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Texas | Columns | "Wandering"

Room with a 'Boo!'

by Wanda Orton
Wanda Orton

After a while, the cancer patient found it annoying.

If her door were open, passers-by in the hospital hallway would gape, and she didn't care for all that attention from complete strangers.

On the other hand, whenever possible, she liked keeping her door open.

So what to do? Complain to the nurses?

No doubt they'd come up with an obvious solution - such as keeping the door closed. Gawkers, be gone!

Or, there could be another solution, one in which the patient could retain her open-door policy.

After giving it some thought, she instructed her teen-age daughter to inspect old Halloween costumes, stored away in a home closet, and bring her a few of the scariest, ugliest masks she could find.

"But Mom ..."

"Don't ask."

Furthermore, for the sake of convenience, she told her daughter to put the masks in the top drawer of her hospital bedside table.

By now, you see where this story is going. The next time hospital visitors strolled by and paused to gaze upon the bed-ridden, it was not a long pause. That was no oxygen mask they just saw.

The patient found their astonishment downright laughable and a welcomed diversion from what ailed her - the not-so-funny reason for being in the hospital.

She had to work quickly, donning a mask as she heard people approaching, and sometimes she misjudged. Sometimes, a real visitor - a real friend -- would be coming to see her.

"How are you feeling today?" her visitor would ask.

"Fine."

"Uh .. You're looking good "

And then the patient and friend, plus a nurse standing by to check vital signs, would burst out laughing.

"Her sense of humor seems to be slightly above normal today," the nurse in the white-starched uniform would say, briskly noting her temperature on a chart.

OK, so I made up that scene, but the story of the patient wearing a Halloween mask to startle curious passers-by is true. It happened in the early 1950s in Baytown at the original San Jacinto Memorial Hospital on Decker Drive.

Many changes have been made since then. The old hospital stands empty on Decker, the Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital treats patients at the sizable medical complex on Garth, and nurses no longer wear white-starched uniforms.

One thing that never will change, though, is the need for a sense of humor no matter where the hospital or how curious the visitors down the hall.

Boo!


Wanda Orton
Baytown Sun Columnist
"Wandering" June 13, 2015 columns

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