This afternoon, I visited a sick friend in the hospital.
I picked up a get-well-soon balloon along the way. My friend had knee replacement surgery, so she will get well soon, with the help of good hospital help, rehab, pain meds and some time off from her job.
It wasn't easy finding my friend. The hospital lobby is under construction. Not-very-helpful signs point out the way to patient rooms. It took me awhile before I figured out "hospital access" with an arrow meant "go this way to find your sick friend." When I finally did, and located the information desk, I found a sign on the desk that read: "Be back in a few minutes."
My balloon and I found a seat. A nice gentleman came over and asked if he could help.
"I'm looking for a sick friend."
"Do you know what room she's in?"
I could have said, "If I knew which room she was in, my balloon and I wouldn't be there." Instead, I said, "No."
"The lady at the desk will be back in a few minutes," he said.
"I guess I'll wait."
I waited. Picked up the newspaper. Read a few lines. I looked up and saw my Syrian cardiologist. I stood, asked him how he was doing. He said fine. He asked me how I was. He had performed implant surgery on me last July. I was feeling fit as a fiddle.
"Fine," I said.
"You look good," he said. "What are you doing here?"
"Visiting a sick friend," I replied. Then I added: "Better visiting a patient than being a patient."
"Yes," he said, gradually drawing away from me to resume his spot in the traffic flow. I waved farewell with my right arm, the opposite arm from the side of my implant. I thought I felt the machinery ticking away in its little pouch between my skin's layers.
I sat. The info desk woman returned. She asked if she could help me. I gave her the name of my sick friend. "Oh," she said with a nod, as if I was the umpteenth person to visit this person. She read off the room number. She told me to follow her to the elevators. I did. When I reached the fourth floor, I looked around for signs with the proper numbers, but they were all wrong. I must have looked confused because a nice middle-aged woman wearing a badge came to my rescue. I told her the room number. "Follow me," she said.
She led me to the opposite side of the fourth floor. She pointed at the room in the corner. "That's it," she said. I adjusted my balloon and made a beeline for the room. I was on the same floor where I rehabbed from my heart attack, the follow-up stent and, later, the implant. After my heart attack, I walked these halls with help from a nurse or from my wife Chris. I was weak as a kitten. Scared too. In the beginning, we walked one circuit. Later, I was able to do two or three. Now I could walk dozens, I suppose, if I felt like it. I'm a bit winded sometimes, and not running any marathons, but I do feel good. People sometimes comment that I look good. When they say this, I think that I must have looked horrid back in 2013. Sickly. Pale. Weak.
"You look good Mike."
"Thanks. You look good too."
I remember the looks on visitors' face that said, "Gosh, Mike, you look like shit."
I was too sick to argue.
I am closing in on my sick friend's room, balloon bobbing in my wake. A nurse precedes me into the room. She carries knee rehab equipment. I can see my friend's husband on the couch. I can see the foot of my friend's bed. I see the bedside table with its water bottle and high hopes. My balloon and I are inside the door and I say "Anybody home?"
She looks at me. Her look is slightly unfocused, but she looks good, she really does. And that's what I tell her, my sick friend in the hospital.
You look good.