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Last week an unexpected trip to Emergency evolved into a four night stay in hospital. I now have a renewed sympathy for those that have to linger there longer, and a marvellous appreciation for the silence of my bedroom.

It started without fanfare and gradually progressed until it involved three separate medical teams, much puzzlement, and eons of waiting. Oh, how patient you have to be when you’re a patient and at the mercy of the timetables of others. I KNOW they’re busy, I KNOW it’s an emergency department, but why do two hours have to elapse between getting blood results back and someone making the call to bring in a specialist? Because when you see body parts expanding and changing colour by the hour before your eyes, it gets a little nerve-racking and irritating when you can’t seem to get attention. All it took to get hubbie to fly home in a flap, abandoning the car interstate, was a couple of measured text messages and a phone call, but it took more persistence and just a little bit of crying to get the attention of others.

Texts began flying between family members with pictorial attachments of my swelling foot.

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Sympathy arrived immediately.

‘Thank goodness,’ Moo texted. ‘It’s not that bad.’

‘I was expecting this.’

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I was admitted and settled in my iron bed in a shared ward, somehow convinced this was quite possibly the most delightfully comfortable bed I’d ever been in, all wrapped up and bunkered down as I was. There weren’t even any drugs involved in the forming of that opinion so it must have been the shock and the fever. So there I lay all relaxed and dreamy, waiting for the quiet of night to take me off gently to Neverland. Instead I was treated to a light and sound spectacular to shame Sydney Harbour on New Year’s Eve.

We all know nurses are very important, and they have to check this and check that, every couple of hours, every hour, all over the ward. They’re very good at that, but they’re not so good at doing it quietly. They clippity clop, squeaky squelch, they push carts on groaning wheels, they talk in normal voices because it’s their day time, and they turn on all the lights to make it appear like daytime. Thermometers taking temps – bing. IVs when they’ve finished – beep. Patients pressing buzzers across wards and neon signs flashing from the roof to make the announcement official. And it bings, and keeps binging, every five bloody seconds until someone comes along and turns it off. And when they do and just when you start drifting off, bing it goes again. And the lights flash on like a nuclear blast, then someone’s typing somewhere. Tippy tippy tippy, just outside your bed. Perhaps I was mistaken and I’m in a Vegas casino. Ah, at last the lights have been dimmed and you’re drifting again – until a seering light directly above pierces your eyelids. Wrong light. Sorry. Then it’s on next door – someone is being admitted at 3am and now it’s his startling light burning into your eyeballs. Relax, he’s gone to sleep, but he’s left his light on. And the guy two beds down is snoring demonically at 5am and shaking the separating curtains as he exhales, while his television blares in the background. You’re clearly asleep, buddy. Why the hell do you need your goddam television on? Meantime, the bells continue to ping.

Ah, the bells, the bells….

And then of course there is the food. Surely a ploy to encourage folk to move on as quickly as they can. It’s pretty useful having a very caring hubbie around to minister for my culinary needs, especially when he’s a foodie and understands the grief that can be inflicted by hospital food and the therapeutic value of offerings of delicious morsels and special treats. Prosciutto and baby bocconcini anyone? or lemon tart?

A couple of culinary examples to choose between. Take your pick.

Now meet Al. He comes along so we can all channel Paul Simon and sing ‘You can call me Al’ in unison but more importantly to ensure the surgical staff don’t do anything untoward on the wrong leg. Leg graffiti was therefore warmly welcomed.

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As too, the delightful fashions supplied. Dressed for success. Who doesn’t look hot in a cap and paper undies?

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In hospitals, there is much discussion about bodily functions, fluids and ablutions. In a shared ward, much of that pertains to the bodily functions and fluids of others, which is just too much information. Sometimes even earphones don’t help. Only in hospital can you openly fart to your heart’s content without even the pretence of trying to soften the blow, as often and as loudly as possible, without qualm or embarrassment. In fact, you’re likely to be applauded for your fine efforts. And the sights can be jarring too. The vision of hairy-bummed men shuffling past my curtain in wayward hospital gowns clutching poles with bags may be permanently seered onto my retinas. I refrained from photographing that.

But as the swelling subsided, the mood lifted and we might have got a bit silly.

Disclaimer: No medical personnel were involved in the taking of these photos.

Meanwhile, little Miss 3 was not aware of the shenanigans at the hospital and the apparent recovery and was still nursing fears about the ‘worm’ (germ) in Marsie’s foot. Bless her cotton socks, she was wondering whether a leaving party would be required for me. That’s kid-code for a funeral. Not yet, darling girl.

Above photos notwithstanding, there were times I felt ordinary, and looked worse. Here’s proof.

And there was some definite suffering.

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And times when I got irrationally upset. Those compression stockings would surely be useful for future air flight use, even if they did appear to almost cut off circulation in my left leg after a couple of hours. And those things are bloody expensive.

Rest assured, despite the frivolity that crept into my cubicle by Day 4, we were ever mindful of the very sick patients surrounding us, and kept our chuckles in check. It was a serious place to be and far from pleasant for most, as the midnight agonising groans did sometimes attest. While I was kept in high spirits by constant visits, attention, texts, and care, I left feeling terribly sad for a very ill women who went off for dangerous surgery without even one family member present to wish her well, or potentially to bid her farewell. How blessed I was to have constant company and care from my own family. I hope she did well.

After days of interminable waits (at least there was wifi, even though I may have temporarily selectively lost my ability to read)

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and much too much sharing of the stories and sounds of others, I was pleased to be home.

The first thing I did was rush (okay, limp) to the scales. Five days of sparingly picking through limp food under plastic cloches and four separate nil-by-mouths. At least a bit of weight loss would be my reward! Alas no. Nada. Not a kilo gone. Not even half.

At least I slept well that night. In fact, over twelve hours straight – in my perfectly silent, perfectly dark room. Not a single bing to be heard.

Praise Lord for hospitals and medical staff. And praise Lord even more when you can bid them farewell. And did I mention antibiotics? A world without them is unimaginable. Hope the other guests are now likewise home and doing okay.

 

 

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