I see you!

That’s what I thought it meant when I was 10 years old. My grandpa had heart problems and although I was too young to go a visit him in the hospital, my mother and aunt kept talking about Grandpa being in “I See You.” All I could guess was that it was a special hospital where you could go and see people who were sick. Or perhaps it had spy cameras mounted on the front door and a mysterious voice would say, “I see you” as you entered. I think it was maybe another t10 years to figure out they meant ICU, Intensive Care Unit.

My family’s had a little experience with the Passavant ICU recently with my dad being laid up there. It’s at a prime location on the first floor of the hospital, overlooking the front lawn. With the current construction underway at Passavant, you may have to take a three-mile hike to get anywhere, but at least you get your exercise. And by the way, whoever does the gardening at Passavant is a by-golly artist. Some days the foot traffic comes to a halt entering the hospital as visitors stop to admire the decorative flora.

The first time I visited the local ICU, I had to be led there by my cousin Lauren, who works in surgery. I yearn for the old days when Passavant had colored lines on the floor and they’d simply tell you to follow the yellow line, sort of line the London underground system. Now you must get instructions and pay close attention, or you’ll end up searching for your 97-year-old father in the maternity ward.

Passavant has a small stable of always-friendly female volunteers manning (or rather, woman-ing) the front desk and they’re a whiz at crosswords. These gals are often disappointed when I don’t stop and ask directions, so I often do that even though I know where I’m going. Okay, one night things weren’t so cheery. I entered the front door late at night and there was no one at the information station, the gift shop was dark and even the lights in the hallways had been dimmed. All I could think about was that scene from “The Godfather,” where Al Pacino entered the hospital to find Marlon Brandon and discovered that a rival gang had emptied the hospital of all personnel to prepare for the Don’s assassination. I hurried up to Dad’s room and he was okay. No Oscars handed out that night.

The Intensive Care Unit is just that intensive. When you’re visiting a patient, you don’t dare belch or scratch yourself inappropriately because nurses and other attendants are always popping in. And they have their own ice machine. That’s pretty cool.

A word about the beds: think the cockpit of a NASA rocket paired with an expensive health spa in Aspen. The thing rocks and rolls and stops just short of doing a tango with the RNs. Aside from the usual up, down, back and forward buttons, it has settings that will automatically and gently roll you from side to side plus a feature that simulates the waves of the sea as you sleep. One nurse said that it also plays music, but I couldn’t find the right button. I asked Dad if he’d please get up and let me try the bed but he mumbled something about having a smart aleck son.

Of course the purpose of this specialized unit is to provide constant monitoring of the patients most in need of attention. That’s something you’ll get in spades. You’re never more than a few steps away from the nurses’ station and they’ll often visit you in packs of two or three. And until the construction crew started working on the second floor, it was a relatively quiet place. One day while I was visiting Dad, the nurse had to stop listening to his heart. The electric drills whining above our heads made it sound as if my father’s ticker was on steroids.

Okay, if I have one complaint, it’s that the coffee in the ICU waiting room may be leftover from Passavant’s dedication ceremony in 1875, but at least the TV isn’t constantly dialed to Fox News.

I have a friend in Springfield whose aunt had a hip replacement at a Springfield hospital. He lives there and was extolling the virtues of being able to drive to see her in less than a half hour through Springfield traffic. I told him that nothing in Jacksonville is more than 10 minutes away from anywhere else and unless JHS happens to be getting out of school at the moment, the traffic is never a problem.

I hope you and yours never end up in ICU, but thank God we have such good facilities right here down the street. Bring your own coffee.

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