At a cardiology appointment last week.
I am there for support. To soothe nerves, take notes, hold a hand and ask cool headed questions.
As we enter the waiting room, I can feel my own heart shrink around the edges. Nice room, art on the walls, many chairs, tall check-in counters. The kind that separates elegantly the well from the not-so-well..
We find our spot with one empty seat on each side of us and we get settled for what could be a long-ish wait.
I watch people enter the room, make their way to the tall counters then look for their own waiting spot.
An older woman walks in pushing a walker. She looks around the room, seeming a little lost, and decides on a chair a few feet from us. She makes her way there, sits down with a sigh and I find myself unable to stop staring.
She looks scared out of her wits. Her right hand is shaking. Her eyes are darting from left to right to left.
Pretty soon an older gentleman arrives, picks up some paperwork at the desk, and delivers them to her. She shakes her head and pleads with him: “I don’t want to fill out any more forms.” “I know you don’t sweetheart. But we have to.” Looking exhausted, he sits on the walker and starts to shuffle the papers, maybe considering filling them out himself.
My mind is having a talk with my heart. My heart says “Get your butt off your chair and walk to her.” My mind feigns outrage and retorts: “and then what? Do you think you can do something about this? Who do you think you are?”
My heart wins and my feet make their way right next to her. To her left.
Of course, I don’t have a plan and my mind is having a good time with it all, rolling its little eyes.
So my heart takes over and makes me bend down and ask the woman if it would be okay for me to touch her. Will she think I am deranged? Touch her how? I don’t even know the answer to that.
She nods and whispers “Yes please.”
I place one hand on her back and one on her left arm. I don’t move either hand, but instead, just settle right there. Within less than five seconds, I feel her relax from the inside out as though something rigid had suddenly melted. Her right hand is steadily on the arm of the chair. No more shaking.
Feeling the same softening inside of me (my mind seems to have gone out on an errand), I whisper to her that it’s going to be okay. I say it once more.
I see her husband watching us and looking relieved.
When the nurse calls out her name, all three of us look up and they begin their trek to the examination room where someone, something, awaits them. As they walk away, she thanks me quietly, he thanks me quietly. I walk back to my chair.
So little happened. And so much happened.
No money was spent, no special skills were used. We were together for less than 4 minutes.
And yet. Yet, I truly believe that they walked into the exam room much calmer, much more available to receive whatever was going to be needed of them.
Which of course, planted an idea in my head: Waiting Room Hosts and Hostesses. Someone whose job would be solely to welcome and nurture patients and their families before big appointments. I see them in cardiology offices, cancer wings, surgery departments, children hospitals (oh yes, in children’s hospitals).
Offer a cup of tea, a few seconds of eye contact, possibly a hand on the back if welcome, a genuine, non-medical question… some human connection.
Medical waiting rooms are scary, sometimes lonely places. We might be at our most vulnerable, whether we are the patient or the support person — the one who feels as though their heart walks out of their own body.
Chances are, we will all spend a few minutes in these environments. Or someone we love will. All of us.
Wouldn’t it be nice to receive some personal kindness, during these moments? Some reassurance?
So yes, that’s my big idea today. I am not sure what happens next, but I would love to read what you think about it.
Today, I invite you to dare to send your mind on a little walk when your heart asks to be the boss for a bit. I invite you to risk being turned down or worse, ridiculed when you know that doing nothing would be cutting off a part of you.
I invite you to write back to me and let me know your thoughts about this idea that has been turning round and round in my head.
Wishing you a lovely day,