Years ago I wrote a story about a girl named Mary who was told that she should have been named Martha. I wrote it for myself because even as a little girl I knew I was a Martha, practical and mindful, always busy but a loner. I hoped my story, with its lesson, would change me. The story of the originals, I found in Luke, in the New Testament. When Martha complains to Jesus that Mary is not helping her serve the guests (unlike that Martha, I never complained), Christ says, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. But one thing is needful and Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her.”
Finally I figured out what that good part was. But I never became a Mary.
Now my friend and neighbor, Doug is in the hospital with a broken femur and has been in intensive care. I willingly bring him the various items he needs, notify his other friends and family how he is doing, and do all the things a good Martha might do. Tea and sympathy and doing that extra little thing that makes a person feel special are not my department.
Doug is in the Clinica Biblica. This is after a seemingly too long a wait in San Juan de Dios. He was lying on a gurney in the hallway in pain, staring at the ceiling with which he was obsessed because he said more than once what a disgrace it was. (It is peeling and pretty disreputable looking.) The hospital had no self-respect, he said.
Finally, with the help of a kind doctor, we called another ambulance and moved Doug to the Clinica Biblica.
Many years ago I was a patient in Clinica Biblica. I stopped going there when they had finished innovating and building an addition and turned the rather homey, comfortable hospital founded by missionaries into a state-of-the-art edifice. In the process of moving, they lost an expensive test they had done and for which I had paid, and about which they seemed unconcerned. They were, after all, in the middle of change. They were growing.
It is now a very much for profit operation, up to the standards of whoever sets those standards for internationally acceptable hospitals. They still have some of the great doctors who were there when I was a patient.
But the emergency waiting room no longer has the best espresso machine in town for the friends of patients waiting to find out how things are going.
When I was in intensive care, it was a rather small department, with the nurse’s station nearby. Now it accommodates many more patients and is downright chilly, if you aren’t in bed and under covers.
After a day in intensive care, and after noting how nice their ceilings were, Doug said he really needed his toothbrush and toothpaste, and even a comb. I was a bit puzzled, but I found all of the items he wanted in his apartment. Then I went into my bathroom and unzipped the blue bag trimmed in white, just the right size for all of the things he wanted, and more. On it, in white were printed the words, “Clinica Biblica. /A servicio de Dios y el pueblo de Costa Rica, 1929.” / (In the Service of God and the people of Costa Rica.) At one time the bag had contained a toothbrush, toothpaste, a small comb, and some other things, I’ve now forgotten. It was given to me when I was in intensive care, and I thought it a lovely gesture that made me feel special. It was obviously also durable.
At the hospital I showed the bag to the nurse in intensive care. “Do you still give these to patients,” I asked. She shook her head.
I grew up and didn’t change. The hospital grew and did change, neither of us necessarily for the better. A dear friend comforted me saying that I am an intellectual nurturer. Still, I feel guilty. Let’s face it, the clientele of Clinica Biblica, are no longer just the people of Costa Rica. I have heard that corporations are people, too. I guess hospitals can be corporations. But they are lucky people. They don’t suffer from that useless feeling, guilt.