June 17th, 2009


made to be broken

markgritter has labeled me Chaotic Good, which is a little strange considering that I am the force of organization in this house. (Anybody agree/disagree with him there?)

Here's how it came up, and I think this is important: yesterday I encountered someone who was not sure she was "family enough" to count in the "family only for ICU visits" rule for someone close to her. She definitely is, but I was boggled that this even came up, and frankly it was pretty upsetting. Important life lesson, people: you do not have to follow rules simply because someone else has gone to the trouble of making them.

If someone you love is in an ICU where they have a "family only" rule, and you know they want to see you, and you can be quiet and respectful of the other patients, congratulations! You are now their Cousin Cynthia. Or their Uncle Frank. Or whatever the hell else you want to be. Because the family only rule is not there because ICU patients benefit only from seeing people with specific blood or legal ties to them. It's there to keep the number of visitors down so the staff can work and the other patients aren't being disturbed by wild ICU parties. The first night my grandpa was in the ICU, my aunt Kathy came up to stay with him and my mom, and when I say "aunt," I mean "person who has no legal or blood relationship with me whatsoever." And my mom, without turning a hair, said to the night nurse, "This is my sister-in-law." Here's what this semi-fib did: it gave the night nurse a leg to stand on if anybody administrative challenged her on who was in Mr. Adams's room and/or the family lounge, and it expressed the closeness of my aunt Kathy to Mom and Grandpa without giving the night nurse the impression that she was someone who should be consulted with my mother equally on Grandpa's care. And on Grandpa's last Saturday with us, it was Grandma's "niece" Vicki (again, no relation) who stayed with her while we drove into the wee hours of the morning to get there. Was that rule there so that a person whose husband was dying would have to sit alone and wait? No. Hell no. And if it was, I don't care; that is not my problem. I had a dozen or more really major problems that night, and strict adherence to hospital guidelines was not anywhere on the list.

You know what else? Grandpa had c. diff., and I took off the gloves to hold his hand on the day he was dying and the day before that. You bet your ass I did. I didn't touch anything else while I had the gloves off, and I washed up like crazy after, but did I make my grandpa's last contact with me come through latex or nitrile? No. No. A thousand times no, a million times no. I am not high-risk for infection, I followed the anti-infection procedures better than some members of the hospital staff in that regard, and I am a competent adult human being with my own judgment. They can make their rules. I make mine.

I know some of you are facing medical issues. Do not let them intimidate you pointlessly. Things are bad enough when you're dealing with a crisis without deciding that a spirit of legalism must inform your doings. Your first obligations are moral and interpersonal, not regulatory.