From now on, rather than give you a day-to-day account, I am compiling. I am doing this for a reason. Hospital is, for most of the time, dull. So just assume that, as I jump about in time, I’m missing out all the Top Gear repeats on Dave. Aaaah Clarkson, Hammond and May, my hospital buddies. Top Gear, it would appear, has the perfect format, pace and unchallenging subject matter for those suffering from brain injuries. It was ideal for my limited concentration span.
For the rest of the time, hospital is definitely not dull. It’s a little pocket of weird. Weird surroundings, weird new mates, weird activities. You are set adrift in a world of weird without a paddle.
Maybe I’m paraphrasing here but comedy, it’s said (by someone, somewhere, some when), is supposed to work in two ways. A weird protagonist in normal surroundings or a normal protagonist in weird surroundings. My story is definitely the latter.
Being in hospital is weird.
But then again, maybe I’m being too kind to myself. There is definitely something weird about me and not in a good way either but I don’t know this yet so you certainly don’t need to. And for the most part, this section of the story is a comedy. Thanks to the brain injury induced euphoria I found it all hilarious and viewed in a certain way it is. Hilarious. No really. Desperately, bleakly and occasionally wondrously, joyfully, downright funny.
But like all good comedies it is tinged with tragedy. It does, in fact, take a rather violent swing towards tragedy in a bit. But more of that later.
For the time being lets insert the feeding apparatus up our noses, shove the tubes down our cocks, down a pint of slime and have some fun.
What better way to start than with hospital moments? Hospital moments are times when you have to throw your hands up and give in to the inherently surreal circumstances you find yourself in. They’re moments when you get served shit and you just have to tuck your napkin in and order seconds. Before we deal with the ‘moments’, however, lets take a look at the hospital.
As you may have guessed I am in a rehab ward. This is a ward for folks who have recently been given a K.O. by life. Stroke victims mostly, the odd one with a novelty illness (who are just showing off if you ask me) and then there’s me with my bruised brain and broken bones.
Actually, it’s time I gave you the low down on all my bruises, snaps and prangs. Eleven ribs, my collarbone and pretty much all of my left foot were broken. I think I punctured a few things too. The liver, a lung. That’s why I was in a coma. A lot of my injuries just needed to be left alone. I don’t think you can put ribs in caster. An enforced coma. A lovely, deep, sleep courtesy of our friend morphine.
God bless the modern world and God bless drugs. They kept me under whilst all the really painful healing happened. The only thing that mildly annoys me is that I can’t remember anything. Morphine has got an edge of classism and glamour to it. All the old poets were necking the stuff. I was on Byron’s drug of choice and I got no rhapsodies and sonnets from it. They put me on the good shit and I’ve got nothing to show for it. Not even a haiku. Just a vague feeling of having come from darkness and the odd image floating at the back of my brain ….
I try to capture one of these images and absent mindedly rub the bump on my collar bone. The bump is where the body, left to its own devices, grew some bone over the break. Fixed itself, just like that. All on it’s own initiative.
Now, if you saw me you may disagree but I think I can quite safely say I have an amazing body. And so do you. We all have. Amazing healing machines. But the body can’t do everything by itself, which brings us neatly up to speed. I’m in a rehab ward for some assisted mending.
A rehab ward does what it says on the tin basically. Rehabilitation. Most of the folks in here aren’t really up to ‘living’. We piss ourselves, have trouble eating, can’t walk, can’t eat and don’t really know when to shut the fuck up.
We are being retrained in ‘life’. Some people are being reminded that ovens are hot but for me my rehab falls into a few categories:
Toilet habits (Sounds nice that. A lot nicer than piss and shit class).
Dealing with a brain injury (memory, social graces, co-ordination, balance).
And that’s about it. So apart from learning how to walk, talk, eat and empty myself properly (at the given time instead of the rather ad hoc way I’ve been doing it), I’ve got this whole living malarkey down.
And the cast (I can’t help being theatrical), well, I guess you’ll meet them as we go along. There are plenty of nurses and folks who are all brilliant but I will try to keep it down to a number of key players.
You may have found yourself wondering what the hell kind of a name Nikon was earlier and you’re right to wonder. It’s not Swedish or Polish. It’s Davish.
Nikon is another little funny name I’ve distributed to deal with a bit of a problem. My problem is this: I have a real trouble with names (what with the anti-memory) and Nicky and Sharon are a real nightmare for me.
Sharon and Nicky are the real life-blood of the ward. One or both of them is here pretty much every day. Cockney, gossipy, warm and hard as nails. You want to get them on your side and when they lower their voices to mutter to each other you find yourself leaning forward, straining to here.
Nicky and Sharon know how things are on the ward. They won’t take any shit but they’ll have a laugh with you if you’re feeling cheeky.
It’s women like these two who are the unsung heroes of the NHS. Not doctors, not fancy specialists, just nurses who come in every day. These are the people you really get to know during your hospital stay. Stuart Little maybe great for giving me tests that stimulate the damaged parts of my brain but he couldn’t tell you how many sugars I have in my tea. Which makes it all the more shameful that I can’t tell which one is Sharon and which one is Nicky. So I’ve called them Nikon. Do you get it? I am clever aren’t I (even with a bruised brain)?
Then there’s Sarat and Gavin who share matron duties with Trudy. Sarat is lovely and really on it and Gavin is also a fine nurse but more importantly he is gloriously camp and has a mild lisp. I long for the day when someone has respiratory issues when that particular matron is on duty.
Then there are younger nurses who aren’t in so much and here’s where you find the fodder that expounds the whole thinking that nurses are sexy. There’s the young Lisa, who’s pretty and fun. Which brings me rather neatly onto my first hospital moment.
I’m in the dining room with my cellmates waiting for ‘dinner’. Things are nice. Frank is in a good mood for once and is serenading Lisa as she does the rounds. He gently croons to her an old Dean Martin number. Behind the slightly slurred, drunken drawl that most of us have, he was probably a good singer once. He’s full of beans anyway and when he’s in a good mood he can lighten everything, just like one of his glooms bring the general mood crashing down. So he’s singing.
Mary (from a girly ward just over the way) is also on good form too. She reprimands any squabbling patients and is telling me some of her war stories. A child of fourteen siblings, she and her sisters and brothers witnessed the bombing of Malta. So she’s good value for money. There I am, having a whale of a time when my ‘dinner’ is served.
And this pisses all over my parade.
I look around at the meals on offer. Everybody else has potatoes, veg and meat and mine … well, mine is mush.
Which is fine, I’m not ready for solid foods yet, its a completely normal state of affairs. That is until I start considering the ages of my fellow diners. With the exception of Kev, no one is under 60. Everyone is an old codger. Yet it is they, not I, who happily wolf down their carrots and kievs. And I’m the one slurping up the paste.
This can’t be right! It’s the old dears who should be stuck with these damp puddles of meals. Set reality straight someone!
No, calm down, it is, quite simply, a hospital moment. Let them have their steaks. I hope they choke on them. I would.
The second hospital moment returns me to pretty nurses. Timmea. The lovely Timmea. She is Hungarian, calm and has a kind of refined serene demeanor (coupled with the uniform, yes) that only makes her kind of untouchably sexy. She is gentle, occasionally sports a gorgeous tiny smirk and is a little bit withheld. You want to get to know her more. A lot more.
So … (breathes in deeply) my second (and worst) hospital moment.
Now, this moment deals with one of my hot topics (along with the wonder of yoghurts and joys of a catheter). One of those things I go ON AND ON about IN DETAIL until you either leave or vomit.
That’s right. (fanfare) The talk of the town! The everyday activity that is very much de rigor de jour: POOING!
Ok, so the drill goes like this. I get wheeled to the toilet. Then, with much grunting, puffing and knuckle biting, I pass. I pass a half-baked poo. A nice try but still not the whole shebang. Then, because I’ve forgotten how to poo properly, (or my muscles, having been dormant for a while, just aren’t up to the big strain) I have to nip it in the bud, swallow my pride so to speak and then ring for a nurse to give me a wipe (reach all they way down there, you must be joking).
So I buzz. The nurse who turns up is … Dear God no.
The nurse who turns up is (yep, you’ve guessed it) the lovely Timmea.
So, in a turn of events which I can only presume was masterminded by the Devil himself, Timmea wipes my arse for me. That’s right. The lovely Timmea wipes my arse.
You know what? I thought I’d never say this, but I’m not kinky enough for this shit. Christ, embarrassment isn’t a big enough word. Embarresessessment is getting there. But as I bend over and take wipe after degrading, humbling wipe I remind myself that this is a hospital moment.
And I’ve had a fair few believe me. But I’ve started with the big guns.
How can any hope of romance outlive that?
Imagine the wedding speech.
“I remember the moment I knew Timmea was the girl for me, when she rolled out a handful of Andrex and said ‘bend over.’”
No, that’s it. A real, bona fide hospital moment for you. I will always have this moment and she will always think in the back of her brain, ‘you know what? I think I’ve wiped his arse.’
But you just have to let them go. Chalk them up and begrudgingly accept them. We all lost our dignity when they wheeled us in here. And you know what? It’s a fair trade. Giving your dignity up to be scraped, dragged back into the world of the living.
Dignity smignity, I’d rather be able to walk thank you very much.
So yes, Timmea (sorry: I repeat), the lovely Timmea just wiped my arse.
Well, at least it happened so I can explain what these weird little instances are to you.
Because try as I might I can’t think of any occurrence that is more of a hospital moment than that.
So, there you go.