Christmas at the Hospital

Three years ago today, I was admitted to UCI Hospital and given an emergency blood transfusion. The last time I was hospitalized, I was in labor with my son. He is now 35. This post is not really about that time in my life, I only noticed the date when I was looking at my laptop, deciding on what to write about. It’s amazing though how time flies and how far I have come since that day.

I wanted to write about how I spent my Christmas this year. I am not a religious person, so the Christmas holiday for me is not about the birth of Jesus. I also don’t go for the idea of shopping myself into financial ruin in order to buy everyone I ever met the ‘perfect” Christmas gift. I have everything I need to live comfortably and most important I am healthy.

So for me, I like volunteering at the infusion center at UCI. There are no volunteers working there during the two-week holiday. I don’t have to be there either but I enjoy it. My job this year was to hand out Christmas gifts to patients getting treatment; knit hats, scarves, and book bags made by other volunteers specifically for our cancer patients. I even persuaded my friend, Bob, another volunteer and stage four cancer survivor, to help me out.

Bob helped take care of me when I was sick. I have a special bond with him. Actually, he helps me every Wednesday afternoon when he is finished helping out his doctor on another floor, so it wasn’t that hard to get him to join me Christmas eve.

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This is me and Bob making our Christmas faces. I have a friend who told me that she doesn’t have one single picture of me making a normal face — like smiling. I like making faces for the camera. Its hard to find people who will make faces with me. Bob is good that way. I am so lucky to have Bob as my friend.

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One of the patients who snagged a private room brought Christmas with her. You can’t see them in the picture (to ensure her privacy) but her friends were there along with food and presents to celebrate. People are so smart. Christmas can be anywhere you want.

We gave all the presents out and I think the patients were happy. That made me happy.

But before I left the hospital, I ran into a patient’s mom in the parking lot. I met the patient and his mom a few times before and I knew he was currently an inpatient. He was in ICU and it didn’t look good. His mom was upset that the hospital refused to allow him out for a few hours so he could eat Christmas dinner with the family. She was convinced he would feel better if he could be home.  I knew he was in no shape to be released. It broke my heart to see his mom so upset. Being a mom myself , I can’t imagine the pain this woman must have felt. I wondered though, if she knew how grave his situation was or was she in denial in order to cope with the situation. I never know what to say in those circumstances except that I am sorry.

I will admit, that part of my volunteering sucks.  And that’s when my Buddhist practice comes in handy. Nothing and no one is here forever. Its about impermanence. I do know that the short time I spent with that patient, I did my best to “water his seeds of happiness.”

I hope your Christmas or whatever you chose to celebrate or not celebrate, was happy.

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Sat Nam,

Inge

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