Dear family member,
I hope you show up high today! From the moment I see your glazed face, I’m instantly trying to dissect your personal cocktail, whatever combination of goodies you ingested this morning to construct your altered demeanor. Alcohol and meth? Cocaine and opiates? Every last Xanax you had in the medicine cabinet? Did you just take four more pills while I was trying to talk to you? Go ahead.
I hope you come drunk at nine in the morning and try to swing at someone. I’m just anxiously awaiting calling the cops on you and escorting you out of the hospital. Maybe you’ll just make a huge scene yelling at your brother in the hallway or perhaps you’ll threaten to murder your sister-in-law, or maybe you’ll threaten the bedside nurse, my favorite outburst of all. I’ll just turn around and walk away as you call each other crack head prostitutes in front of all the other people in the hallway. It’s no problem for me to call the police to look through the other visitor’s purse to make sure she doesn’t really have a gun like you say. Thanks for putting me through all that trouble.
I realize you hate your entire family. I realize you must surely be the only sane one. I believe you when you say they’re all out to get your money or the patient’s money or the crack money. I totally understand when you make a ridiculous scene over the twenty six dollars that the patient came in with in their wallet. Naturally, someone stole all of your money right before you arrived and you haven’t got a dollar to your name. You’re the distant cousin-in-law but of course it’s your right to have it because you’ve got things to take care of.
I absolutely condone you laying all over the ICU patient in the bed like this is a hotel room that you can inhabit in an inappropriate manner. Enough said.
It’s just a hospital for goodness sake! It’s no different from your local convenience store. There’s no need for decorum or rule-following or respect. Spit on the floor or ask me if you can use the patient’s bedside cup as a dip cup. Try to convince me that it’s sanitary for you to live at the hospital for a week and sleep on the floor in the waiting area. Let your one-year old baby crawl around licking the dirty floor in the hallway. Better yet, try to smuggle in your small child several times after I’ve told you not to.
Let me just say, I believe you when you say you are the Medical Power of Attorney. Yeah, you can’t find the paperwork right now, but let’s just forget about that little formality and let you make an end-of-life decision for your estranged brother’s aunt. It’s not like the whole affair is a legal process that I have to follow. The document must’ve just gotten lost and consequently you’ll be the one to get her cash when she dies. Makes perfect sense to me.
Sure I’ll call your parole officer and tell him where you’ve been for the past three days, even though you haven’t been here.
You’re right! Yelling at me will only help me find your husband’s lost dentures more quickly!
We can totally overlook the fact that your current wife, your ex-wife, your girlfriend and your baby mama are all taking punches at each other in the hallway. I realize that’s not your problem and I understand how you can be ignorant to how that all happened in the first place. Legal matters like being married are hard to remember.
Of course you realize this is a satirical representation of some of the crazy things that happen between patients and family members (although I’ve personally witnessed all of these outbursts). Obviously, all of the above scenarios burden and sadden me and I wish such drama didn’t exist, both for my sanity and for the people in those situations. And since this is the Internet and people don’t quite understand the fullness of satire and might think me merely rude and unsympathetic, let me explain.
No one’s family is perfect. Even your neighbor who seems to have it all together has a drug addiction problem or a psychotic parent or an estranged relationship with a sibling. There’s no perfect family and while some people believe in (or desperately hope for) the mythical Normal Rockwall experience, it’s an elusive dream that will inevitably escape them. Don’t feel bad when your family has these issues. Don’t be embarrassed when you have a skeleton that causes you pain or you’re the one who can’t seem to get along with the rest of them. Hopefully it makes you feel better that you’re not the only one. Or you might be the crazy one.
Drug and alcohol addiction is also an all-too real dividing force no matter your race, socioeconomic status, where you live, or the type of environment you grew up in. A boatload of Xanax seems to show up in people’s pockets far too often regardless of which college they attended. Addiction gets messy and causes problems and damages relationships.
The satire here is that people often ignore hospital decorum, which is a loosely relative but understandable set of rules. I would say “intuitive” to some points because, “Please don’t arrive under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs” isn’t on my list of welcome rules when a family member first arrives (yet maybe it should be). Sometimes, I can easily understand their preoccupation as their teenage son was just brought in from a severe car accident and they can’t contain their emotions. I’ve seen people yell, threaten, cajole and manipulate during those ultimately stressful moments and we’re all willing to overlook those due to the situation. The human mind and emotions can only handle so much stress before limitations start to seep through the cracks.
On those other occasions, when people are simply misbehaving, I ask them to leave their drama at home, or in the hallway, or in the parking lot. We’re busy trying to take care of your family member and don’t have time to referee your quarrels. I ask them nicely to come back sober another day or beg them on the phone to come see their dying mother. I politely explain the rules and expect them to abide by them. The patients need the respect of a proper ICU stay and the families sometimes need boundaries and appropriate limitations. Everyone deserves a unique level of sympathy during such a time and we do our best to make that happen.
So as much as I joke about all the ridiculous encounters I’ve had with family members, most are kind and appropriate and helpful. They are thankful and appreciative of what we’re doing to sustain their family member’s life. And regardless of their background, amount of hospital experience or financial status, love and boundaries are often synonymous. Let us help you, just like we’re helping them.