I took Mac to see his friend who’s recovering from surgery. While we were in his room, I noticed one of those hospital night lights. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s the night light that looks like a small furnace vent. Instead of air, it puts out a little rectangle of light on the floor, ensuring that you won’t trip over your gown or O2 hose or slip on the pudding (I hope) that spilled.
Anyway, that little hospital room night light reminded me of something from many years ago.
Mac had major surgery when he was young. Still non-verbal, his only communication with us post-op was his little hand raised with persistent drink sign-language. In his recovery during the overnight hours, Emily and I took turns holding him in our laps. Mac’s hospital room was eerily silent at night. He didn’t want to do much, and we were supposed to sleep, but surgery and recovery throws off your circadian rhythm. Hospitals provide a time anesthetic for everyone involved, not just the patient.
The one scene I vividly remember is something from around 2:30am, there on the third floor of Mott Children’s Hospital. Mac sat on my lap, his little hand wrapped around my thumb and his little head under my chin. Not a word, not a song, not a screen. Just a light. I can see it, surrounded by the darkness of the overnight and the occasional chirp from some medical device in the corner. I looked down and saw Mac stare at it, too. We were both sitting there, thinking, not thinking, staring. Little vent light. I’ve never noticed them anywhere but a hospital room — back in 2007 and again on the first day of 2020.
It’s funny how such a mundane architectural detail can be packed with such meaning. And it’s strange that I can’t find a picture of what I’m looking for online. I looked for an example pic, but, alas, Google did not deliver, so you’ll have to imagine it. Until then, I’ll prepare for a TON of ads for hospital night lights in my Facebook feed. I may not have found what I was looking for, but Google sure got what it wanted: data. If Microsoft Word’s Clippy character was still around, he’d say “It looks like you plan on building your own hospital! Can I recommend a floor plan?”