Rather than go trick-or-treating this year, I thought it would be more fun to get my appendix taken out. I’ve never been one to pass up a good time. I came crawling into the emergency room (pretty literally) at 5:30 on Halloween after spending four torturous hours on the bathroom floor desperately trying to keep that awful Natalie Imbruglia song “Torn” out of my head and an hour at the walk-in clinic doing everything in my power to remain upright and not moan like a dying a whale. By the time I made it to the ER, I looked like a cross between the Hunchback of Notre Dame and a disgruntled zombie. Halloween nailed, no costume necessary.
Expecting to see large lines of people nearly beating down the doors to be seen (surely there were infinite pumpkin-related mishaps on Halloween, right?), I was surprised to walk into an empty lobby. Sign A of the good times to come.
I know that sounds sarcastic, because after all, I was at the hospital on Halloween with half of my stomach practically ripped off my body and no candy in sight, but I say that in all seriousness. Given the circumstances, I had a great experience with my surgery.
The first nurse I had was chipper and started making jokes right off the bat. Had I not been trying to keep my insides from spontaneously combusting, I would’ve had a blast talking to her. She was open and honest about how things would go, and she told me about personal experiences she had had undergoing similar procedures.
When she transferred me from my room in the ER to my suite in the surgery ward, she smashed my bed into the wall. Luckily we were all prepared for this as she had warned us about her poor driving skills before we embarked on the journey. This seemed to be a theme of my time at the hospital. When I was wheeled from my room to surgery, a different nurse also banged me into the wall.
“There is no driving course in medical school,” she joked. “Plus it’s 6:00 in the morning,” my boyfriend offered.
Every person I worked with was insanely caring. My ER doctor, after telling me my appendix looked only slightly atrocious on the CT scan, squeezed my foot, looked me straight in the eye, and promised, “We’re going to get you feeling better.”
A med student just starting out was so gentle and attentive to me, changing my ice packs and taking my temperature with a shaking hand he was so nervous about doing things just right. He continuously asked if I needed anything and thanked me every time he left the room. These are just a few of the examples of the many people who made my Halloween emergency as comfortable as possible.
Every doctor, nurse, technician, surgeon, and passerby made me feel as though I were their only patient, their highest priority, someone special. Perhaps you could argue that this is their job, but I would imagine you would be hard pressed to find “act with love” actually written anywhere in their contract.
Even at the hospital, I found myself filled with gratitude. I was so grateful for all of the wonderful people who were doing all they could to make me feel better – even the doctor dressed like a mechanic who joked about using a hammer instead of her stethoscope. I was grateful for having a hospital room with its own private bathroom and lots of warm blankets.
I was grateful for my mom and my boyfriend for being by my side through the whole ordeal, and for my boyfriend’s parents for stopping by so late on Halloween to squeeze my hand and offer me relief and consolation. I was grateful for my mom and his mom coming back at an unholy hour to support me while I was in surgery. And I was grateful for every moment in between.
Sing it with me, people: G-R-A-T-I-T-U-D-E. It’s like the lesser known, not quite as catchy version of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” We’ll call it the refrain. Gratitude is the new name of the game. It would have been easy to feel sorry for myself. Who, after all, delights in going to the hospital and having body parts removed? Especially on a holiday celebrated by candy, Reese’s pumpkins, and more candy?
It’s the times when things look the worst that the universe is inviting you to stop, drop, and get grateful. Even in the midst of darkness, we are surrounded by light – IF we take the time to look for it.
There are a thousand things around us at any given moment that we can be thankful for. The rusty car with its bumper dragging on the ground behind it that still manages to get us from place to place.
The guys who invented peanut butter because that’s more than half of my food intake for the year. The sweatshirt on our backs. When we are grateful in our times of need, things really don’t look so bad. Yes I was going to the hospital and leaving with fewer body parts than when I started, but I was grateful that after a while, this really was going to make me feel better.
Yes my cat jumped on my stomach the second I got home from my spontaneous appendix removal, but she licked me a little bit afterward to say she was sorry. There is always something good in the bad, and it is worth searching for. It raises your spirits, it raises your energy level, and it raises the level of vibrations you are putting out into the universe.
The universe, in return, sends that same level of vibrations right back to you – in the form of positivity, experiences, shaky-handed med students, and hammer-wielding doctors. It is truly a game changer, and a practice you can implement absolutely anywhere. Most important, though, is to find gratitude in the places you feel the most unlucky.
The next time you’re at the hospital saying sayonara to your gall bladder or right pinky toe, look around and find five things you’re grateful for. I bet you if you try hard enough, they’re there.
So I didn’t quite have the Halloween I had pictured in my head. And I still have yet to eat a piece of candy. I’m pretty sure by the time I’m ready for any it will all be gone. But I am thankful for the many people who made me feel loved during my surgery and for the chance to slow down, stop, and get grateful.
Image from positivepsychologyprogram.com