Property

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The sheets I lie on have HOSPITAL PROPERTY stamped all over them.  I wonder who else has slept on them, cried on them, died on them. The room itself is a perfect duplicate of every other ward I’ve spent time in at this hospital.  I could make my way to the bathroom with my eyes shut. The differences between wards always end up being the people. The patients, the staff, the tea lady.

Today I can hear great guffaws from the nurses’ station.  Brisk footsteps along the corridor.  A child trying out the acoustic echoes in the atrium outside my window.  The child is five floors down… the acoustics are impressive. Once there was a violinist who played down there.  He used to come and practise there, attracted by the same sound qualities that fascinate the yelling toddler.  The sound circles around the atrium and returns, fuller than before, echoes onto itself, folding, as though the sound itself could travel backward in time.

The nurse came in with towels this morning.  And a fresh gown. My room mate commented that it was the first time this week anyone had suggested a shower.  I showed her where the linen cupboard is, for next time she wants a rebellious, self-determined shower.  There are things you get to know when you are a frequent flyer.

I had my shower, sinking gratefully into the shower chair.  Wishing I had one at home.  I let the warm water cascade over my head for longer than usual.  Closing my eyes I thought about my home, my bed.  The peaceful quiet.  A song slid through my mind and remained there, playing on refrain for the rest of the morning.

“…in the easy silence that you make for me,
it’s okay when there’s nothing more to say to me
it’s the peaceful quiet you create for me
and the way you keep the world,
at bay
for me”

Dixie Chicks

There’s no place like home.  I feel like a big old baby, lying here in this bed, wishing I could go home. I want the nurse to come in and murmur something motherly.  Something definitive.  A time frame, a decisive sentence.  Instead we all lie here, suspended from the rafters by invisible lines.  We are the puppets on long strings, the marionettes who lie jumbled in a heap, waiting to clatter to attention when the consultant arrives. He stands there at the end of the bed. Discussing you for a few moments with his humbled registrars, before sweeping off to the next jumbled pile of limb, heart and head.  As he leaves, my pieces clatter back onto the bed, out of order, out of sequence.  I want to put them all together with superglue and snip the strings.  I want to walk out of this marionette maison, better than when I came in.   The longer I stay the less my body wants to work as a whole.  My pieces and parts falling further away from each other, disconnected, fractured, dismembered, disarrayed.  How will I keep pulling myself together?

I know I am the glue.  My own determination is what holds me together.  But it dilutes with every hour I am here.  Starved of the peaceful quiet I so need; the words of comfort or reprieve.  I look down at my hospital gown. Hospital Property is printed all over the blue fabric. I am branded like the sheets.  I am morphing into the patient puppet.  Voiceless, quiet, does-as-told.  It’s too hard to fight against the system.  It’s too big, too entrenched.  I close my eyes tight against the day and the thoughts and the words.  Against the visitors to the bed beside me; loudly eating fried food.  The teenager’s parents, hovering over her, worried about her poor head. Cradling it in their arms and cooing soft sounds into her ears. I wish they would all go away.
I wish I could go away.

Instead I stay.
Property of the Hospital.

9 thoughts on “Property”

  1. Oh Rachel I so wish you didn’t have to go through all of this pain & uncertainty! I so wish some miracle cure would appear for you! I so wish you all the best, love & hugs xxxxx

  2. You write so beautifully Rachel. You’ve put into words, only somehow much more than words, how it feels to be a patient. Keep the glue strong Rach. Soon you’ll be home. Sending you love and hugs Jan xxx

  3. Such a wonderful post Rachel (as ever). My experience with hospitals is gratefully minimal. But you have captured so well so many of the frustrations of the process. When my little boy was sick last year we spent five weeks in and out of the Children’s (a wonderful facility, but still vulnerable to the ills of the ‘system’). I know five weeks sounds like the blink of an eye compared to those like yourself to have to deal with these things ongoing, but as I’m sure you know when you are living it, it feels like forever and is all encompassing. I just remember feeling so caught up in a schizophrenic tide. On one hand provided with caring individuals, great facilities and good advice. On the other hand buffeting you into a system that so often forced you to act counter to that advice. Get rest (while we come in and wake your son up every hour), go home before he picks up some horrible virus (but not until you see the specialist who may or may not be on the ward for another 6 hours), make sure he eats (but we’ll keep sending you food that he can’t digest), take him out for a walk (but make sure you are here for the specialist, and no we can’t tell you when that will be) on and on and on. The worst was probably being told with absolute certainty one thing by one person, only to have another person tell you the opposite with equal authority. It creates a massive lack of trust. The problem always seemed to me that system is bigger than the individuals (both the professionals and the patients). And so the individuals suffer. But having said ALL that, I don’t know how else you’d do it – you need to have a system. Just a shame it has to be so flawed. Hope you are home soon and thanks for making me think. x

    1. Yes, we do need a system. I think the people who work in the system do a bloody good job too, just wish there was less beaurocracy. If I can get something over the counter when I am out of the hospital (like ural sachets)… why must I wait for a doctor to chart them on the ward (18 hours later…). It’s ridiculous. But I guess I am so used to dealing with my own problems independently. When I go in and suddenly I’m not taking my own pills, I’m being brought my pills at the times they think I should take them. It frustrates me because I have it all down to a fine art… one of them 1/2 and hour before food, one with… when is the food going to be here so I can make a judgement about when I need to take the ‘before food’ tab… “no, we don’t know, it’ll be here when it gets here and you can take it then and wait half an hour before you eat”. Then, “don’t go to the toilet because they’ll take your tray away if your food is uneaten and you aren’t there… oh, but you must take your pills right now so we can see you have taken them”! oh yes, these minute frustrations all add up. Five weeks in Children’s is an aeon when you are living it Kate. I know you fully understand. I am very grateful for the help I receive through our hospital system, but equally grateful to leave again! There is nothing so beautiful as my own bed and my own routine.

      1. Agree! Agree! Agree! I felt somehow disloyal complaining about things after our experience, because as you say the individual professionals are mostly stellar. And out Children’s Hospital is truly world class. And we got ALL our treatment for free. And we were mostly looked after really compassionately and professionally (with some awful exceptions). All that being said. I don’t thinks it’s wrong to acknowledge the flaws and question where it could, and why it can’t be done better. I look forward to a post from your own home soon! Love and thoughts. xx k

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