I extend the ID badge dangling on my chest and plant it firmly on the black box in front of me. It’s attached to my white coat by stretchy-cord thing which makes it easy to get in and out of restricted areas without actually having to remove it entirely– the perfect contraption.
I thrust the doors open and dive into the familiar smell of the hospital wing. There are large windows all along the hallways facing east. You can see the pink hue of a fading sun hiding on the other side of the building. This is no time for sight-seeing though. Right now I have only one goal in mind and like a falcon whose decided on the fattest, slowest rodent to glide upon so I have I committed to my own goal–get out of the hospital.
That’s right, my shift is over. A whole day analyzing lab values, typing documents and answering pages has past by. Now I all I have is the few hours after work that I humbly call my own. Time during which I can choose to either nap like an overfed house cat after a bowl of Kibbles or catch up on topics that I’ll likely come across in the hospital again.
As I’m walking by I see the shape of a familiar patient, one who has spent the past several months roaming the corridors. He is as much a part of this place as the beams that hold up the walls–truly. A long time ago this hospital was ran by men and women devoted to God and they would turn away no one in need of help. In an age where we are considered “providers” over doctors; where profit margins and insurance companies compete with quality of care in deciding which direction we move in, this is a testament to a dying kind of medicine. This man would otherwise have nowhere to go–I nod him a hello and continue onto the elevators that will descend into the bowels of the hospital, closer to the exit and out into the breathing world.
There’s a large banner that comes into view as the sliding doors come to a close. My stomach lifts higher into my chest as this concrete box held by cables propels downward. I try to find something new to look at–eight months in this place means hundreds of elevator rides and so I’ve memorized the contours of this box all too well. The numbers light up in descending order and I wonder if I’ll make it to the lobby without having to stop. The bell rings at floor three.
In steps a familiar face wearing bright green scrubs. There are no strangers in this place now. In fact it feels like home. I suppose that’s a good thing, or an unfortunate thing depending on your level of optimism. Never the less we all spend a ton of time in this place–it’s bound to feel like something.
The elevator stops again and my stomach comes crashing down into my abdomen. I step outside into the lobby and speed walk pass the water fountain that people see first when entering. Why do all hospitals have water fountains… I take a sharp left at the Subway and walk towards the resident’s lounge. I think briefly about how many “turkey on honey oat bread with everything and honey mustard”s I’ve eaten and then quickly stop after a number far to high to be comfortable with pops into my head.
I pull the ID badge on the strechy-cord thing and enter. My coat and bag are in the far end of the lounge, I take a few large lunges towards them and throw them on with magnificent speed. I push the door wide open and now there is only one hundred feet between me and the revolving doors barricading myself from complete and utter freedom.
These few minutes are good–incredible actually. I walk slow, almost to savor its appeal. It reminds of younger days after a game of basketball on a summer day, standing on the edge of a giant blue pool thinking briefly how amazing it’s going to feel. Or when you’ve been waiting an unreasonably long time at that really good restaurant–you’re with your friends and no one is talking anymore because they’re just so hungry. You hear doors slam open and out comes the waiter hoisting a giant black tray with steam hovering over it that you know is yours.
50 feet away. This is going to be great.
25 feet away. I can already smell the air.