Don’t take NO for an answer

How do you react when someone tells you NO? I don’t like hearing it. Never have. Never will.

Last year, my husband needed surgery. He decided to undergo the procedures at a major Hospital on the west coast where one of the best surgeons had operating privileges. We traveled as a family with our five year old daughter.
A few days before surgery, we checked in for a pre-operative appointment and were informed that no one under the age of 12 was allowed inside the hospital. Imagine my shock! As I sat in the lobby, playing cards with my daughter while we waited for my husband’s return, the wheels were turning at full speed in my head. What were we going to do? We were an ocean away from home. There was no family nor friends to watch our daughter and I wasn’t about to hire a complete stranger to babysit our child. A wave of sadness washed over me as I realized the full meaning of that rule: I wouldn’t be by my husband’s side during his time of need.

When I shared my concern with the surgeon, he referred me to patient relations services. The woman who answered my phone call only firmly reiterated the rule. I was fuming inside but refrained from venting my frustration on her and remained pleasant.
I felt stuck and powerless. And then I asked myself: What CAN I do?
The only thing in my power at that very moment was to tell management I didn’t like the rule. I asked whom I should contact and the woman suggested I call the COO’s office. When I hung up the phone, I hesitated. Was I really going to bother a COO with my grievance? I had heard of siblings not being allowed to visit their mother after a baby delivery. I had heard of children not being able to say goodbye to their dying parents because of that rule. I had little hope but I couldn’t give up without trying. I made that second call in spite of the fear in my gut. The secretary who picked up asked me to e-mail a letter.

This is what I sent:


My name is Sarah Richardson.
My husband will have a colectomy at your hospital next week Tuesday and stay for 5-7 days. We flew in from Hawaii with our 5 year old daughter and found out yesterday that she is not allowed in the hospital.
My husband will be unable to move for the first couple of days post surgery. I am upset and sad that I will not be able to visit him since I have no one here to watch our daughter.
I realize the safety of patients is of utmost importance. However, I find the rule lacking in logic: is 12 the magical age at which children do not carry germs? My daughter is with me at all times; whatever germs she’s exposed to, I would be as well. If anything, I tend to get sick more often than she does. It would be hard but it would at least make more sense if no visitors at all were allowed.

It is well documented that the love and support of family is a key element of a patient’s recovery, regardless of what the illness is. And it saddens me that my husband will have to go through this alone.

I think a better rule would be to require use of a face mask and mandatory hand washing + a check by a nurse that visitors are not actively sick (runny noses etc…) At the very least, the hospital should make provision for a kids playroom, so that spouses can still visit each other. I am sure we are not the only ones from out of town in this predicament.
One more thing:
Patients are allowed to meet with children in the lobby area- that, again, defeats the purpose of preventing infections. It’s okay for a patient to be exposed to germs downstairs but not upstairs? When the patient goes back up, doesn’t he carry the germs back with him? I am all for rules when they are sound; this one is anything but…
Thank you for giving me a chance to voice my concerns. I hope the administration revises the rule soon and that I may have helped other families in the future. If there is anything that can be done for our current situation, I would appreciate it.
Thank you . I realize YOU didn’t make the rule 🙂 Sarah”

Their e-mail reply landed in my inbox the very next day and the subject line read: Your daughter is approved as a visitor!
I was exhilarated. I felt powerful indeed.

My husband benefited greatly from our loving presence during a grueling ten day hospital stay and we were very grateful for the management’s flexible arrangement.

There is so much in life we cannot change and much more yet we THINK we cannot change. There are so many Nos and Can’ts strewed on our paths. Next time you stumble upon one, just ask yourself: What CAN I do? However small the act, do it. It might not change anything. It might change everything. If you do it often enough, it WILL change you.

We may feel powerless but we are not! When we refuse to take No for an answer, we open the door to Yes.

I like Yes a lot more, don’t you?

If there was a time when you didn’t take NO for an answer, please share in the comment section below.

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