It’s not how anyone would wish to spend their birthday – as a patient in the hospital.
And with the current, COVID-19-driven, no-visitor policy, it also means celebrating without family by your side.
But for Richard Bell, if family is there in some way, it’s meaningful, no matter the circumstances. Bell turned 68 with his family looking on from outside his hospital window on May 31.
“I would say having a birthday in a hospital is a far different experience than any other time,” Bell said, “but I’d also say that as long as you can have your family participate in a birthday, it’s just as meaningful, and maybe even more meaningful, given that you are separated by your family and you have another family in the hospital that is caring for you just as your family would.”
Bell was admitted to St. Luke’s Magic Valley on May 29 and celebrated his birthday while in the intensive care unit (ICU). His wife arranged to have his children fly in from across the country.
Bell’s wife, son and daughter-in-law from Denver, and even a dog, showed up bearing a sign reading, “Happy Birthday Richy!” Over the course of the day, his two daughters brought another cheery sign and his other son flew in from Washington, D.C., with his girlfriend. Bell spoke to family members from his room on his cell phone.
“All in all, it turned out to be actually a very wonderful experience and a happy happy birthday,” he said.
Alexis Bennett, a CNA at St. Luke’s Magic Valley, captured a photograph and the moment for the family from inside the hospital.
“It has been so hard on our patients not being able to have visitors, but these special moments mean everything,” Bennett said.
Hospital staff members got in on the celebration.
“The cafeteria sent me a little piece of birthday cake with ‘Happy birthday’ on it and then, lo and behold, a group of nurses very kindly came in and sang happy birthday to me, which was really special and showed a ton of compassion – as I’ve seen throughout my stay here,” Bell said.
As a winter resident of the Wood River Valley, Bell is no stranger to the St. Luke’s way of doing things.
“Several years ago, I had two ablations for AFib (atrial fibrillation) and I’ve become very familiar with the Wood River hospital, as I’ve had to go down there to get cardio a number of times,” Bell said.
“I went down to the hospital with very high pulse and … they decided that I needed a higher level of care,” he said. “When I arrived here, I was in bad shape. I was really, really sick.
“They admitted me immediately to the ICU ...”
While he has a long way to go, Bell feels he is in good hands.
“The doctors and nursing staff have really been special, and you really feel, in my mind, very well cared for,” he said.
He does have a birthday wish, however.
“I hope that the only time that I ever see them again is on the street, as opposed to in the hospital.”
Michelle Bartlome is the public relations manager at St. Luke's Magic Valley.