Posted by: trevormeers | August 24, 2010

Let Me Show You Around The Neighborhood

Tuesday brought a couple of milestones in Iowa City. Katie came off the breathing tube she’s had since surgery as a precaution against swelling that could hamper her breathing. With that, she’s also leaving behind the sedation that’s kept her sleeping since last week. More thoughts on those major developments in days to come.

Here's Elevator I--our current front porch, and a real mind-bender if you're not sure what floor you're on.

But since all of us here on the ground (and probably many of you following from afar) could use a respite from serious news, today I’m observing the passing of Week 1 of our projected three-week stay. By now, we’re feeling like part of the scenery here. Doctors in far corners of the complex say “Good Morning” when we run into each other, and I’ve developed an urge to watch “The Terminal,” in which Tom Hanks moves into an airport. When you transfer your life to a building most people just pass through, you pick up new perspectives. Spend a week in our new neighborhood, and here’s what you see:

  • In a hospital full of James Bond medical technology, no one can apparently build a walker that works without someone cutting two tennis balls and sticking them on the front legs.
  • You know how it seems like every city bus driver is an older guy as wide as the steering wheel? Not on the U of Iowa campus, where every “cambus” driver seems to be a young distance runner. I didn’t know it was possible to come up to speed on piloting a giant Velveeta box by age 22, and I didn’t know that “The Simpsons’” bus driver Otto was inspired by an actual person. But trust me, Bart Dude, I saw him taking a corner wide in a cambus by Carver-Hawkeye Arena last week.
  • Elevator I4 has a faulty digital floor indicator. I saw one old guy aiming for 2nd floor refuse to get off because the digital readout said “5,” even though a sign on the wall in front of him said “2.” For all I know, he’s still riding the elevator, trapped in a loop of mismatched floor numbers.
  • A regular coffee at Java House by the main lobby costs $1.56. By the first weekend, I’ve accumulated enough loose change to buy a coffee straight up. This gives me an embarrassingly large sense of achievement, like I’m getting the next one for free.
  • The University/State of Iowa charges the Ronald McDonald house more than 100 bucks for each parking pass visiting families use when their kids are stuck in the hospital for weeks. Ah, charity.
  • The head doctor of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (or “pick-you,” as it’s known) asked me to fill out an evaluation on one of his doctors because, he said, “We like to ask families that have been with us for a while.”
  • I stumbled into the world’s quietest baseball game on the way back from lunch Sunday. At the Hawkeyes’ Duane Banks field, two teams called the Pirates and the Blizzard were battling it out in front of eight fans. Not a word spoken for five straight minutes. Just the pop of gloves and crack of a bat. It was so surreal and dreamlike that I was waiting for Teddy Roosevelt to ride in on an elephant and hand me my tax return.
  • I asked the nurse if their staff dress code permits T-shirts as long as the shirt has some Iowa Hawkeyes branding on it, since that’s all anyone wears other than scrubs. She seemed a little baffled by the question. “No,” she said. “We don’t really have a dress code.”
  • I can get from the 7th floor PICU, down to Java House on the 1st floor by the main entrance, get a coffee and be back in Katie’s room in 3 minutes on a Sunday morning when I’m waiting for a doctor to show up. The nurse is, quite honestly, pretty impressed with my speed. I act like it’s no big deal—and vow to shave a few seconds off next time.
  • On Sunday morning, I see new magnetic signs on all the doors: “Protestant Worship Service: 10:30am: East Room, 8th Floor.” On Sunday afternoon, I see another magnetic sign go up: “Alcoholics Anonymous Walk-In Meeting: –>”
  • I almost understand the layout of the Carver, Colloton, Pappajohn and Pomerantz pavilions. This is a navigational feat in this place. This afternoon, I saw an elderly couple wandering down the hall as the wife said, “There are all kinds of exit signs, but they don’t tell you exit to where.”
  • The Coolest Counter Guy contest is neck-and-neck. I like how the guy in the Fountain Dining Room greets everyone with, “Are we having a good day in zee hospital today?” But it’s tough to beat the too-cool-for-Starbucks guy at Java House with his patented moves of tossing cream cheese containers across the bagel counter and snapping credit cards through the register like he’s breaking kindling.
  • The Melrose Dining Room on 5th floor serves Starbucks. But they’re closed on the weekends. This made for a bitter discovery after my dad and I walked to 5th floor last Saturday.
  • One kid’s relative on our floor wears a T-shirt that says, “2 Big 4 U.” She believes in truth in labeling.
  • If you run down to the Iowa River and turn left, you’ll pass through scenic parks and campus buildings. Go to the river and turn right, and you’ll pass behind The Hungry Hobo restaurant and have to dodge kids swinging baited fish hooks back and forth across the trail.
  • When you need a little pick-me-up, stand outside Kinnick Stadium on Saturday afternoon and wait for the band to play Rocky. If they played it every day, I bet it’d be the biggest attraction in the neighborhood.


  1. Thanks for the tour – I kinda feel like I’ve been there for a visit. The sad reality is that we haven’t made it back to visit since Devin tried to eat Allie and your reply to the situation was, “Ya know, Devin, I don’t think it’s gonna work out between the two of you. You just aren’t her type…” Poor, poor infant Devin – I think I’ll be sending you the bill for the couch-time that’s sure to come out of the trauma from that exchange! Glad your Katie is making progress and you are finding the good in where you are right now. Expectantly waiting for your next blog post! Give your family our best and a big hug to little Katie 🙂

  2. I just heard from Kelly Rawlings about Katie’s surgery and she directed me to your blog. I’m glad to hear Katie’s recovery is going well and I hope she is soon back home eating goldfish crackers with her family — with no doctors anywhere near! Thanks for writing so eloquently about her experience — and yours — you’ve taught me much about life and love and God in just a few blog posts. I hope a book is in your future, not because I assume you feel the need to be a published book author but because there are so many people out there who need to read what you have to say. All my best to you, your family, and the doctors and other medical staff who are making Katie better.

  3. Glad to see you are learning how to navigate your way around the hospital. If I remember correctly, the pavillions are in alphabetical order, strangely. Also, if you need to get somewhere far and fast, go to the basement floor and walk there. Almost all of the elevators go to that floor, and you avoid most of the people traffic. 🙂

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