Saturday, February 03, 2007

as a volunteer at a toronto area hospital, my services are indespensible. the hospital staff take great measures to ensure that my time is well spent. on thursday, for example, I spent, for the fourth week in a row, three hours sitting outside my unit making sure people entering and exiting washed their hands. this is a perfectly reasonable thing for me to do, since the unit has been under infection control due to a c. difficile/MRSA outbreak for only about a month now. the staff have been trained in proper infection control procedures and there are signs in four languages informing visitors of how to proceed, but that's no reason to think that anyone would pay attention to the hand sanitizers sitting obtrusively outside the closed door.

so I sat there. for three hours. again. I listened to some visitors speaking czech. I watched some patients go by in stretchers. someone approached the unit and I fixed him with my beady eye until he stopped, squirted his hands with alcohol, and made the obligatory 'this crap is killing my skin' comment. then I looked at a health magazine and learned that vegetables are good for you. I slowly died inside.

someone else approached the unit, and I fixed her with my beady eye until she stopped, squirted her hands with alcohol, and made the obligatory 'are you having fun?' comment. the czech-speaking family attempted to talk to me in english. I attempted to talk english back.

"you are born in toronto?"

"no, I'm from buffalo." confused look.

"new york."

"ahhh, you are american." my apologies. they went back to speaking czech. I went back to reading about hummus. opened the door for a little old man grinning widely, wearing a hospital gown like a cape and dragging a walker. watched the janitors clean out their mops.

an old man came up to me and inquired, "exercise?" the question was accompanied with running motions and followed by a long stream of chinese. I sprang to my feet. I would deliver him personally to the door of whichever department he needed. maybe we could take the scenic route. drop by information on the first floor, stop for some pizza, check out the ICU. massive sigh. too bad cardiac rehabilitation is just one floor up.

with the little chinese man safely in the hands of the heart doctors, I returned to my post, played haydn on the arm rests and thought about what sort of furniture I would keep in an alpine treehouse. I noticed a spot on the floor by the elevator and walked over to inspect. my insides quivered and I reported to the ward clerk that there was a trail of feces on the hall floor.

"say again?" that confused you-speak-too-quietly-and-english-is-not-my-first-language look again.

poop! on the hall floor! who's cleaning today? where is he? can he spare a moment to come clean fecal matter off the floor of a unit under isolation for an explosive-diarrhea inducing virus? clearly not. because I had to guard it until the next shift of cleaning staff came in and announced to each other "poo-poo on the floor! poo-poo on the floor!" before washing it up.

at the end of the day, there was not a doubt in my mind that I had just spend the three most worthwhile hours of my life, leaving the world a better, more alcohol-scented, poo-free place.

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