It’s easy to see why so many sagas (in books, movies and most of all on TV) are set in hospitals. The wild mix of stock characters—from attractive, young residents, sage attending physicians, and wise cracking nurses & orderlies, to drug or sex-addicted specialists, narcissistic surgeons, and kindly, old administrators covering gambling debts with theft—combined with life & death dramatic decisions and the ethical quandaries posed by modern medicine, make for a setting ripe with story potential.
But what about when the hospital is the patient near death? The institution about to close, with emptying hallways, staff running off to find new positions, and once crowded rooms, resigned to eerie quiet…
The ambulance brought my mother to a hospital that is slated to close soon. The large rabbit warren of interconnected buildings that make up Beth Israel will be sold and a new, smaller inpatient facility will be build a few blocks away, and surrounded by buildings with outpatient care, labs and physician practices. Right now, walking the halls is a peculiar experience. As I walk from her room, I wander by pockets of frenetic activity that alternate with an emptiness that is almost haunted.
Am I seeing ghosts? No, but it is easy to imagine the specters of former patients, meandering down a hall and through a closed door or vanishing in quiet stairwell. The size of the hospital, the age of the connected buildings and the vast changes in how healthcare is delivered and funded, are making this institution a dinosaur. Still, it was the closest emergency room and I’m grateful. Mom is almost done with her inpatient OT & PT and will do the rest of her recovery, with help, at home. Strokes are another kind of nightmare.
Will I write a story in a haunted hospital? It’s tempting. But right now, I’m focused on helping Mom.