Room 541

The room is quiet, almost zen-like in it’s tranquility. The IV pumps purr and the ventilator swooshes in and out. Occasionally, the IV pumps brazenly sound off their alarms, diiiing-doooong, indicating that their precious serums are done infusing.

The trash cans are usually overflowing with the yellow paper gowns and bright blue gloves every person must wear into the room. No matter that the cans are emptied 3 or more times per day, often I must pick up the trash that litters the wood floor. It’s an odd costume-party tradition that mandates the guests leave behind their borrowed costumes.

The tap, tap, tap of the nurses computer keyboard competes with the lessor tap tap, tap tap, tap tap of my laptop’s keyboard. Sometimes we chat in soft voices, hushed whispers that belie the fact that the babe in the enormous hospital bed might be abruptly woken up. The eclectic sound of modern hospital room jazz is more often than not, accompanied by the sound of feet shuffling softly through the room.

Barely audible over this finely orchestrated swish, hum, tap tap tap are faint piano lullabies softly filling the room with tunes such as The Itsy-Bitsy Spider, Frere Jacque and Brahms’ Lullaby. The songs have been repeated on an endless loop for 2 months straight. The black iPod settled in its matching docking station is loaded with several weeks worth of music, but these particular songs have been chosen for the peaceful atmosphere they project.

The lights are usually dimmed. The room’s only window to the world outside is small and even during the day, very little natural light seems to be able to penetrate the darkness. The wintry view of the roof-top picnic area is depressing at best and the shades are closed against the cruel tease of snow-covered picnic benches.

Across the room, ugly white and yellow curtains hang crookedly at the large sliding glass doors. They are drawn against the bright lights and the sight of the nurses station, successfully eliminating the bustle of activity outside the room.

One small work-light glows over my hard fold-out cot and the tray table that doubles as a computer desk. The other source of light glows harshly over the meticulously organized medical supplies, strategically placed away from the main attraction in the room.

He lays there on his side in the over-sized hospital bed that no small baby should be allowed to lay in. The stark whiteness of the hospital linens glow against the dusty blue of the wall he faces.

Brightly colored, hand-sewn baby quilts adorn the bottom of the bed. Changed each day, they are the only reminder that the babe is more than just a patient in this room. He is cuddled with soft fleecy blankets that help keep his diaper-clad self toasty warm.

His uber-soft black and white plush zebra is snuggled between his outstretched arms.  Each arm has a single IV catheter.  Somehow multiple medications are pumped simultaneously into him through the jumbled string of IV tubing connected to those whirling pumps. Those pumps that keep his life-force flowing through him.

But even the breathing tube and the spaghetti of IV’s can’t hide the chubby cheeks and pudgy hands. In fact if you could just ignore the tangle of tubes and the wires monitoring his vital signs, he’d appear to be like any other eight-month old baby taking a nap…..

In the five months that I stayed in the Hospital with David, we had several different rooms. While my favorite was the big sunny room in the corner, Room 541 was the last one we called home. This room wasn’t as big or as sunny as the previous room they moved us out of, but it was cozy and we made the best of it.

This post was written for The Red Dress Club’s Weekly Memoir Writing Prompt. This week’s exercise:

Think of a room from your past.  It can be any type of room at all.
Take a mental picture of that room.

What happened there?  What is it like?  What is the atmosphere there?  What are the smells, the sounds, the sights?  How does it feel?

Now reveal that snapshot to your reader.

Take us to that room.

And try to do it in 750 words or less.

Critiques are always welcomed.

Categories: Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

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25 thoughts on “Room 541

  1. I can see him, on the bed, the brightly colored baby quilts, the blue walls, the darkness in his area, the small spotlight over yours…I can even smell the hospital and hear the footfalls. It really is a sad and sweet story.

  2. My only thought is how much I want to hug you.
    Been in that situation, in the NICU, and I takes me back, makes me just want to hug you.

  3. Beautiful post. It’s amazing the detail you remember from moments so trying.

  4. Your writing is beautiful.

  5. oh wow. so much detail. I can’t imagine and yet now I can.

  6. oh my, I read your introductions page first, and then this post.. and now Im crying over here… beautifully written.

  7. Yes. Those details are so perfectly rendered.

    I completely forgot about the tapping on the computers. But that is so much a part of the NICU/PICU. The smells, the sights….all of it, perfect.

  8. Amazing…and what a strong woman you are! You have experienced things no mother should have to.

  9. I’ve never had to be in the NICU. My heart aches for moms who have.
    Your writing puts me in that room.
    You are extraordinary

  10. I was there with you, because I’ve been there.
    Room 805.

  11. I stumbled upon your blog through RDC a week or so ago and the things I’ve read here remind me to be grateful for my healthy kids and for modern medicine (from prenatal screening to tylenol!). Gratitude is no small thing and I thank you for the reminder!

    This is a wonderfully written and evocative piece. Well done!

  12. I love your use of sound in this post. I can hear the tap tap tap as I read and see the tiny baby laying in the big bed.

  13. Beautifully written, and so descriptive that I can see it all, hear it all. Big hugs to you.


  14. Amazingly evocative. I was transported to the hospital room.

  15. I love how you describe this one, not as your favorite, but as the one that you last called home — the one you are most likely to remember for the rest of your life. I’m so sorry that you had to go through that. But the memories, good and bad, will be with you forever. Beautiful post.

  16. Such great description of what I’m sure was a terrible time. Wonderful writing for this post.

  17. idiosyncraticeye

    Great descriptive piece. 🙂

  18. As usual, your writing transported me until I was standing next to you in that room. I pictured your sweet babe, heard the sounds of tapping, saw the dim light. I even pictured the picnic benches, so cold and lonely.

    I only wish that I was truly standing next to you, because more than anything, I want to hug you. Your words touch my heart and make any comments I leave seem so trivial. But I can’t seem to leave without letting you know that I’m reading.

  19. I can’t imagine what that must have been like, but you did a good job of providing a glimpse.

  20. You brought me right to the room. The detail of the hand-made baby quilts making him seem more a baby than a patient was heartbreaking.

  21. I can’t even for a minute imagine what it would be like to be in your shoes. You are an inspiration and a great example of courage and strength for your family. Thank you for your words.

  22. I knew your post was going to be about this room, just as everyone who knows me knew mine would be about the room my father spent the last months of his life in last March. Some things just loom so large, cancel out all else.

    This is so beautifully written, you really take me there with you. I’m just so sorry about where it all went, my heart goes out to you.

  23. sharon

    The closest I can come to this was the two hours we spent waiting in the trauma ward for our big boy of 25 to come back from the surgery that would pin his spine together and hopefully not cause any damage to his spinal cord while it was being done. The smells, sounds and lighting of that room will never leave me. We were so lucky. I’m so sorry that David’s luck was not as good as my Jonathan’s.


  24. Great imagery with the spaghetti. I really like the line “closed against the cruel tease of snow-covered picnic benches.” It felt like I was there in the room with you – so well done!

  25. PearlsGirl

    What a heart felt, beautifully written piece. I really love your writing. My heart hurts for you.

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