When Going to the Hospital, Consider Bringing a Lamp

If you were going to be in a room for a good period of time, you would want something more welcoming than a harsh overhead light and bare walls.

In the spring of 2003, the room where I would spend time was in Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Medical business demanded attention, but so did interior design, and my sister and I got to work on the room after doing what needed to be done to start getting rid of that nasty leukemia.

The first order of business was a short outpatient procedure for insertion of a Hickman catheter into my chest; I would receive chemotherapy and medicine in one of the two tubes. Blood draws for testing would come out of the other.

At night after I was done, my sister and I took a walk. We gazed at the fountain next to the Christian Science Monitor building. The jets looked white against the night sky. The severity of the upcoming ordeal sunk in.

Then came a wait of a few days for a hospital room which would be my home away from home for weeks at a time.

Making an empty room less empty

Diane, my sister, thought of something that hadn’t occurred to me: It was important to get a lamp. She went to Staples and got a plain office-style one with a chrome stem, two bulbs, and an off-white shade. It fit on my hospital room table without taking up too much space.

I was so afraid of the unknown when I went into the empty room. But I felt a little more comfortable when the warm light made it feel more homey. (If you are reading this in advance of a hospital stay, take a lightweight lamp with you. It will make all the difference.)

The lamp went with me on every return trip, whether for scheduled in-patient treatment or rushed trips to the emergency room when I suspected a hospitalization was to follow. I was probably the only patient who walked in carrying a lamp.

Stuffed animal bear in a tennis outfit

A co-worker from the newspaper where I was a reporter had made a beautiful quilt with empty squares on which friends wrote well wishes. It went onto the foot of the bed. On it we placed a bear that my tennis friends gave me; she bore my name, wore a tennis outfit and held a little racquet.

We put posters on the wall: a beach scene and a Parisian street and Rosie the Riveter.

Silk flowers and retail therapy

Due to the need for a sterile environment, I wasn’t allowed to have flowers. My sister went to a neighborhood store and bought silk flowers in a vase whose bottom was covered in hard clear material that looked like water.

People often came in and said, “You’re not allowed to have those!”

I would turn the vase upside down to show that although they looked real, they weren’t.

During the waiting period, we had also engaged in “retail therapy,” shopping for comfortable clothes that I could wear instead of hospital gowns. When I put on the cotton pants and shirts, I felt like a regular person and not a patient.

Shopping for supplies took my mind off the impending hospitalization.

When I checked in for my first round of chemo, lamp and decorations in hand, and when my sister said goodbye and left me with the nurse, I didn’t feel as alone as I would have had my room not reminded me of home.

If you are about to go into the hospital, I thoroughly recommend bringing a lamp and other items to brighten up your room. The “fake” flowers don’t have to be silk, but they also don’t have to be tacky. Many artificial flowers, especially blue hydrangeas, look real. You can find them at places like Michael’s, Pottery Barn or others and online.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Blood-Cancer.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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