Four years ago, I had two surgeries about five months apart. (Everything came out just fine, don’t worry.) While I was making my way through encounters with all kinds of medical personnel, I was observing the different people around me. Over the next several weeks, I’m going to post some of my observations, especially about race, origin, and class.
The white, male, 60-something nurse with collar-length gray hair, tall with a paunch: “Looking at me, would you guess that I spent two years studying for the priesthood?” This was apropos of nothing, after taking my vitals and dispensing my midnight meds. After two years of study, his adviser told him he thought too independently. So he went to med school to become a surgeon, but got caught by the draft for the Vietnam War while transferring to another school. Eventually, after he got out of the Army, he went to nursing school.
The Asian-American, female, late 20s nursing assistant, short and plump, who brought me coffee from the nurses’ coffeepot at 6:30 in the morning when food service wasn’t open yet and I couldn’t go down to the Starbucks without orders from my surgeon allowing me off the floor. She even offered to go back and put more milk in it. I thanked her gratefully, because I figure they don’t usually give patients their coffee. They couldn’t supply all of us.
The African, male, 30-something nursing assistant, medium height and slender, with a shaved head and a small, narrow mustache, walking with me around the floor on one of my first post-surgical walks: “At this computer, you can get interpreters in many different languages.” When I asked if he spoke any of the languages listed, he pointed to Tigrigna and Amharic. Then I asked if there was a restaurant in Seattle that served food like what he ate at home, and he said Assimba. I planned to go there just as soon as I could eat regular -sized chunks of food again, but I never did.