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The Jaded Eye
Come as you are
by Gerry Ayers
 

My ears picked up what the doctors were saying in the hallway outside my room. “Single male, good vitals, colon cancer surgery, little to no visitation.”
A day later, one of the surgeons spoke to me about it. “Our staff has noticed you aren't getting any visitors,” he said to me with concern. “We encourage patients having family and friends here during their recovery period.”
My “game plan” — aka strategic maneuvers — was a complete change about for the 2016 cancer surgery than the 2015 stroke episode. Actually, I should name them like tropical storms.
During the stroke stay, the floodgates were opened and I could have sold tickets to get into my room. Dealing with the bout with cancer was another story altogether. I would have shunned the Pope or President if they tried to find me!
Let me explain, so it makes things logical when and if you have to make a hospital visit to someone you care about. Let me give you a feel of what they might be feeling, and then both of you can decide whether a visit is beneficial or not.
Miles can mean the difference. My stroke treatment was done at Susquehanna Health — thus only minutes from my neighborhood and in turn, most family and friends and coworkers. That made it much easier for them to come and see me.
And see me they did. One evening, my hospital room resembled a garage band ready to perform in front of a widely varied audience. Older people, younger people, laborers, students, retirees, male and female. They needed to borrow extra chairs from other rooms to accommodate my “fan club.”
It got so packed and rowdy at one point that we had to “divert” some visitors to meet and treat my roommate who was in much worse shape than me. He had only one leg and was suffering from complications from diabetes. His family was several hours away.
We quickly took care of that! The youngsters sang and played games with him. The older people shared prayers with him. Someone even slipped him some contraband…in the form of a cookie or two! He had a smile like a crocodile.
At that stage in the race, I even requested visitors. I wanted to hear motivating words from Jeff Rauff who had recovered from a bicycle accident. I called in my tennis students to toss me balls at night in the hallway to hit. I met with the roving priest to see what God had in store for me. 
Surprise visitors kept coming. Steve and Laurie Wilson, owners/operators of the West Branch Tennis Club came by to relive some great moments. Ron Weaver brought over home made chili and brownies because he knew I was tiring of hospital food. Gary Quigley, a coworker, stayed two hours one cold evening and pushed me up and down the hall as if his life depended on it! The support and visits were awesome.
But as they say on TV, “Now for something completely different.”
Cancer takes incredible amounts of energy away from you. Many days I could only whisper due to pain and exhaustion. Some days, I could only write on a note pad. Thus, I needed every ounce of me to focus and regain strength. To do this, visitors were shunned. I even told my parents to hold off on certain days.
Not that some didn't try. Erica Logan, a tennis pal and workout partner, texted me one morning and asked to come see me. I was feeling a bit better and told her to do it, giving her my floor and room number.
Around 5:30 p.m. she called and said she was at the front desk but they had no record of me being admitted. “Well, guess what,” I told her. “I'm in their bed right now with a dozen tubes running out of me. I didn't admit myself into this place!” 
So she went to the seventh floor nurses station and wanted to confirm my room number with that crew. Again, no luck.
I asked Erica how long it took her to get to the hospital from work. She said 15 minutes. Hmmm. Of course. She was at Susquehanna, and I was at Geisinger! Oh well, she tried!
As I mentioned, travel time. Geisinger was much further away, which eliminated many people from being able to come and see me. No matter. I weighed less than a kitchen table and the legs of one resembled mine. I didn't want people to see me this way. It's also hard to smile with a tube up your nose, a drain tube out your stomach, and a catheter pinching your privates. 
And that is why I told the good doctors at Geisinger why I had no visitors. I kept them at bay on purpose. Ironic that during the stroke the visitors helped. Now, it was a hindrance to recovery. I needed to funnel precious energy into other things instead of conversation and mental telepathy. 
Another facet. During the stroke I was alert and took no medication. None. During the cancer surgery I was on medication and painkillers. I couldn't concentrate enough for a game of checkers! I also was on a liquid diet for many days. I got to munch on ice chips. Add this all up, and I doubt you'd be a cordial host either! 
One night the Vuocolo girls, Lauren and Melina, were scheduled to come by and lift my spirits. Both soft spoken, but charming to no end, they would have given my stale room some vigor. But alas, a thunderstorm or another commitment made them cancel. There are others who tried. Some made it and some didn't, and I did my best while they were there. It must be noted — parking spots at Geisinger are always at a premium!
I am healthy again now, but must report there aren't many visitors lately. My bachelor pad can't accommodate 30 to 40 jet setters at a time, there is no jumbo screen TV, no bartender on the premises and no deck side jacuzzi. The hospital didn't feature these, yet people wanted to see me in droves. Go figure.
What I'm telling you is try to visit people before they enter a hospital. And remember what I said about energy levels and moods. Check visitation hours before you head out. Each patient deals with his illness and visitors in a different way. Don't get upset if they are drowsy or downtrodden. This happens.
Some rooms during my various stays at Hilton north or Marriot south resembled grand central station. Others, a morgue. Oh jeez, I didn't mean that. Uh, how about, an empty closet. That's better, although not by much.
Whoever you visit, it must be said to come as you are. No special outfits or helicopter landings, or secret service. Unless of course, the Pope and President do come calling on you…

 
 
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