This Is Not A
Part 2 - On-Wards
(We left Our Hero lying in a darkened hospital ward feeling infinitely sorry for himself. Now read on...)
There was, of course, little likelihood that I would get much sleep that first night on Ward 4. In fact, I got none at all.
I don't think that it was mulling over the events of the preceding day; I'd more or less assimilated those by that time. It was just the fact of lying in a strange bed in a strange location, accompanied by the variegated snoring, sleep-talking and farting of my fellow patients and the not-quite-silent passage of nurses up and down the room.
Saturday morning didn't promise much better, because it seemed that every time I tried to catch up on some sleep, someone wanted to ask me something, take something out of me or shove something in. This constant stream of interruptions, added to the knowledge that I was once again bound by someone else's timetable, made me somewhat crabby.
This at least gave me the opportunity to scope out some of my neighbours. From looking around, I quickly realised that I was by some way the youngest there, and also that three of them were of, 'ow-you-say, South Asian heritage (they were joined by a fourth such within 48 hours). None of them was in any way intrusive with whatever religious devotions they may have felt it necessary to carry out, and one of them was a delightfully cheerful man whose demeanour disarmed all prejudice. One of the others, however, was possibly the most repulsive person I've ever encountered. Nothing to do with religion at all (except that his incessant mumblings at all hours seemed to contain the word 'Allah' a lot); just that his appearance and attitude were those of some sort of sub-continental Nibelung, being grumblingly argumentative with the nurses (and, as far as I could tell, with his fellow Asians, with whom he would communicate in what I think was Bengali) and having the general demeanour and manners of a pig. Unfortunately for me, his bed was next to mine and although I was able to blot out the sight of the wretch with the curtains, his grunting and muttering was at all times readily audible.
(Later in my stay, we were joined at various times by patients from the Greater Europe that 'we' have just turned our backs on: one Czech with an enormous belly, a young Romanian who looked mostly terrified, and a Spanish lad. None of these, nor any of the older ones, fell into the category of 'most likely to die within the day'; it wasn't that sort of a ward. What was troubling, from my own vantage point, was that some of these people had been on the ward for weeks, awaiting 'procedures' (what we medical experts call 'operations') which had been delayed for various reasons)
The nursing staff were a bit United Nations as well, with Africans and Asians well represented and even a couple of Ulster girls. This presented occasional communication difficulties, but nothing serious. In fact, the worst problem I had with them was procedural, in that it took two or three days of 'discussion' and some to-ing and fro-ing before I was allowed to administer my own insulin. My blood glucose level was to prove to be a proper sod the whole time I was there, but there were probably a number of reasons for this.
During the weekend, I had two echo-cardiograms done (I don't know why two; I can't understand how they would have seen different things in scans scarcely twenty-four hours apart) which, of course, left me having to get that appalling electrolytic jelly off my corpus twice (and you never get all of it, do you? As you discover once you've put your shirt back on. Yecchhhh!).
So, how did I cope with all this? Well, I now came to appreciate the family's insistence on my finally having a mobile phone. Exchanging texts with family (and with Julie) enabled me to feel somewhat connected, and the fact that my phone is internet-enabled and that I was in a 3G area did mean that I could keep slightly up-to-date with what was going on in the World Of The Well (although the regular admonitions of 'Insufficient Memory' and the failure of many of my usual on-line haunts to display in any usable form was a right pain in the gluteus maximus).
Otherwise, I was forced to fall back on the in-ward entertainment facility, which consisted of a television screen on a sort of crane arrangement over each bed. This had obviously been provided by an outside contractor who was doubtless raking it in. If you were willing to pay, you had access to a number of television channels and audio books. Otherwise, all you had was access to BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 plus some obscure film channel, and that only between 10am and 4pm. Beyond that, it was credit card time.
The radio provision was totally free at all times, except that it was confined to BBC Radios 1 to 4 plus what I assume was the hospital's own service. Given that that gave me a choice of - as it were - Radio Conor, Radio Ken, Radio Boris and Radio Path Lab, that left me only with Radio 3 as a succour. Now, oddly enough, I'd long ago promised myself that I would - purely in the name of scientific enquiry - spend an entire day listening to nothing but the old Thrid Programme. Now, I was left with little choice if my condition wasn't to be worsened by a chance encounter with Steve Wright or what passes for journalism on the BBC nowadays. So, I had 'classical' music from when I woke up sometime around 5-6 am right up to beddie-byes some sixteen or so hours later. Apart from the station's apparent fixation on Mozart, I could imagine worse prospects, and it was often a soothing - and occasionally enlightening - way to pass the time.
But Monday was looming, bringing with it - or so I hoped - a meeting with my consultant who would - so I also hoped - give me some idea of what was going on and how long I was going to be there.
(Coming up: the first of many disappointments; a family visit; and an impending appointment with destiny)