They rolled me into a ward for vascular surgery patients. It
was called Willow and according to my medical students Kate and Emma it was
Level One, like I should be impressed, but I wasn’t.
I was slid into a space next to the nurse’s station, number
27 it was for those interested in numerology. I was one of 12 patients, six on
one side of the room, six on the other.
The first thing I did was check who I was keeping company
with. It’s always important to see your fellow players in this celestial card
Opposite me in number 22 was John who appeared grey and
sickly, and his wife was sometimes mopping his brow or looking worried in the
Number 23 was a stringy fellow with full grey beard, neatly trimmed,
in black vertical stripe pyjamas (you notice these things because he kept
getting out bed on one side and back in on the other).
And Number 24, next to the window, didn’t say or do anything,
just stared straight ahead.
On my side of the room, opposite Number 24, a man I couldn’t
see, but they called him George. And next to me, I couldn’t see him either at
first and I never heard his name. But he was in a lot of pain which he talked
about a lot.
That’s the cast.
I arrived about 5pm and they didn’t save me a spot for
dinner, but I was more occupied with doing an assessment of my faculties. What
sort damage did this surgery do, if any?
Let’s see: right arm, moving. Yes. Right hand, close a fist,
drum fingers. Yes. The surgery has done nothing that’s apparent so I can sleep
I woke to the sight of Amoret and my teenage daughter K
standing by me. They held my hand, enquired about how I felt, passed on the
get-wells from friends which is about all you can do in this situation. I appreciated their
presence but my eyelids were heavy. This damn anaesthesia won’t let go.
The night nurse woke me. It was dark outside and she wanted
to test my blood and get my blood pressure. The procedures stayed with me six
times a day.
Then a scream from behind me from the next ward. A primal
male scream that began with the letter N for what seemed 10-15 seconds followed by
the letter O for another 10-15 seconds. It was a low guttural cry building into
a screech of protest that reached a decibel level achieved only in Colonel
Gadaffi’s torture suites. There was other unintelligible dialog from the
protester with the same decibel level but there no mistaking the tone –
he wanted out.
Immediately I formed an image of a pirate, such was the
accent. Sort of like the accent we all get on International Talk Like A Pirate Day – you know,
the Long John Silver patois. There was no rush of hospital personnel towards
the sound – everybody carried on as normal, so I came to accept it as part of
Then, trouble with John, opposite me in slot 22. The night
doctor didn’t pull the curtains at first so I could see but not hear completely
as he unwrapped medical gear. John’s wife wasn’t there and there was talk about
an emergency procedure, then the curtains were drawn. With nothing to witness,
I feel asleep again to the sounds of medicine in practice.
Even the pirate gave up the fight.