A short tale of agony
Oh! The anticipation of entering the IN side of the General Hospital. No longer was I a simple
casualty in the OUT. The fickle finger of medical fate had indicated quite dramatically, by prodding me continuously in the right side of my belly, that I was destined for EXAM/OPS/SURG. Ward. My colonic wiggler was about to burst, so the surgeon said.
“Only one thing for it, old chap. Pre-Med and in half an hour whip it out. Hour and a half max!”
It was like being told your plugs were wet, and with a quick brush and you would be O.K. Not like “Casualty” at all. A bit anti-climatical really. Where was the in depth discussion concerning the intestinal tract and it vagaries; the meaning of the hereafter, out of body experiences, etc.?
I floated into the preparation room and received “Big Louie” in the left arm, counted to two and a bit, then wondered why I could not for the life of me, clearly make out the face of the nurse leaning over me.
“You alright now, love?”
“Yes, there’s a good boy. How do you feel?”
“Yes, of course you do.”
It seemed to have meaning to her at the time, and later became blindingly obvious that the ‘bedside manner’ is being exactly what your patient expects – in my case, a pretty nurse. Had I been in a road accident, and awakened to the sound of pounding diesels, I no doubt would have hugged the nearest tyre, put my thumb in my mouth and called for mummy.
The first hours passed in a series of fits and starts, with no recognition of time, or the world around me, except ….
“Ugh! It’s daylight!”
“Ugh! My head/belly/all over!”
“Ugh! My wife? Oh, it’s. Ouch! Hello. Ugh!”
She was my first visitor and welcomed with all my spirit. The flesh was decidedly lacking, however, and simply drooped in flaccid globs all over a very untidy bed.
What does she do? Starts tidying up! The bed, then the cabinet, then the floor. She opens her bag and pulls out a pair of pyjamas! PYJAMAS!! She had to buy some for me, she said – the whispered aside indicated my lack of moral perceptiveness in these matters. One just HAS to wear Pyjamas in PUBLIC PLACES. I’ll get my car tax in them next time it’s due. See what she has to say then.
She continued her cheerful ramblings ….
“I see they tagged you, then.”
If there is anything less calculated to cheer you up., it is to be reminded of the demonic efficiency of a hospital. Especially their labour saving action of applying a plastic name tag to your wrist upon entry, so that should the surgeon fail in his Hippocratic ministrations, you are already suitably attired and packaged, to be easily detached from the base of the reject chute for onward transmission to your own plot of Mother Earth.
“Yes,” I mumble, but she has already passed on to other subjects. Did I know that Mavis…?… and she said, so I said – what about Joe? Do you know he’s dying… in for an operat… Oh? You asleep?
“No.. er?…Am I?”
She leaves, full of pity for my condition, piqued at my unresponsiveness, but resolved to ‘build me up’ when I get home.
I have tea. Four mouthfuls of soup, a solitary poached egg glaring balefully up at me from and antiseptic, stainless steel plate, and my blob of ice-cream. Roll on morning.
The trouble with morning is that it is OP.DAY+2, and the Winged Facilitators of the Nether regions descend in droves. You MUST pass wind. Hold your scar, bind yourself in bed sheets, but on all accounts, you MUST BREAK WIND and COUGH!!
A doleful line of seven unfortunate men each clasps that part of his anatomy most likely to burst asunder if subjected to sudden strain. Upon the command…..
Some fall backwards, with plump, white bristly legs waving frantically in the air, like overturned wood lice. Others smile and look for encouragement from Miss. The rest just Aaaargh and Umphhh, and try to believe that the ward will not become festooned with their intestinal coils upon the next command.
This minor sadism is perpetrated on a regular basis, and soon most come to enjoy the ritual, especially when the instruction is change to PASS WATER! They enter into the spirit of the thing.
“Look Miss! On one leg!”
“Filled and eggcup, Miss!”
“Bet I can hit that fly before you, George!”
At this point, the tea ladies take to sporting umbrellas on their rounds, and Staff comes to take charge.
“I am so pleased the urinary tract is functioning.” Why does that glint in her eyes send ice water down my spine?
“We really must try to go properly, Mr.A. I’ll give you something to help.”
In my innocence, I think of my youth, syrup of figs and castor oil. But no, the ultimate terror is about to come, and she smiles a secret smile whilst proffering a couple of small plastic thimble-like thingies. Noooo!! The suppository!
After what can only be described as a spirited struggle, and being extricated from the linen cupboard wherein I had sought sanctuary, I was lain, semi-prone, to receive my medicine. Plastic thimbles, goo stuff and all.
The nurse patted my rump, and said, “All done. Try to hold it for twenty minutes please.”
I lay back thinking it wasn’t that bad. I’d had worse. I’d have time to finish the last chapteeeerrrr!”
I was beside the bed. Condition GO, but HOLDING!
Where did that incompetent woman get twenty minutes from? Twenty seconds hadn’t elapsed, and here I was, waddling to the lavatory, knowing smiles from all the beds – some inserting ear-plugs in their ears. Oh, the humiliation, the lavatory was screened from the ward by a shower curtain!
I stood, prepared to descend, buttocks bared. I gritted by teeth, girded my loins, thought of England, and stuck it for five, agonising minutes. It was more than Human flesh could bear. I crashed to the seat and did my duty – but not in the fashion I had intended. There was an explosion which raised me of the seat a full inch, and the twin CRACK of plastic hitting porcelain under the pressure of fifty atmospheres.
There was the tortured scream of melting ceramic as the pellets ricocheted around the bowl for a full six seconds before diving into a watery grave. Werner von Braun never had such pride on his first ‘burn’.
Miss was not impressed.
“Wind is very good, dear, but you really must try to go properly before you leave.”
What next? In fact there was nothing next. The days grew longer, only briefly illuminated at visiting times by friends and family, and other people’s friends and family. Boredom took hold, with its relentless and insidious grip. I took to reading notices.
VISITORS ARE REMINDED TO LEAVE CHAIRS AS THEY FOUND THEM
One looked good on top of the cupboard. Eight others I stacked upside down in the Day Room. Have you ever watched sane adults try to re-stack non-stacking chairs?
There was a Paddington Bear in the Day Room. I stood for five minute in front off the exterior window strangling the little sod. Passers-by shook their heads and inaudible whispers shaped their mouths…. “..poor devils.. still it’s the only place for them.”
I stuck Paddington’s hat on my head and said “Boo!” to Sister from behind the towel rack. That cost me another suppository when she had recovered.
But this time, it worked! My only little production lay before me. It was small, but beautifully marked. It was my first, and I was justifiably proud. Such small victories are of great importance in the Surgical Ward wasteland. I was an Achiever, and I was going home!