day 2 in hospital

In the bed next to me is an old man who oscillates between confusion and lucidity, depression and, well, if not exactly cheerfulness, at least a stoic acceptance.
 
On Monday he was depressed, begging the nurse for a tablet to permanently put him out of his misery.
 
"I’m never going to leave here, anyway."
 
"Nonense", she said.  "You’ve got a few years left in you yet.  How old are you?"
 
"Ninety-seven!" he cried, triumphantly.  "Haven’t got an answer to that, have you?"
 
We smiled at his small victory.  The nurse muttered something about reaching a hundred, but we all knew he had won the battle of words.
 
That night was a bad one.  I was sore, but not in pain.  Even so, I found it hard to settle down.  I surfed the net via the bedside broadband, but the keyboard was at most six inches wide; each key had to be laboriously hit with a thumb nail.
 
Around midnight I logged off and tried to settle down.  From the old man came a stream-of-consciousness narration from his delerious sleep that did not stop for more than a minute.  From the bed on my other side came a snoring that registered on the Richter scale.  At five a.m. I gave up trying.  I would not get to sleep now.  At six I was sitting in the armchair, listening to breakfast TV on the headphones.
 
The day was one long blur of tedium, punctuated by visits from doctors and visits to the X-ray department.  At times I tried to sleep, but at most managed a fitful, semi-conscious daze.  The nurses arrived at frequent intervals with pain killers and offers of low-dose morphine.  I wasn’t in pain, just uncomfortable.  But by the afternoon I could breath in deeply.  Such small victories mark the progress to normality.
 
My wife started her first paid job for nineteen years this day.  It caused some consternation when she announced it.
 
"An escort?" I cried.
 
"Uncle Peter is pimping you out?" asked number one child, increduous.
 
But the explanation was not so exotic.  Peter is a bus driver.  One of his runs is to drive special needs children to and from school.  An hour and a half morning and afternoon.  They need someone to run shotgun:  an escort.
 
So she would not be able to visit me until six.  At five forty-five I decided I had time for a wee: a two minute exercise, normally.  But now things were more complicated.  I had a tube running from between my fourth and fifth ribs into a demijohn that did contain water, but now looked like blackcurrant cordial.
 
So first I raised the head of my bed with the remote control.  I could not help but hum the theme to Thunderbirds.  Then I hauled myself into a sitting position, legs over the edge.  I shuffled forward until my weight was over my feet.  Unhooking the demijohn from the bed, I steeled myself and stood upright.  After a couple of seconds to catch my breath I shuffled old-man-like to the loo.
 
The demijohn must be kept below my waist, so I hooked it over a pipe by the loo and gingerly lowered myself  down.  Going in a manly fashion, standing, was out of the question.

But by now every muscle in my abdomen, chest and shoulders was clenched tight.  I then had to go through a relaxation ritual, deliberately relaxing each muscle group in turn, because it is impossible to ‘go’ when you are clenched.
 
By the time I returned to my bed she and her brother were already there.
 
She enjoyed her first day.  She already has a boyfriend that fell asleep on her shoulder on the ride home.  I was to call number one child, she commanded.
 
"Does that thing have a phone you can use?" she asked, pointing to my entertainment console suspended on the end of an articulated arm.

"It’s got stuff on it even NASA hasn’t got," I replied.  I phoned my daughter.  She talked to me in her ‘Aw, a sick little kitten’ voice.  I reassured her I wasn’t about to die.

Afterwards, my wife told me my daughter sobbed when first told of my accident.  My wife had had to tell my daughter’s husband whilst she cried in the background.  Bless her cotton socks.
 
After the stilted sentences that pass for conversation at a hospital bedside died away they left.

A student doctor told me he needed two blood samples, one from a vein, one from an artery.  Whilst he went to get the modern equivelent of leeches the guy in the bed opposite told me this student had bruised all his arm trying to find an artery.

"The artery sample is going to hurt," apologised the student.  "Oh, but I can see that you’ve already had one done,so you know that."

"No, that one didn’t hurt at all.  Mind you, that was a proper doctor that did that."

"Oh well.  You’re out of luck with me, then," he joked.

In the event it was painless, and there was no bruise to honour my bravery aftwards.

All the staff here, from porter to consultant, not only exhibit sensitivity and humanity, but they are all prepared to join in a bit of banter as well.  Humour is life’s lubrication that makes our indignities bearable. 

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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

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