My pastoral work involves me climbing the stairs in Craigavon Area Hospital on a regular basis. They remind me of how weak my body really is. When visiting in the wards, I try to follow the recommendations of all the health gurus, and forsake the lift in favour of getting some extra exercise by using the stairs. By the time I get to Level 2 – the coronary care ward – I often feel as though I should be admitted. If I make it to Level 4 in one effort, I need to pause to regain my breath. When arriving at the desired level out of breath, one of the the best strategies I have used is to appear to be extra fastidious about applying the sterilising hand gel at the ward entrance and use that moment to recover.
It’s interesting to note the different behaviours adopted by people on the stairs. Some younger people are energetic “inside trackers” who hold the hand-rail and bound up or down two stairs at a time, and in the interests of personal safety, one needs to allow them the space they need. Other older folks move more hesitantly, giving way to anyone carrying a file or with a stethoscope around their neck. And some are seriously committed to their superstition of never passing on the stairs and wait patiently for the opposing traffic to clear before attempting to make it to the next landing.
I note these behaviours because there is little else to interest me in those minutes it takes me to make it up the stairs. I was wondering if some creative hospital manager could use the stairwell more creatively to communicate essential information about the hospital or about good health practices. At least that would mean that if I arrived at a landing slightly out of breath, I could pause and appear to be intelligently consulting a poster or looking at a picture. All I can do right now, as I pause out of breath, is to look rather sheepishly at my fellow travellers on the stairs and say something inane like “It’s a quare climb, isn’t it? You’re ready for a bed yourself when you get to the top.” Maybe I should start a campaign: “Make the Hospital Stairs More Interesting”?
Inevitably, I as come down the stairs after my visiting my people, I thank God for the strength to be able to use the stairs, and I pray that soon those whom I have visited may be renewed and restored so that they too may be able to walk down those stairs on their way home.