This Side of the Waiting Room


A friend of mine got the news that her daughter had a heart defect that would require open heart surgery. The anticipation of the three weeks between diagnosis and surgery must have been excrutiating. On the day of surgery, I sat in the waiting room at CHOA with her and friends. I have been in many hospital waiting rooms over the years, both as a friend or family member and as a nurse. Neither side of that is fun. Sitting there yesterday, I watched as nurses and doctors came and went. CHOA knows how to take care of kids. CHOA at Egleston is the heart center for the southeast, and it is an impressive machine.

There is no detail too small. My friend had spent an entire day of pre op preparation with the cardiac team for this important procedure! While we waited in the waiting room to hear news from the operating room, I noticed the tense faces of those present. No one knows what thoughts are passing through the minds of those sitting even right beside you. The worries are written pretty clearly on the faces though. We saw parents caring for many children. Some of those children unable to even speak due to their disabilities. A pair of friendly clowns made an appearance. They were there for probably 15 or 20 minutes. The somber looks of every person in that room was transformed by the antics of these two volunteers. They engaged with a toddler who ended up in complete belly laugh exhaustion. They left me and every adult in that room smiling. I thought, this is one detail. There are so many others that will make each of these patients’ visits better. Details that will let parents know that their child will receive the best possible care.

I sat there with a unique perspective. I worked as Pediatric ICU nurse for 3 years after graduating from nursing school. I cared for many critically ill or injured children. As I sat waiting on news about my friend’s daughter, I heard a “Code Blue” called. My eyes welled full of tears and my heart tightened. Later, my friend asked me if I missed working as a nurse. I wish I could say yes. I just don’t know if I could do it anymore. That Code Blue call reduced me to a puddle. I imagined that sweet child lying in that bed that required that call to action. I imagined his/her momma and daddy sitting anxiously nearby in their own waiting room. They many not have even been aware that call was for their child. What was my first response to that call? Fervent prayer. I’m afraid that I would lapse into prayer with each code called. That has become my first response for what worries me most about my own children.

Today I am grateful that my friend’s daughter is recovering well due to the many details that CHOA sees to. Here are few people who they encountered while she was there: the valet attendant, the front desk attendant, the waiting room attendant, the anesthesiologist, the cardiac surgeon(Dr Kurt Kanter), the cardiac surgery fellow, the many residents and medical students involved, the OR nurses , the ICU nurses. and later the respiratory therapists and step down unit nurses. They all worked hard to care for that sweet girl and to keep my friend updated during the long procedure. I am grateful for the incredible skill and knowledge that team has. If I ever go back to nursing, I would want to be part of that team again. Finally, a big thank you the clowns. They really showed that every detail counts.

About Debbie

I have been married for 20 years to a Yankee, have two great kids, a fun and funny Southern family, and a whole bunch of friends. I try to enjoy the journey!
This entry was posted in Family and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to This Side of the Waiting Room

  1. Diane says:

    Praying for your friend’s daughter and her entire family. Glad to hear she is on the mend, as Heidi said.

    Having just been with my niece at CHOA this week with her 11-day old baby who has developed RSV (he is still there) and having made numerous ER visits and two hospital stays there with my own children, I can attest to the compassion and excellent care the children and their parents receive from the staff at this great facility. I just cannot say enough good things about them.

    I have the greatest respect for those doctors, nurses and staff who work so hard to care for children who are so sick and fragile. It must take just the strongest of hearts and a passion that is truly deep to do so. God bless them and you for doing your part those years you did.

    Thanks for sharing. ?

  2. Katybeth says:

    Sounds like the clowns and team of wonderful, skilled compassionate people are just the people to help mend a child’s heart.

    Sending love and light to your friends daughter…and gratefulness for the people who work so hard keeping our loved one’s well.

    • Debbie says:

      Thank you Kathbeth! The best part is that our patient has a heart as big as the state of GA! She is healthy and healing well:)

  3. Heidi says:

    I am so happy to hear your daughter’s friend is on the mend! I stopped working on the PICU floor years ago when I had my own children. I just kept imagining my boys in those beds and it was too much for my heart too Deb.

    • Debbie says:

      Thanks Heidi! I think I would be more compassionate now, but it would be personally too much for me.