Friday, April 15, 2011

the hospital gown

Visualize if you will: Me. If you don’t know me…well then… just picture an average girl. Average height, average weight, average brown eyes and long brown hair. Pretty, maybe in a tiny bit more than average sort of way.
Next picture what I’m wearing: black plastic flip-flops (the kind you get for two bucks at walmart), black cotton capris, long gray hospital gown (yep, hospital gown) just slightly darker gray hoodie sweater (super cozy and my favorite), and a long lilac-colored summer scarf (also my favorite). Next picture me trying to carry two large styrofoam cups – one of tea, one of coffee (intermittently craning my head forward to take sips of each), a huge blue binder, a book (Tithe by Holly Black), and a huge red hobo bag, stuffed to overflowing and slung over my shoulder. To top it all off, picture my hair pulled back with one of my daughter’s bright metallic purple hair bands into a wildly messy ponytail, considerably off center; tiny wire rimmed glasses resting slightly askew on my marginally larger than average nose, and the strains of “Apologize” repeatedly emanating from my bag as my husband, Charles tries once again to reach me. Think “Caractacus Potts from Chitty, Chitty Bang, Bang.” Better yet, think “insane librarian escapes from the mental institution.”
Now, if I am you, here’s the question I am asking myself: “Why a hospital gown?” I am not in a hospital, I am leaving one, but don’t they usually let you put your own clothes on before you leave? I too am beginning to wonder the same thing as I sneak out the front entrance, half expecting someone in scrubs to come running up behind me shouting, “STOP! THEIF!” There must be a reasonable explanation. Ahhhh, there it is…..I am exhausted after five hours of IV’s, scans and blood draws. That must be the reason. As I run this one past my husband (“you did what?”) I can hear the desperation of rationalization creeping in. Okay, that must not be it. After all, how much energy does it take to don a bra and a t-shirt? So, why?
Ah-ha! My crafty side kicks in as I hike to my car, ignoring my cell phone once again as not to upset my precariously balanced cups of FREE tea AND coffee (I might get thirsty!) as well as my perfectly categorized and organized 3-ring binder of medical history (one can never be too prepared.) My mind unfettered once I am clear of the main entrance and almost certain I won’t be arrested for grand theft, I begin to create…..”I think I could make a cute little kimono-style dress out of this! Hmmmmm, but what about the color? I guess it’s not so bad. Yes, yes it is – it’s awful. Okay, I can dye it…maybe purple…that’d be pretty. What about these god-awful sleeves? Ah – sleeveless! That’s the ticket…I can just chop them off. Hmmmmm, it’s a little loose in the waist…..belted? Yeah, that just might work…the 80’s really are making a comeback……” And so it goes, on and on, until I have to get out of my car to throw away the AB-SO-LUTE-LY awful (but more importantly, FREE) cup of coffee. It is only then that I notice what I must look like. That’s when it hits me. I am a Shepherd….thru and thru…till the day I die. Shepherd code states – thou shalt never, ever, EVER, under no circumstances, pass up anything free. My daddy would be so proud if he saw me right now. If he had heard the nurse say, “you’re welcome to keep that hospital gown,” followed 30 seconds later by, “there’s free tea and coffee down the hall,” he would have leapt for joy and walked out in his brand new hospital gown, balancing FOUR cups of free liquids right alongside me. I mean for heaven’s sake….you can’t pass up free stuff…after all “you might need it one day.” The list of possible uses for a wrinkled gray hospital gown that hundreds of sick people have worn is utterly ENDLESS!!! I mean, obviously it would make a great dress, but beyond that there’s rags to clean up a spill, a blanket if you’re cold, a tourniquet if you’re bleeding, you could reupholster a chair, make curtains, a bedspread, a bath towel, an oven mitt, a backpack, a pillowcase, a rope, a slingshot, a hammock, a picture frame, a gun rack, a rowboat, a spaceship…….and who knows…..someday I just might need a hospital gown again.


  1. oh my dear friend, i LOVE reading your words. you feel like home again. i love all things Shepherd and i still dream of a world where our two families could be neighbors again. i can remember making paper dolls with you and mindy so vividly. i remember the trailors and the makeshift shower. the piles of lumber and dirt and housing accoutraments in every direction. it was like a wonderland of treasure. i remember me being so young and insecure and seeing you, the cool older sister and wanting to emulate everyting about you :)
    your old house is so much a part of our childhood. i would love to be able to reconnect with all of you guys after all of this time and life and and families, trials and joy and adoptions. i just know we would be dear friends all over again!
    you've been on my mind a lot and i often pray for you and your two sweet girls. i'm anxious to have our daughter home (we hope to bring her home from china in june :) and have my family feel complete and under one roof.
    ok, enough rambling!!
    much love to you!
    angie (henricks) weldon

  2. I don't think you could ever be described as simply "average".
    On another note, you just gave me a completely new and fabulous idea on how to convince my little patients that it is not the end of the world to put the hospital gown on and in fact it can be FUN!