An Open Letter To The Sharp Memorial Hospital Team

Dear Sharp Memorial Crew,

First off, let me say Thank You to everyone with whom I came into contact at your facility.  You were all smiles.  You cared, and it showed.  I was a 41 year old surgery virgin, and you were all gentle and sweet.  And also HILARIOUS!  I love you all.  Thank you.

It’s funny, but I thought this was going to be easy to write, but I find I’m having trouble finding the right words.  I guess I’ll defer to my usual style, which is organized chaos.

sharpexperience I thought I understood “The Sharp Experience.”  I was wrong.  You all completely blew my expectations out of the water, and made what could have been the most stressful experience of my life into an absolute pleasure.  No joke.  I spent about 29 hours with you all between Friday morning and Saturday afternoon, and you exceeded ALL of my expectations.  Everyone I met was friendly, smiling, and willing to help.  All completely professional, of course, but still willing to crack a joke and laugh with me.

Unfortunately, I can’t remember everyone’s name that I met.  I wish I could.  They all deserve individual credit, so feel free to contact me and we’ll track them down.  I can tell you that everyone was great.  Literally EVERYONE.  I don’t know anyone’s last name, so you’ll have to figure that out.  Here are a few standouts:

Cara in the SPA was SUPER friendly.  What a delight.  She really helped make the waiting bearable.

phlebotomistBlood-taker girl with tattoos who was also in the SPA – Only saw her twice I think, but both times she was great.  Memorably so.  Made me smile both times.  If she needs any more of my blood she knows where to find me.  With how gentle she was both times, she could be taking it right now and I wouldn’t even know.

MJ – Wow.  What can I say about MJ.  She was my RN the first night in the hospital.  Incredibly patient with me.  Was there every time I needed her.  We walked around the floor.  She got me jello after jello.  Helped me with all my meds.  Took me off the IV as soon as it was feasible (FREEDOM!).  Adjusting the bed.  MJ is awesome.  Special thanks to her.  I was so out of it during much of my time with her that I can’t remember a lot of the details.  What I do remember is an overwhelming sense that I was completely safe and cared for during this time. (EDIT:  So I was originally done and going to publish this letter, but upon re-reading it I wanted to write more nice things about MJ.  I know she was a former traveler who just recently started at Sharp Memorial full-time.  Sharp, you scored BIG TIME with this one.  MJ, just keep doing what you’re doing.  You’re awesome.  HOORAY FOR MJ!)

Dawit, my man.  Thanks for the stroll around the floor.  And for collecting and measuring my pee.  It smelled terrible, but you were a champ.

feast-2JUANITA!  OH JUANITA! Let me tell you a story.  It starts with a hungry boy, post throat and spine surgery.  It ends with custom meals handcrafted with love to ensure I could actually eat it.  Chicken cut up into tiny pieces.  SHE LITERALLY CUT UP A PIECE OF FRIED CHICKEN INTO TINY LITTLE SLIVERS OF AWESOMENESS so that my recently intubated and slit open throat could eat them.  Was that all?  OF COURSE NOT!  She then gave me a bowl of warm chicken broth so I could dip these chicken pieces and get them soggy enough to swallow.

She is freaking incredible.  Extra applesauce.  Apple juice.  Scrambled eggs cut up into tiny bite sized pieces.  Lactose free milk.  Hot cocoa.  Juanita went so far out of her way to make sure I was happy that I don’t even have the words to describe how big of a difference she made.  Thank you, Juanita.  I ate food besides jello solely because of you. (EDIT:  I am STILL telling people about Juanita 5 days after I left the hospital.  Woot!)

Renea.  My dear Renea.  Who wandered the halls and storage areas hunting for ever more jello for me (and finding it!).  I was already starting to feel better when we met, but you ensured my spirits remained high and I’d be ready to check out as soon as possible.  I say “check out” instead of discharged because I felt more like I was in a fancy hotel instead of a hospital. Renea, who never ONCE corrected me when I called her Renee.  I still think your shoes are cool.

anesthesiaObviously I’d like to thanks my anesthesiologist Dr. Fowler (I think I spelled that correctly?) who did an awesome job and didn’t leave me in that half-life you see in the movies where you can’t move during surgery but you’re still totally awake and able to see and feel everything that’s going on.  That would have been awful.  Instead I drifted gently off to sleep and woke up with no problems.  I have no memory of the recovery room following surgery.  Keep kicking butt, Doc!

nmc-logo-printDr. Ostrup.  My neurosurgeon.  The man who ripped out pieces of my spine with his bare hands, power tools, and force of will, then replaced it with robot parts.  BEEP BOOP THANK YOU FELLOW HUMAN.  Seriously though, Thanks for everything.  You took the time to answer all of my questions using small, simple words I could understand.  Like “Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion” and “Coffee.”  Your calm demeanor and nonchalant attitude really helped me relax in the days leading up to the procedure.  I hope you carved your initials into one of my vertebrae.  You deserve it.

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Day after surgery – still in hospital

There were so many others who deserve mention and I’ll blame a naturally poor memory mixed with a variety of pain medications on my forgetfulness, but we should be able to identify them here:  My three “shower girls” who came in and changed my sheets and towels, set up the bathroom for a hot shower, gave me instructions on how to do it without re-injuring myself, and were all smiles and happiness.  You all were great and had me constantly laughing and smiling.  My Occupational Therapist (Nancy?) who made sure I knew how to dress myself without falling on my face, and who shared some personal stories of success that made me feel better about my own situation.  My Physical Therapist who walked with me around the floor and was stunned by my mobility.  HAH!  Jokes on you.  MJ and I were walking around the floor all night long.  I couldn’t sleep anyway, might as well check some boxes off the board!  The two Charge Nurses (night and day) who stopped to chat and ask how I was doing during my walks around the floor.  Thanks for your concern!  All the nurses at the desks who smiled when I walked by.  Every smile is a bit of happiness you can share.  Carlos, thanks for the smooth wheelchair ride to the door when I was dischargedIf I forgot anyone, I’m sorry.  Your contribution was significant, and you too are appreciated.  And I suppose a special Thank You to someone I’ve never met but who had an equally important role to play: The Jello Stocker.  Thank you.  You brought more happiness to me during this experience than I can possibly express in words.  Jello is life.  Jello is love.

And what can I say about The Hotel Del Sharp Memorial.  They did everything right. Comfortable single rooms.  Comfortable beds.  Incredible food.  Super friendly everybody.  Awesome views.  This was a luxury experience.

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I have to keep coming back to the staff here.  Sharp clearly has incredible hiring practices.  This one deserves another mention.  Whoever is in charge of hiring the people with whom I interacted should be invited to the pizza party you’re going to throw for everyone on my floor.  I’m not joking.  Pizza Party.  Or, you know, whatever kind of awesomely catered food and party these people want.  Do it.  They deserve it.  Also, big raises, their own ponies, some kind of monogrammed scrubs that say BEST TEAM EVER, probably a tiara of some kind, and a series of crisp high-fives.

OH!  You know what? I thought of one critique.  One tiny space for improvement.  In the private bathroom in my private room, with my private view of the sunrise, the toilet paper rolls were a little low.  A bit hard to reach.  There.  That’s it.  Could you raise them up about a foot?  That would be awesome.  Thanks!

But the most important thing, to me, while in the hospital for what was my very first surgery (nearly 42 years old!) was this:  I never once felt afraid.  Nervous before the surgery, sure!  But I always felt safe, and surrounded by confident, knowledgeable people who could handle anything my broken down body could throw at them.  Except my jokes, which were apparently too painful to take. 🙂

Thank you all.

Kind Regards,
Humble Dave

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It’s Nice to be Nice

This isn’t some mushy blog post about how being nice to people makes you feel good (it does, btw).  It also isn’t some philosophical mumbo-jumbo about the nature of the Universe.  This is about complete and total self-interest, that also happens to help other people.  Being nice offers real, tangible benefits for you, as well as intangible benefits for others.  But since this post is about complete and total self-interest, we’re going to ignore the benefits to others (for now.  But really, if you’ve read any of my other blog posts you know that my style tends to be a bit…bouncy.  Just because I start somewhere doesn’t mean I end up where we’d expect).

So what the heck am I talking about, and how could being nice help me?  Tangibly (Huh.  I wasn’t entirely sure that was a word.  I’m always pleasantly surprised when an uncertain word comes back without the “red line” beneath it.  Today is going to be a good day! Where was I?  Right.  Tangibly.).  I need an MRI for my neck (why?), and scheduling of such a thing can take weeks and weeks.  Now, “weeks” when you’re in pain is a long time.  I don’t want to wait weeks.  So I call on Tuesday and talk to the scheduler (Carrie).  I am super nice and upbeat.  Cheery, even.  I schmoozed her.  But I’ve got to be honest: Carrie was awesome.   Sure, she started out gruff and all professional.  The old “Let’s get this done, I have a million other patients to deal with” attitude.  Can’t blame her!  I was on hold for 10 minutes waiting for help.  They’re ALWAYS busy.  But in the face of my cheery self she loosens up and finds me a date of March 1st.  No, sorry, there’s no cancellation list where they’ll call you if someone else cancels.  I should call back every morning to check.  No problem, Carrie, thanks so much for your help!  Seriously, a week and a half isn’t too bad! Not what I wanted, but C’est la vie.

And that’s where the benefits start kicking in.  Because you know what?  People WANT to help people who make them feel good.  Because that ALSO feels good (yup, already made the first sentence of this post into a lie.  Deal with it.).  So anyway, Carrie says, “You know what?  I’ll keep your name and number next to me here for the rest of the day and if someone cancels I’ll give you a call.”  Carrie’s the best.  We hang up and frankly, I’m not expecting any calls.  Come on, she’s busy!

smile loud

About 15 minutes later my phone rings.  It’s Carrie, laughing because literally the call right after mine was a cancellation, and do I want to come in on the 27th.  Heck yeah I do!  Lots of thanks and emphasis that she is appreciated.  Boom, I’m in 2 days earlier (remember, when you’re in pain every day is an eternity.  So technically, I’m 2 eternities better off!).  Life is good!  Also, she’s feeling great because her normally “standard” day is suddenly just a tiny bit different, and better.  I could hear the smile on her face.  It felt great.

Anyway, I’m going about my business when about an hour later my phone rings again.  It’s Carrie!  HI CARRIE!  She just had another cancellation and do I want it?  It’s for the 22nd, this Thursday (now today, as I’m writing this).  HECK YEAH I WANT IT!  THANKS CARRIE; YOU’RE THE BEST!  Bi-directional happiness ensues.

So what did we learn?  Being nice to people has tangible benefits.  I get my MRI a full week earlier, which means I can make my neurosurgery appointment earlier.  Which means we can solve my neck problems sooner.  Which would be so awesome.  So, so awesome.

And this isn’t my only story.  These go on and on.  In another soon-to-be- written post you’ll read about how being nice via email to customer service reps can help fix your gross stupidity in letting airline ticket vouchers expire a month before you tried to use them (Sorry Dad.  You were right, I was wrong.  You’re smart, and I’m dumb.  You’re very good looking, and I’m not good looking at all.  Fortunately, we’re all good now!).

I know some people are reading this and saying, “He’s only faking being nice to get something.”  To that I respond: That’s not true.  I’m a nice person most of the time.  But regardless, IT DOESN’T MATTER.  If you act nice, you are nice.  Nobody knows what’s in your head.  You could be thinking about horrible, terrible things.  Nobody is affected by what’s in your head; people only know you by the actions you take.  BE NICE.  If you won’t listen to me, listen to the late, great, Patrick Swayze.

be nice

How will you know when it’s time to not be nice?  You won’t, Dalton will tell you.  Also, if you don’t know this quote, then go watch Roadhouse.  That movie is amazing.  But seriously, just be nice all the time.  My mom has similar wisdom, “Kill them with kindness.”  Be nice.

Thanks for reading!  And since you’re all awesome, I know you’ll share that awesomeness with everyone else (see what I did there?  I was nice, and now you want to tell people about my blog!  Seriously, tell people about my blog.).

Living the Dream,
Humble Dave