My sister was in hospital, having undergone serious surgery lasting several hours. She had been through enough. So did she deserve a tedious visit from her brother and me? Yes.
We were bearing gifts; flowers, chocolate and … more chocolate. It would test whether she was recovering satisfactorily. Eating the chocolate would reveal that her appetite was returning to normal and a tick would be recorded for the hospital and staff. Otherwise it would be a matter of taking things into our own hands and secreting her out of their shabby care. She ate the chocolate. She could stay.
Hospitals are like the Battleship Galactica. There is an other-worldliness about them. They are colossal monuments of alien technology and space age interventions for human survival. They are also incredibly busy places. White coated beings bearing VIP lanyards and ardent expressions swish along corridors. Trolleys conveying precious human cargo, driven by steely, Daniel Ricciardo type orderlies race by. Pyjama clad detainees, festooned with tubes and suspicious looking bottles shuffle unsurely.
And then there’s us; the dreaded visitor, cluttering up hallways, dithering at lift exits, rifling through presents, ruffling beds and nurses, secretly scrutinising the charts of all the patients in the room and making summarily dire, twisted prognoses, never knowing when to call it quits and damned well go home, and generally testing the patience of the all the patients.
My sister was pretty chirpy and tolerant with us. She was up and about and led us out into a little general area where she revealed how little sleep she had had. The woman she shared a room with had argued with the nurses, baulked at taking her medicine, and endeavoured to vomit up when she had taken it in an act of defiance.
In the middle of the night she had required major alterations to the construction of her bed to accommodate her… well, generous proportions. This impromptu building production would have sent the CFMEU into a spin. (And these guys can spin!) These major additions took place throughout the night as much calamitous rejection took place before the perfect design was settled on. By then distant birds twittered dawn songs and strains of morning sunlight gilded the frames of the ward windows. But, if the sunshine was bright, a tired twilight infused the whole day for the other poor sods who occupied the room. My sister should have taken out an AVO against her, as her IV being was front of the TV.
That’s what you get in a public hospital. You get a cross section of people bunged in together. Some are salt of the earth. Some are upstanding humans, and the menacing few are those, who if you saw them approaching on a street, you would step into the path of a speeding bus to avoid.
A few years ago I had a similarly serious condition which entailed a hospital stay. The first occupant of the bed next to me was a youth who thought it hilarious to pretend that he was dead when his friends came to visit. Funny guy; he’s probably doing stand-up now – as opposed to lie-down.
A pleasant Greek lady was opposite and the two visitors, of which there was a strict limit, multiplied like the loaves and the fishes, until I thought I was at a Greek wedding. There was much chatter and kids chased one another through intravenous tubes and stands. But they did offer me chocolate –so after that I happily anticipated their visits.
The next patient in the room had to be put on dialysis. I assumed that it was for kidney disease, but found out that she had taken an overdose. That was fairly sad and shocking. Although when her callous boyfriend came in and scavenged the ice-cream and jelly she hadn’t eaten, that was even more sad and shocking.
Echoing down the corridors was the voice of a cantankerous old man. At intervals he could be heard haranguing the nurses and upending trays and generally causing mayhem. One night I heard a nurse joyfully tell others how in a Master Cheffy kinda way, he had experimented with his meal by seasoning his fish with the lemon jelly.
Although great acts of humanity, healing and care happen in hospitals, they are places that everyone is happier out of than in.
When I got home Jack raced to the door to greet me. I patted him and hugged him, and assured him that my sister would be alright.