I spent several days in a New York hospital. A first for me, it was an experience both physically difficult and overwhelmingly heartwarming. I became part of the daily routine, part of the proverbial furniture. Once the newness wore off, it became a resting place, a place to watch and experience people—one of my favorite things.

I witnessed profound love amongst the families gathered to support a family member or friend—love that came so many interesting disguises. I find it difficult to relate the quality of their emotions, but I can share some of their stories.

A 40-year-old son had a mother in the hospital. In her 80s, Mom was from the Bahamas and had been a nurse there. She was quite a character because, as her son explained to me, she was distrustful of any medical attendants under the age of 50.
Her son, though a tad frustrated at her for not listening to the younger doctors, had come to visit for a few days and ended up spending months in Astoria to care for her. Although she had a husband at home, he was by her side and would not consider otherwise.

Another patient, an elderly Jewish gentleman, landed unexpectedly in the ward, stricken while on his way to a meeting. His wife was profoundly distressed and hovered over him, a bit to his annoyance. To demonstrate her love, she wanted everyone behave perfectly and everything in the room to be in order. This was, of course, impossible. So, her husband lay in his hospital bed, held her hand and comforted her. It was a sweet interaction between two people who had clearly been together forever.

A lovely soft-spoken black woman in her 50s arrived in my room one afternoon with her husband in tow. She had had a pacemaker installed and was in some unexpected pain. (One thing I discovered was that the procedures that were ‘no big deal’ were, in fact, a big deal to some.)

Her sweet husband ran in and out of the room at each mealtime to buy her something she would enjoy, to fetch flowers and anything else that might please her and make her more comfortable. He stayed with her that night, right beside her bed, sitting in what looked like a most uncomfortable semi-arm chair. His singular focus was her comfort and well-being.

As I walked the halls, wives leaned against door jams, some in tears, others unquestionably needy, anxious to talk to anyone who would listen. Daughters sat by bedsides. Entire families filled hospital rooms to overflowing. Husbands looked vulnerable and out of place. Some spoke, others just looked worried and sad.

The amazing nurses and aids provided if not love, then kindness. Some showed great care and tenderness, a willingness to talk, to listen, to share humor, knowledge and experience. Bernice shared stories of her dog and showed me photos of her costume worn in the Puerto Rican Day parade.

Robert, my gurney transport, shared his faith and the importance of living every day in joy. Jim, from the same team, ran out into the driveway to hail my Lyft before wheeling my chair to the car. These men and women were devoted to their calling –to help, to share kindness and love.

It was an unexpected pleasure to experience love on a New York hospital floor. To watch the care and devotion of family members for one another and how it poured from their hearts. And, of course, the setting could not have been more perfect for it all happened in the cardiac unit.

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