Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hospital ICU & Waffle House

It's been four months since my dad passed away. I still miss him. He was my hero. I'm finally able to blog about some of it now. So here goes.

I am still struck with how incredibly tiring all of it was. Going back & forth to the hospital. Making phone calls. Talking to doctors. Eating. Back to the ICU. More waiting. While there was no physical activity nearly at all, the emotional stress of having a dying parent is huge. And there was little sleep, really. Oh, I would go home, sleep a few hours, & head right back to the hospital, afraid I wouldn't be there when anything happened, even good news. The entire process kept repeating, like my world was reduced to 4 hour intervals between meals/snacks/naps. Even at night when everyone had gone home, the same 4 hour process kept repeating itself.

A few mornings I had breakfast at Waffle House before going to the hospital to wait through another day. This might be a really off the wall comparison, but stay with me on this one: Waffle House & the hospital ICU really have a lot in common. First, both run on similar schedules, namely 6AM-noon, then 5PM to roughly 8:30PM. Those are the busy hours with people coming & going. I noticed both were really fast-paced & well-oiled machines. Everyone knew their task & it was performed to a crisp degree. Both had barking orders. Both had patrons who were spent & frustrated. And both cheerfully smiled & treated each person like they were appreciated.

Second, both Waffle House & the hospital ICU staff genuinely seemed to take an interest in the people they were serving. The waitress smiled as much as the nurse. The cook wished me a "hello" & "have a nice day" just as the ICU staff asked me how I was doing when I came in the door. I noticed that after a few days, the nurses/ICU staff learned my name, my family's names & tidbits of info. They knew the schools were my youngest kids attended & that my oldest was a double major in math & physics at Berry College. They knew where I worked. They knew my mom's name, how she liked her coffee & what questions she kept asking. Funny thing is, the people at the Waffle House knew the same things about their regular customers. When a familiar face would walk in, the waitress wouldn't give the "Hello, welcome to Waffle House!" Oh, no. It was: "Robert! Good morning to you! How's the job search coming?" "Good to see you, Mary! How are those grand kids!" The smiles that the Waffle House people gave were as sincere as the ICU staff. They greetings were just as concerned. The familiarity was same. There was little difference in the pain or joy that the customers were going through, in many cases. It is rather odd to think that there would be such similarities in such different businesses.

Thirdly, I saw similar people. Hurting people. Worried people. Desperate people. People that had been brought face to face with somethings they had no control. I'm not talking about just the ICU either. The waitress at the Waffle House told me how one guy was about to lose his home to foreclosure: he had been out of work for a year. Another patron couple had a child on trial for some serious crimes & they didn't know what to do, were blaming themselves & just wanted someone to tell them that somebody cared. Those people walked through those doors to get more than food -- they came in there for some respite from a hard world, a kind word & service that would rival a 5 Star restaurant. If you think that is any different than the service the ICU staff gave, it is not. They did care. They did cry with me. They did want to make things easier, even if they knew they couldn't.

Lastly, I was struck with the idea of "Customer Service" that was given as a Prime Directive at both establishments. While the price differential is ginormous; the educational gap is huge; the job commitment to service is just as real. The ICU staff went out of their way to point out that they wanted to get "all 5s" on the surveys. That was the highest possible rating. The nurses/staff several times said they wanted to keep those satisfaction scores up because they wanted to provide superior service. Now, I happen to know that raises & bonuses are decided partly by those survey results, but that is no different than the waitress at Waffle House & her tips. The last thing I heard as I was leaving the Waffle House was, "Have a great day & come back to see us!" The last thing the ICU nurses would say to me as I left for the day is, "Have a good night & we'll call you if there is any change." Even in the high tech world of medicine, or the low tech world of a making an omelet, showing concern about people goes much further than just being good at what you do.

Maya Angelou once said: I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Seems that is true in the most divergent of places, from the ICU to the Waffle House.

11 comments:

Georgia Mountain Man said...

Even though there is the underlying pride in job as well as monetary compensation at both places, there is also that one attribute, "caring." Both attract people who care about others in their own ways. An ICU staffer would not be there if he/she did not want to help others. A waitress at Waffle House likes people and likes to serve them or she probably would not be there as well. Interesting post and a great comparison.

Dirk said...

Ryan,

A very interesting comparison and a good one. I'm very sorry to hear about your dad. I know it really helped to have caring people who didn't know you around you like that. I'm not saying you can't find people like that in other parts of the country, but I wouldn't trade Southerners for anyone else in the world.

Simple Southern Happiness said...

I was just looking through "Next Blog" and come to yours. I feel for you for the loss of your dad and all you went through. Its difficult going through that on a daily basis with no sleep, I experienced the same 5 years ago with my father.

Love your post about Georgians driving in snow, I am in ga and you are so correct, they cant drive in snow. I am thankful my hubby is from Ohio so he does all the driving when it snows.

And, on your profile, I think I can tell..... no.... yes..... are you a soccer fan? :).... We are a soccer house here a well. We live,eat, sleep, breathe, SOCCER!!!! even when we married our minister was a ref and most of the guest were too. I put my foot down on having a soccer theme wedding. He will retire from soccer this year from being a national assessor but will still teach ref classes. It will be odd having him home on the weekends, 35 years is a long time to devote ones life to a sport.

Hope your day is good, May God bless you all.

Aparna said...

First of all, sorry about your loss... I know you will feel better as time goes on... I certainly did (after a long while) when my gran passed away...

Your post struck a chord... I can see the comparision and the parity. Well, at the end all that matters, irrespective of the reason behind the gestures, is how they make you feel... and if they made u feel better (like you had someone else care)then I would say the underlying reason does not matter!

dillybar said...

I really liked your post. I work in medicine and this was very interesting. I particular liked how the Maya Angelou quote tied it in. Thanks-made me smile and made me feel good.

A stranger from MN

Diane J Standiford said...

Having spent 5 days/nights in an ICU last year, and many a night as a late night security guard (ie IHops meals) your comparison is spot on. In my job I couldn't fix every problem of my customers, but I did demand of myself that they would go away feeling better than when they called. Maya is right. I hope you find peace of mind with your loss.

Freedom's Voice said...

My condolences for the loss of your dad. We went through a similar situation with my father-in-law last summer. Before his death he used to have breakfast every morning at the local Waffle House. The nursing staff at the hospital treated us like family. One of the cooks from the Waffle House sang at his funeral. It is fascinating how the two compared in both your situation and ours. Must be something about Waffle House and Hospital ICUs. Maybe it's the comfort food and the comforting people. God bless and comfort you in your time of grief.

Let Go, Let God said...

My deepest condolences on the lose of your dad. Great post. I couldn't stop reading.

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