The Daily Heller: Designing for Sanity. Thanks, Michael Graves

Posted inThe Daily Heller

For the past few months I’ve been anxious about a suspicious report from my doctor. So suspicious that he sent me to a specialist. Who sent me to get various imaging tests. Which resulted in being advised to get a biopsy.

I’ve never been keen on those three syllables—bi and opsy—when combined into one word. And so my tendency for “white coat syndrome” increased (that’s when your blood pressure exceeds normal levels out of fear of just being in a hospital). It may not have been obvious as I continued to write my Daily Heller columns, but my exacerbated fatalism was in full boogie. I was a mess.

When the time finally came for the surgical procedure, I filled out all the forms and took the pre-op examinations, including a COVID test (which cost 150 uninsured dollars). I was just anxious to get it over with … but then my surgical date was postponed a week, which triggered a new round of internal agitation.

So as not to overdramatize, which I have a tendency to do, realizing this was out of my control I settled in for an unsettling wait until the new date was near. I had to get a new COVID test (negative). Waited for the pre-op call to tell me when, where, what and how I should prepare. I got there an hour early, was placed in a pre-op stall and waited and waited and waited. My surgery was delayed by an hour that felt like days. Nurses deal with these things many times every day, which gives them the experience to handle a nervous wreck like me. Thank heavens for nurses.

I’m not writing this for sympathy. Everyone’s been through something similar, and many have gone through much, much worse. I am writing this to applaud the power of design, and particularly the healthcare design from the Michael Graves Office. A single product reduced my anxiety more than anything else.

“A key piece of equipment has gone unaltered since it was patented in 1933,” states the Graves Design website. “We’re talking about the wheelchair!”

Stryker / Michael Graves

Seeing the name Michael Graves on the spiffy-looking postmodern chair (above) that would transport me into the operating room gave me a sense of security. I remember meeting Graves at a conference long before he fell ill and was confined to a motorized wheelchair; how much I enjoyed listening to him talk about the fun he had playing with the conventions of architecture and product design, using bright colors and childlike shapes … and talking about making the world a happier place.

Well, that’s exactly what that wheelchair did for me—it made me forget my woes, fears and fantasies about a bad result. My nurse handler gingerly pushed me through a few labyrinthian corridors to the OR as though it were a cheap amusement ride, and made me smile. And once in the OR I was relatively calm—you might even say serene. Well, that, and the sedation that put me out like a light in the middle of saying “It doesn’t seem to be wor …” It worked. I woke up in recovery and remembered nothing but the ride in the Graves chair.

When it was time to leave, the recovery nurse asked if I wanted to walk out or ride out. “Are you kidding?” I said, “I’ll take the ride, it’s a Michael Graves chair.” She knew exactly what I meant. “Yeah, they’re cute, aren’t they? And fast, too.”

Posted inThe Daily Heller