Career Development

Happy New Year to People in Service!

You make the world a better place to live.  You touch other people’s lives.  Maybe that sounds a bit sappy, but let me tell you about the week I had and perhaps you will understand why I am a bit sentimental.

Last Friday afternoon my healthy, strong, smart eleven year old son had a partial seizure right in front of me.  I have some experience with seizures because several of  my closest friends happen to have them.  What scared me more than anything was wondering what the cause was.  My mind raced: Encephalitis? Tumor?  Apnea?  Epilepsy?

He came to and I asked if it had happened before.  He said that it had, but he did not think it was a ‘big deal.’  Upon further investigation, he has had six in the past two weeks.  I drove him to gymnastics as usual since he said he felt fine and wanted to go.  My doctor friend there cautioned that he should keep off certain equipment as it would be dangerous to have a seizure while in the air over a metal high bar or hitting a vault.  (That painted a clear mental picture for me.)  I informed his coach who was as concerned as I was.  I also called his doctor’s office who took the information and said they would call me right back.  Then I left to pick up my mother in law who was arriving in Boston from Switzerland in an hour.

Why do things only happen on weekends and holidays?  From a medical emergency to a burst water valve, I don’t ever seem to need help between the hours of 9-5.

Christmas week is always a zoo at the airport, but after circling 8 times through short-term parking, an attendant kindly directed me to an illegal spot and gave me permission to stay there.  It was a small thing but I wanted to hug him for his kindness.  I then stood in International Arrivals a nervous wreck and waited for the plane to arrive and my phone to ring.  I called my husband and told him what happened, then I called a friend who has epilepsy and told her the news, then I called the doctor’s office again and repeated the story.  The woman on the phone said, “I told the nurse what has happened Mrs. Buhler.  She should call your cell in 30 minutes or so.”  No call.  The plane and customs were moving slowly so after 45 minutes I called again.  The same receptionist said, “I am sorry she did not call Mrs. Buhler, but she is here.   Hold on.”  I spoke to the nurse repeating my story again.  She said that she would speak to the Doctor on call and call me back ‘within an hour.’

At this point, I was questioning if I should not have taken him to the ER, but she assured me that it would not have done any good-they would not have run any tests since ‘he is not critical.’  I found my dear Mother in Law and blurted out the story (she is great in a crisis).  Then I waited for my phone to ring.  It did not so two hours later I called again.  I could hear chatter in the background and the receptionist said, “Mrs. Buhler, the Doctor was going to call you soon, but she is right here, she just got back from dinner.  Here you go.”  I once again repeated my story.  The details I did not say was that I was terrified, had attended a funeral for a friend who died of seizure complications two months ago and was frantic to know what is happening to my son.  She said that it is impossible to tell over the phone what happened but I should make an appointment for the following week.

I will fast forward a bit, just know that I have called that doctor’s office at least 25 times over the past 6 days.  With dogged persistence I had him seen, tested, and diagnosed with a mild form of Epilepsy.  Everything took longer than promised, and few people seemed to care as much as I needed them to.

Other than the Parking Attendant, there were two other bright spots in this human story.  My son’s doctor was great about helping me sort through the red tape of insurance and scheduling to get his tests done quickly.  She called me daily, sometimes even from her home where I could hear her own toddler in the background.  She understood the urgency of the situation and was able to sympathize.  I also appreciated Natasha, a scheduler at Boston Children’s Hospital who went out of her way to find MRI and EEG appointments (even though they were 40 miles apart) so that we could have answers and some peace of mind.  His condition is going to be manageable and we are all very grateful.

I would like to think that there is a better level of service in the medical industry than there is in hotels, but I don’t see much of a difference.  In medicine lives are often at stake, but even tragedy becomes commonplace and teams can get complacent in their positions just as easily as a hotel workers.  For people working in hotels, restaurants, parking cars, etc… they are often not trained to sympathize with their guests, and can develop a hostile attitude towards the seemingly privileged people they serve.   When you get an employee who genuinely cares about the people they work for, it is a rare and special individual.

When I teach classes for hotels I point out that hotels are like hospitals in many ways.  They are places where people live out the most intimate, personal scenes of their lives.  People get married, pregnant, divorced, and even die in Hotels.  It is important to know that sometimes mundane interactions with clients, patients, or guests might be pivotal for them at the moment they occur.  One tough, inner city attendee of my class said it best when she said, “You know I used to think all rich people were the same, but you showed me they have feelings too.  I will try to remember that from now on.”

I got this lesson early in my career.  I was working as a Room Service Waiter in a luxury New York City hotel.  A well-dressed businessman ordered a steak dinner and fine bottle of red wine.  I served his dinner and we spoke about cultural events that were happening in the city while I poured the bottle.  Just small talk like I did for lots of lonely tourists.  Nothing stood out.  I asked when he would like the table picked up, but he said that he was tired and would call when he was done.   An hour or so later I was on his floor and wondered if he wanted me to take the table away, as it was getting late.  I knocked but there was no answer.  Often guests go out for a walk and are unhappy to come back to dirty dishes in their room so I let myself in, announcing “Room Service” as I entered.  I opened the door just in time to see him fall out of the window.  We locked eyes for a split second as he was sitting on the sill with one leg out and simply leaned, to fall 10 floors down.  It was terrible.

No man is an island.  There were never truer words said to describe how we are all impacted and impactful.  This New Year my resolution is to be more mindful of the imprint I leave on others.  Have a wonderful meaningful year!

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