(DAY 1 OF THIS HOSPITAL BLOG STRAND STARTED HERE)
Tuesday 27th July
At some point in the middle of the night, a nurse came round and took everyone’s blood pressure. General Davide was fast asleep. The nurse looked at the Friends of the Hospital woman sitting at the foot of his bed and at the security man and said quietly to them: “I do not think it is a good idea to wake him…”
She left the ward without waking him.
I woke from a DEEP sleep around 7.00am with noisy chaos around me. It turned out to be in the bed next to me, which was curtained-off. All I could tell was that there were several nurses’ voices and a man in a lot of pain.
At the staff shift change-over, the nurse in charge overnight went through the details of each patient but, with General Davide, she added: “…and there is the aggression problem which is why he (pointing at the security guard) is here.”
The man in the bed opposite me had a strange look yesterday. He was totally silent and staring. His eyes were wide open and staring blankly, seldom blinking, but he didn’t seem to be focusing on anything… and there was something oddly twisty about his mouth. Like the top half of his face was solid but the bottom half of his staring face had no bones, just muscles and flesh which floated randomly. Like he was chewing but he was chewing nothingness. He seemed very young, maybe in his twenties or thirties. His was propped up, looking ahead, wide black eyes staring, but maybe sightless.
This morning, there were two nurses and a doctor round him. he was less propped-up, his head lying back on the pillows. So his pointed chin was up and his neck was exposed. He looked like an ancient man, 120 years old, drained of life. He looked like some Egyptian mummy, raised from the dead in some 1950s Hammer horror movie.
He was refusing to eat or drink, but silently. The doctors and nurses were trying to get him to respond. But, from him, no words, no moans, nothing. Alive. But just silent resignation to something. I have no idea what.
The new nurse in charge of the day shift is a man. When he injected me, I said: “You’ve done that before, then…”
“I’ve been doing it for thirteen years,” he said.
The young female nurse today is his half-sister. She is a trainee nurse and this is her second day on a ‘real’ ward. She has kind eyes.
“We have the same father,” the male nurse explained to me.
He is Indian. His half sister is Pakistani. And, as it happens, the security guard today is Bangladeshi. The half-siblings both speak Urdu, the Bangladeshi guard does not. But they are very very friendly. In English.
The Friends of the Hospital woman was no longer at Davide’s bedside when I woke up. She must have left during the night or at dawn.
Davide is in a lot of pain now.
In the course of the morning, the man in agony in the bed next to me was removed and replaced by another man in a lot of pain.
The old/young/old man opposite me was left alone, silently staring ahead.
And then I was discharged from the hospital.
My calcium level was down, though still above the normal band of acceptability.
My kidney function was up though was not doing as well as my calcium level and the kidney function’s level had ‘plateaued’ at its abnormal level.
So all is not well, but I was told my conditions were no longer ‘dangerous’.
I and my bed could be released and I can, from now on, be treated as an outpatient. For my slightly damaged kidneys, my calcium level and the mark on my arm which might or might not be Lyme disease and which has now turned into a red smile on my skin.
Though the doctors still have no idea what caused my calcium/kidney conditions last year or this year.
That narrative continues.
But all the other people over the last week are left behind in freeze-frame. Like a narrative coitus interruptus. Like life, this story has no climax. When you die, the narrative just continues without you. So it goes.
I will never know if Michael’s brother arrived to take him away or, if so, where he went and what happened to him.
I will never know if the man who swallowed his false teeth and the cancer man died a few days later.
Nor will I ever know what happened to blind Italian Claudio or to the boy/old man with staring eyes in the bed opposite me.
As I left the ward, the last I saw of Davide was a glimpse of him walking slowly the short distance from his bed to a chair in the bay window of the ward, which overlooks the entrance to the hospital. It was raining outside.
A tall, thin man with only one arm.
As I left, in my peripheral vision, Davide stopped and the top half of his body bent slightly forward in pain, his head bowed. I think he was carrying a bag of his own urine, but I could be wrong.
It’s not important.
It’s all in the past, just memories now.
Just like – as Rutger Hauer said – tears in rain.