Sunday, 27 December 2009
There’s a strange kind of unity and bonding that happens in a hospital. The other people who lie around you, in their beds like ships sailing out into the unknown, they become almost like family.
After a few days they are no longer strangers, but people you know. You have watched them struggle through the night, seen the way they deal with people and circumstance that comes to their bedside, know their fight, know their medication, drips, preferences. It’s profoundly human to watch others, but this is not people watching in a café or holiday market. This is real – people dealing with the base reality of who they are. That really is profoundly human.
So I became quite fond of my fellow travellers.
You also get to see the Nurses and Doctors, and they can be brilliant. But somehow they are always and inevitably in a different tribe. Part of that majority tribe. Inevitably there is a power relationship of some sort going on.
When Steve the fellow “osteo-mate” asks how you are today it is not the same as a nurse or a doctor asking you that question.
My approach is to make sure that I give something (not physical but human) to every person that comes to my bedside and that I take something similar from them. To make sure that every exchange has value and meaning.
I have named my stoma “Banquo”, an unwelcome guest at the party, but essentially a good person despite his gory appearance. It was very difficult to stand up and move about at first because of the long scar down my belly which impeded so many actions. I awoke fitted with a bag, and with the scar covered by a dressing. But after a day or so the dressing was rather gory and wrinkled from being in the bed. So I took that off in that in the shower.
Eating was difficult, and I hardly ate anything at first. I mean really nothing. Why would you? Black tea was good, and I was really thirsty and wanted squash and water all the time.
Every morning there is a ward round when the senior doctors come and check your progress. Initially Banquo was not working, but for some occasional dramatic farting noises. They wanted to make sure the stoma was working before I went home.
In the dark Christmas Eve of 2009 in E14, Martyn opposite me rings for a nurse, Ivor mutters quietly in Russian, and I read through eyes that are gritty with lack of sleep.
In the early hours I eat a tiny amount of yoghurt, and some jelly. Put something in to get something out.
A nurse brings me black tea in the strange flourescent dark that you get in a ward.
"Alright?" she asks me
"I'm worried the stoma doesn't work - aprt from farting"
"You'll be fine. If you're farting it's working"
"I want to go home"
"You will; soon"
She dissapears back into the corridor, and I sip the tea slowly and eventually fall asleep.