I don’t like hospitals. There are few who care for them but I remember why I don’t. My disliking toward hospitals isn’t a phobia. I don’t fear them nor do I condemn the practice of immediate health care. I want to explain in much detail the reason for my aversion toward hospitals.
This story takes place in Connecticut in the winter of 1981. I was two years old and my father had taken me to Coventry Lake to walk on the frozen surface. My mother was at Booth & Dimock Library, so it was just my father and I at the lake. It was very cold and the ice beneath our feet was thick. There was a hint of blue to the world and the wind was chilly but dry. I had walked for a bit holding my dad’s hand but ended up on his shoulders. I remember feeling fear about being that high up but I didn’t express it adequately to return safely to the ice. I kept my anxiety quiet but maybe I shouldn’t have. I can’t say for certain if I’m imagining the fall or if I’m having bits and flashes of memory. My father slipped and we fell forward. I slapped the top left corner of my forehead against the ice and began crying and bleeding.
The next thing I remember is sitting in the passenger seat crying and looking through the blood running into my left eye. This is a strong memory because I can hear myself crying, taste my blood, and feel its warmth running down my face. I must have looked in pretty bad shape. I can only imagine what my father must have been going through. Next, I remember being carted on a type of gurney from a corridor in Windham Memorial Hospital to a corner of what I guess was an ER or OR. Near the end of the transit to the corner of this room, I saw for a couple seconds what looked to be an eight or nine year old girl sleeping partially inclined in a bed next to my corner. I couldn’t see her from my corner because of the curtain that separated us, but the image is burned into my memory. She was laying there with a blue hospital sheet covering her up to her chest. She was wearing something light green. I felt great concern for her the moment I saw her. I remember thinking about that girl while I was sitting upright facing the center of the room with people toiling over my forehead. I felt sorry for that girl because I thought she shouldn’t have been there. I felt fear and sorrow for her, except I felt it was her fear or sorrow. I wanted to know about her but I probably didn’t have a vocabulary to express any of this. I can only put into words now what I couldn’t then. The word to best describe what I was feeling is empathy.
It probably helped a lot for me to focus on her while they were stitching me up. I heard me crying but my mind was fixated on her. I was in pain and bleeding but I knew I was going to be alright. I thought that as bad as shape as I’m in it can’t be like what she’s here for. I thought that since I was here for something like bleeding from the head then she must be here for something equally unfortunate. It may have also comforted me to think I wasn’t the only one in trouble. That sounds selfish, but I really was concerned for her. These are strong emotions for a two year old but I have a solid mastery of these feelings today.
Adrenaline has a way of producing very strong memories. A life threatening occurrence is important to remember for continued survival. I still remember this. I dislike hospitals because they remind me of that girl and her sacrificed happiness. Hospitals remind me of blood and pain and uncertainty. In conclusion, my antipathy toward hospitals does originate from a traumatic psychological event; but it isn’t my fear or sorrow. It’s empathy for hers.
-Jeremy Edward Dion