Five Tips for Finding Hidden Humor in the Hospital

hidden humor

Hidden Away in Area 51

I held the clean pair of hospital pants up to show Pedro, and shook my head in disgust.

“Pretty big,” he said with a lopsided grin—lopsided because one half of his face didn’t move due to paralysis from cancer.

“Both you AND I could fit in these puppies,” I exclaimed. “That seems to happen a lot on the weekends.”

We laughed at the mental picture and then Pedro said, “I’m ready.” He slowly sat up and swung his bacon-thin legs over the edge of the bed.

I grabbed a towel and steadied him and his IV pole as we shuffled to the shower.

After living in the hospital with Pedro for weeks at a time, I knew the drill and the nurses didn’t mind that I assisted Pedro with his personal needs whilst they changed the bed linens.

This involved making a trek to the laundry closet hidden behind an accordion door in the hallway to get towels and clean hospital gowns and pants (thank goodness this hospital had pants—not all hospitals come with pants).

Not all #hospitals come with pants! 5 tips for keeping things #humorous in the hospital. Click To Tweet

On weekdays, the closet held carts labeled “Area 17,” signifying Eleven Long at UCSF, where an ample supply of neatly folded and stacked gowns and pants marched up the cart from size small to XXL. Another cart held sheets, blankets and pillowcases, and a third cart carried washcloths and towels.

Weekends told a different story. On Saturday mornings the carts would arrive in the early morning hours from the laundry, but instead of multiple sizes and items, they had a more all-or-none flavor. For example, the carts contained only XXL pants or only washcloths and no towels.

And I had a theory. Call me crazy (or bored), but by the third weekend in the hospital, I had decided that on the weekends, aliens pushed their “Area 51” carts around the hospital before dawn and filled them with items from the other Area carts. Small pants from one, towels from another, pillowcases from a third. Only they weren’t organized aliens, and they would crisscross the hospital hallways haphazardly grabbing items to fill their carts.

Once, I shared my alien theory with a friendly nurse. She laughed and decided that the aliens probably stocked the exam gloves on weekends, too, since the available boxes would suddenly change from three sizes to one size by Sunday night.

There’s Humor Everywhere

I’m glad she didn’t have me committed. I don’t believe in aliens, but the mind movie of aliens rushing around with laundry carts did give me reason to chuckle and laugh in a hospital ward where things were dead serious. As a caregiver, I needed to keep the atmosphere upbeat and positive.

Every couple of hours we’d “walk the dog” around the ward and mark Pedro’s progress on a whiteboard. We joked with the nurses and doctors and played Pedro’s theme song after chemo. When he felt well enough, we watched funny movies and played endless games of UNO.

We banished bad attitudes and kept God’s promises hidden in our hearts. We knew without a doubt that whatever the outcome, God knew the number of our days and the purpose for our lives.

5 Tips for #caregivers to keep #humor in the hospital. Click To Tweet

If you’re a caregiver remember this:

1. A cheerful heart is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22) (and it costs less than what goes into the IV drip).
2. Your positive attitude will affect the culture in the sickroom. Don’t be afraid to decorate the room with what makes you happy.
3. You don’t have to worry about the outcome, that’s God’s job. Avoid the ‘what if’ game.  Read books by Patrick F. McManus or other authors with a well-developed sense of humor.
4. Levity belongs in hospitals—don’t be afraid to watch funny movies, laugh out loud and crack corny jokes.
5. Keep God’s promises hidden in your heart (or taped to the IV pole).

What about you? Do you have any funny hospital stories to share?

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • Hello Anita! I’m joining you from Five Minute Friday, and have enjoyed reading your post. You obviously have a depth of wisdom to share from your experiences in care-giving. How wonderful that you have recognized the need for humor, fun and “lightness” in all of our lives, but especially in the lives of those who are ill and those who care for them. God bless you as you continue to share this healthy “medicine” with those around you!

  • When my dad has been in the hospital, he is always flirting with the nurses. Years ago, he was involved in a serious accident and was laid up in the hospital for quite a while. IT was Thanksgiving. We headed to Wisconsin then instead of waiting for Christmas.
    Turns out we had purchased Christmas gifts several people… a radio with a flashing light and a siren on it for emergencies. We made the big mistake of taking the gift to him in the hospital. He decided to use it whenever he needed a nurse!
    GGMandy recently posted…Time Flies When You’re Having FunMy Profile

  • Oh friend… laughter is so good for us and even in trying or dark times, His gift of joy and happiness can catch us off guard, but they are just that: Gifts! Great post!

  • Anita, I was thinking about you this week. It’s been a crazy few months, and I hadn’t “seen” you in ages. 🙂

    I loved your post. As I read it, I was thinking about a friend who’s dealing with a different sort of heartbreak. I’m inspired to try and find ways to help her smile more. Keeping the positive attitude and not dwelling on the negative going on is important. Now to translate that to her circumstance. I always appreciate your posts!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Jeanne–it’s crazy how summer seems to draw me away from writing because of the relaxed pace of life…but I’m sure that God knows that I need the filling for more writing over the winter months! I pray that you will be able to help your friend!
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Glaciers, Relationships and ReligionMy Profile

  • What hospital has pants?! Seriously – I want to go there! I always packed a pair of pants with me during my ER runs because I never knew if I would be admitted. I had friends run out to get me sports bras and orange juice – not even kidding. I just smiled reading this because it brings back so much and God is so good!

    • Evidently teaching hospitals in California have pants ;). Or hospitals only offer them to men! I had to ask for them when I was the in the hospital last year–the nurses gave me a funny look, as if I’ve discovered a deep secret, but handed over the pants to go with my gown!
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Happy to Announce a MiracleMy Profile

  • This is good!

    Last time I was in hospital (when I had insurance), I told my charge nurse that I was not going to wear a gown, and that I would be found in street clothes, with my IV tree, in the visitors lounge, working on my novel.

    She was absolutely delighted, and I found that she and the other nurses – and some attendings – chose to come down and shoot the breeze. They said that it was a relief to have a patient who was very ill, but determined to maintain a normal mien. They were so TIRED of seeing people in bed watching Home Shopping Network!

    #1 at FMF this week.
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 187 – The Hidden Song Of The Samurai {FMF}My Profile

  • You are always such a good story teller. I was walking with you and Pedro as you told your story. I definitely know about the importance of having a cheerful disposition in a hospital. thank you for sharing your tips. visiting from FMF #36

  • I work in surgery. I will never pass a linen cart again and not think of your Area 51 theory of aliens stocking the linen carts. Haha!

    When my patients get on the OR bed, they get a seatbelt which I explain is for their safety as they travel super fast through the river tunnel of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. I like for folks to be thinking happy things as they go to sleep. ????
    Michelle recently posted…Thankful_July24_July30My Profile

    • I’m so glad you try to help ease your patients’ minds with humor as you work! I have the deepest respect for nurses–especially the ones who serve with grace and humor.
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Glaciers, Relationships and ReligionMy Profile

  • Laughter truly is good medicine. You have such a way of painting an awesome picture of a story. I’m in the 68 spot this week.
    Tara recently posted…Hidden JoysMy Profile

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