Hospitals Grow Good People

Colleen Steele avatar

by Colleen Steele |

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Graphic artist and children’s book illustrator Mary Engelbreit helped popularize one of my favorite inspirational phrases, “Bloom where you are planted.” Through colorful illustrations and uplifting phrases, she inspires others to find joy, humor, hope, love, and beauty wherever they are in life.

But what if you’re in a hospital? Is it possible for anyone to flourish in such an environment? From personal experience, I believe the answer is yes.

When my son Cullen was 8, doctors diagnosed him with pulmonary hypertension (PH), and he received a heart and double-lung transplant at 14. Over the years, we’ve found ourselves planted in the hospital more times than we can count. During some of these stays, and despite experiencing some pretty awful circumstances, we’ve witnessed the best in people blossoming.

Emotions are real, and words are genuine

I have a keen eye for fake smiles and crocodile tears, but rarely have I suspected this of people I’ve met in the hospital. It’d be reprehensible to act artificially in a place where babies are born, people are sick, and others are dying.

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In the hospital, tears of joy or sadness are as real as the euphoric or traumatic events that produce them; what we say to each other during those moments usually comes straight from the heart.

People do their best to help those who are at their worst

What I find most disheartening about today’s society is how quickly people make presumptions about others and choose to exploit someone reacting poorly rather than trying to help them. Social media is filled with videos and memes of individuals losing their cool, acting dramatic, and appearing unbalanced. There’s little thought about what might have brought them to that breaking point.

When someone has a bad day, they need empathy, not an audience. Most patients, caregivers, and hospital staff are mindful of this. They’ll do their best to defuse a situation with compassion by offering support, medical attention, and a listening ear, or just giving others a moment to vent without judgment.

A friend in need is a friend indeed

Cullen and our family have several strong friendships with others in the PH and transplant community. Most of these cherished relationships took root in a hospital, where we relied on each other for support and understanding.

Our own personal trauma has never held us back from helping a friend through theirs. We kept each other company and had each other’s shoulder to cry on, and when we ran out of tears we shared dark-humor laughs that others wouldn’t understand.

Be kind to strangers

During a supermarket trip after one of Cullen’s long hospital stays, I asked a tall gentleman if he could get something off a shelf I couldn’t reach. He looked through me and, with contempt in his voice, said, “I don’t work here,” and quickly walked away.

His comment and lack of action were shocking. I forgot I was no longer in the hospital, where it’s not uncommon for a stranger to ask for help and receive it without hesitation. We hold doors and elevators for each other and help carry items to a car or hospital room.

One day I made my way through long corridors to the hospital cafeteria, only to discover at the register that I’d forgotten my wallet. A woman in line reached into her pocket and, without hesitation, paid for my lunch.

When I left the cafeteria, I noticed a woman who appeared nervous and lost. Her child was in surgery, and she couldn’t remember her way back to the waiting room. Instead of giving her directions, I walked her to her destination myself. Even though we were strangers, we gave each other a comforting hug before going our separate ways.

Remember your manners and be respectful

No matter how physically or mentally tired Cullen and I are, we never forget to say please and thank you. It’s one way to show respect and appreciation for the nurses, doctors, and hospital staff. We’re also mindful of other patients and keep our voices and electronics at a low volume.

Consideration goes a long way, and I wish the world practiced it more outside of the hospital.

Take what you have grown and share it with others when you leave

Life is very different in the hospital, but the experience can teach us a lot that applies to day-to-day life.

Don’t let problems stunt your growth. Be genuine, helpful, kind, and respectful to all.

Bloom wherever you are planted.

Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


Gayle Ward avatar

Gayle Ward

Great article Coleen, thanks


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