You know that awful smell that hits you the second you walk onto a patient floor in a hospital. You can probably smell it now just thinking of it. When someone in the family is in and out of the hospital regularly – for years – you cannot get that smell out of your head. The stench of misery combined with alcohol, cleaning fluids, and body fluids is overwhelming. And you don’t have to be a germphobe to cringe at the thought of touching anything. Anything.

Taylor, like me, was a germphobe. She refused to be near her sisters when they were sick, especially in the car when long rides regularly brought up the worst in Ryan. Once, at a family party, our five-year-old Corey drank a glass of champagne that she thought was juice and we didn’t notice. On the way home, her delighted “that was delicious!” expression turned into an ugly scene in the backseat. Taylor would never forget being sandwiched between her two eruptive siblings.

And yes, Taylor expected Ryan and Corey to tolerate the indignities her own illness brought into the house with loving acceptance. On some of her worst days, Taylor perfected the art of the double standard.

Germphobia aside, the irony of getting sick in a hospital is a reality. Germs are everywhere and even the best staff simply can’t stay ahead of how fast they grow. Being in the hospital so often, we learned to take matters into our own hands. We brought our own plastic gloves, soap, washcloths, towels, and commode. I sponge bathed Taylor every day and used disinfectant to clean the areas around her bed.


You don’t have to be a germphobe like me or Taylor to recognize how germy the hospital can be. Go in forewarned, pack appropriately, and most of all, don’t inhale too deeply when you get there.



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