Deep within the hospital at which I receive the majority of my care, there’s a hallway featuring terracotta plaques bearing the names of individuals and organizations who/that donated to a fundraising campaign sometime in the 1980s or 1990s. The exact date slips my memory, but the style of the installation suggests that it wasn’t in the last, say, thirty years.
I’ve spent many weeks—cumulative months, and months—as an inpatient in this hospital’s neurology ward, and over the years, I’ve developed an exercise route that can be executed during the short stretches allowed off the unit. Whatever friend or family member happens to be visiting is dragged with me on this cardiovascular miniworkout: elevator to the first-floor lobby, brisk walk to the end of a long corridor to purchase a coffee from the Second Cup, speed walk back to the lobby, elevator to the second floor to visit the terracotta. It’s then usually time to return to the fifth floor in order to deposit myself in bed.
When I had intercranial grids implanted last year, I wasn’t allowed to leave my room at all, for reasons that are likely obvious. Not that I would have ventured far if I’d be given the choice to do so—normally while in the hospital for monitoring, I’m more or less healthy and thus bored, stiff, and eager for any and all stimulation. With a fresh craniotomy and electrodes placed underneath it, on the other hand, I was in pain unlike any I’d ever experienced and ready to throw up at the least provocation (TMI, sorry). It was only when I was about to be discharged that I realized that I hadn’t seen the terracotta since my admission. Granted, I hadn’t seen much of anything, but my battered brain was struck enough by the thought of having endured a lengthy hospitalization without regular pilgrimages to the terracotta that I made a note in a small journal that I recently found (an embarrassing, but enlightening, record of a, um, remarkable period of my life).
Have not gone to clay on wall. Still there? Must confirm.
I was at the hospital yesterday for an appointment, and, as I often do when I have a little time to kill before seeing my specialist, I grabbed a coffee and meandered to the second floor. I was pleased to verify that the terracotta installation was, as it is every time I check, on the wall. Taking a few minutes to look at some of the individual names, my eyes were drawn to one in particular: “A Grateful Patient.”