At the end of last year I wrote about being laughed at and mimicked while in a hospital waiting room. Today at the same hospital I had a completely different and very lovely experience chatting to two women who were also waiting.
The first thing to say is that it was in a different part of the hospital. Today’s waiting room was set up in a much friendlier way – there was a low wheelchair-accessible counter for the reception desk, a kiosk selling snacks, and a bring-and-share library of books to browse. The waiting area was also configured in a sociable way and there was plenty of space for wheelchair users.
I noticed the warm atmosphere straight away and I don’t think it was a coincidence that a woman immediately struck up a conversation. She explained that a friend of hers had a son with Tourettes. She asked some questions and told me about her experience of living with Parkinson’s – this is a movement disorder and it was interesting to hear about some of the similarities, and polar opposites, of our two conditions.
You can find out more about Parkinson’s here – the woman I was chatting to has been involved in making some of the videos. She also told me about a dance group she goes to – apparently there’s a network of these across the UK which sounds great.
While we were waiting another woman came over and joined us. She complimented me on my colourful spokes and I admired her decorated walking aid.
Very soon I was called for my appointment and had to tear myself away from these lovely conversations. It’s possible we would’ve got talking without this waiting area’s special features, but I’m sure they helped.
At a point when the NHS is under enormous pressure, focusing on waiting room design is unlikely to be a priority, but sometimes simple changes make all the difference. This room was busy, but everyone seemed pretty relaxed, and there was an atmosphere in which information and informal support could be shared.
I want to thank the two women who chatted to me so warmly – your conversations made the time pass more quickly and I left feeling buoyed by your understanding and solidarity.