Unexpected Life Lessons from My Hospital Roommate

Brittany Foster avatar

by Brittany Foster |

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My repeated hospitalization cycle since November has tested my physical and mental strength. When pain, fatigue, depression, and anxiety fill my thoughts, it is hard to see the positive. While in the hospital, a transition to a double-occupancy room restored my strength.

Although the age difference between my roommate and me was over 60 years, I learned so much in the week of sharing a room with her. I thank her for helping me to see the good while enduring some of my life’s worst days, and for restoring my hope, purpose, and fight.

I’m thankful for these lessons and values gifted by her:

Have patience. A hospital is one of the hardest places to have patience. It’s nearly impossible to tune out the beeping monitors, call lights going off, and screams from other rooms. I can’t begin to imagine all the crying and pained tears she heard from me on the other side of the curtain. Not once did she mumble under her breath about it or hint at how “annoying” it was. She showed patience and love the entire time.  

Sympathize with others without minimizing your struggles. Although she went through her own struggles just a few feet from me, she taught me how important it is to express sympathy for others in their difficult times. She never compared our stories. When we opened up about why we were in the hospital, it wasn’t about who “had it worse.” It was about sympathizing and empathizing in the ways we could.

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Don’t settle for mediocre. After spending a week with my roommate, I can tell you with certainty that she is a woman who knows what she wants. I was filled with silent laughter and smiles each time she would make remarks about the hospital macaroni and cheese or the soup. As she ordered from the menu, all I could think to myself sometimes was, “Ewww, don’t get that!” Shortly after, I knew we must have had the same taste in food because she made it clear that she didn’t exactly love it. She didn’t like the hospital ice cream and told the nurses she just wanted to go home and get Ben & Jerry’s. If the food didn’t taste right, she simply ordered something else — she refused to settle for mediocre. She knew what she liked and I knew she would make sure to get it. Life’s too short for knockoff brand ice cream! 

Spread joy within the walls of a hospital room. It doesn’t take an extravagant gesture to be “kind.” Sometimes all it takes to turn someone’s day around is a word of encouragement, moral support, and in our case, a love for the Patriots football team. Together in our room, my mom and I made signs to cheer on the team. The loudest of all of us during the championship game was the woman who was three times my age. Joy packed that room — you would have thought we were at a sports bar.

Take the next step even when it’s hard. From my roommate, I learned the importance of keeping my tenacity and fighting spirit alive. Seeing her walk the hallway as much as she did drove me to do the same. She was determined, fierce, and stronger than she probably realized.

During the hospital stay, I learned that it’s important to break free from technology and communicate in person. My life is changed because I got to know someone with the life experience I can only dream of having. Her actions and words make me look at my life differently. She made me think about how I was succeeding and thriving with pulmonary hypertension, and about what more I could do.

I wasn’t expecting a friendship with someone much older than me and I certainly wasn’t expecting to learn so much from her. It was the unexpected that’s made a lasting difference in my life.  


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 Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


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