Like many rooms of its kind – and every one on the eleventh floor – this one had a recliner; a combination cushioned bench/cot; a sink; a lavatory; a tiny closet; a large northeast facing window with a view of the street below and Mt. St. Helens; a fully adjustable – in three dimensions – bed; and multiple electrical outlets. Further, there was a television set, a computer console and a rolling table.
No, I am not describing the dormitory room of a large private university near you, I am describing my home for eight of the last thirty days: University Hospital (Oregon Health Sciences University) in Portland, Oregon. My first overnight stay was scheduled. The next four-day stint was less so, and the most recent two-day affair was strictly spur of the moment. The good news is . . . the doctors and staff are empathetic professionals, for the most part, and the hospital is new and clean and commands the best view in the city of Portland! The bad news is . . . like all hospitals, one is awakened at least a dozen times each night to answer the question, “Were you asleep?” and the food has been recycled from the dumpster of a large airline.
But the really lousy lack was tea. Oh yes, by pleading and failing a blood pressure check, one can procure a bag of Lipton tea and a cup of tepid water in a plastic mug – with a snap on lid! By the second day of my second stay, I was dreaming of jasmine pearls every time I closed my eyes. Little pellets of fisted oolong would steal across my consciousness each time I was wired for an EKG. The aroma of matcha genmaicha would waft enticingly through the air of my imagination as I watched a nurse count how many bony string beans were left on my lunch plate. My favorite registered nurse, a consummate professional named Yirong, laughed out loud when I asked him what tea he drank at home. While it is breath-takingly easy to feel sorry for oneself in the hospital, try being in the hospital with no tea if you want to wallow in self-pity.
Deep into the second verse of “Woe is me,” Sandy and Michelle arrived to visit, each carrying two large shopping bags. Out came the zojirushi, a small cast-iron tea pot, four different loose leaf teas, two gallons of spring water, a beautiful blue mug . . . and permission from hospital staff to have the whole shebang in the room! After a few cups of yellow tea, and lots of laughter, I began to feel myself again, and passed the next blood pressure check with flying colors. That’s friendship!
That evening, when the cardiologist came to visit, he spied the zojirushi and asked, “Is that what I think it is? I LIVE on tea! Got any Assam?” I offered him a cup of Golden Lion’s Paw, which he gratefully took with him for the rest of his rounds, stopping back for a second steeping before he went home. Next morning, I had a cup of Frozen Peaks Oolong, and was almost sorry to be released on the following day before Yirong’s shift began.
Every experience is made better with tea.