Thursday, February 10, 2011


The third night was not good. Now it was the turn of the lady in the far bed to be in pain. All this time my situation had not changed. I was sleepy, my eyes had not settled down, and my head was still full of interference. The next day I resolved to be better. I told myself that I had to get home, that I would be much improved, and the doctors would say ‘go’. During the two previous days I had been aware of pack of doctors moving from bed to bed, talking amongst themselves, discussing each case and moving on. David arrived, and whilst I was relating the story to him an orderly with a wheelchair came into the ward indicating for me to get into the chair. I was to be examined by the neurologist.

The neurologist, obviously a very erudite man, looked something in between Father Christmas, a Greek philosopher and an over-sized Lenin. He had long white hair and a long, white beard. He didn’t acknowledge my presence, and carried on reading whatever report he was reading. The orderly handed him my file. There was a silence and I finally thought the time was right to say good morning. He peered at me over his half-rims. “I am feeling much better,” I said. He continued to read my notes. I looked around his office while he did so. In one corner there was a large, metal filing cabinet. It was weighted down with bottles of booze: whiskey, gin, brandy, some in fancy boxes, obviously presents. His bookshelf contained medical books but the top shelf was littered with trinkets, little porcelain vases, statuettes etc. Behind him there was a cupboard which was festooned with family photographs, and on the wall right beside me, was a life-sized picture of a brain, sectioned and in full colour. The inflated neurologist spoke. He asked me the usual questions, my age, how old I was, etc. “Can I go home?” I asked. “Walk down the corridor and back on tiptoe,” was his answer. Hm, it was not so easy. Then he asked me to hold my arms out in front of me, and to close my eyes. No amount of gripping the soles of my shoes with my toes stopped me from falling backwards. I was not ready for home.

The next day, just after my visitors had left, we were told to move wards. It was a silly assumption on my part, but I thought we were moving to the next ward along. I was wrong. As the middle bed was wheeled out I emptied my locker of chocolate, bananas, bottles of water and magazines onto my bed. I piled all my clothes into a plastic bag and waited for them to come to move my bed. “Can you walk,” the orderly said. I could take myself to the toilet, so next door should not be a problem. That was the last I saw of the bed pushers. Loaded with my plastic carrier bags I set off. There was no ward next door. Looking down the corridor I saw my other companion entering a room at the far end. By the time I reached my new bed I was totally off balance. Sheer will got me down that corridor. I got into bed and slept.

As the days passed, my balance improved, my headache was less, and my eyesight gave a much less wobbly view of the world. I was well enough to notice the line of crusty dust in the tubular bed frame behind my head, the salt-less food, and the fact that every night I had been presented with tinned peaches for a sweet. I joked later that it was a wonder people didn’t die of an overdose of peaches, or else get hooked on them for life. Having laughed at the peaches, I have to say, that while the food I was given was not tasty it was wholesome. It came in strict rotation of fish, chicken, beef burger or chunk of stewed beef. Sometimes the protein was with potatoes, sometimes it was with rice or pasta, and always accompanied by a chunk of brown bread, an apple or orange at lunch time, and peaches with the evening meal. I was only given one meal which was disgustingly inedible. It was, I suppose, a beef broth made out of the previous day’s beef, but it was completely salt-less and had the consistency and appearance of dirty dishwater. Yes, I was definitely getting better. It was food though, and as I say, on the whole there was nothing unpleasant. For breakfast each morning I was given a cup of tea and two small pieces of crisp bread, with a small plastic pot of jam. All other drink had to be brought in by visitors, or else bought by visitors from the hospital coffee shop.

Personal hygiene was also my own responsibility, luckily I was able to walk to the toilet and wash myself, but other less fortunate patients had to rely on their relatives to keep them clean. Each ward of three beds had an en suite bathroom with shower. This was a luxury which I was so grateful for. My friend had a short stay in an Athens hospital which was much less convenient. The floors of the wards were mopped every morning. I made my own bed. Nurses administered drugs, fixed drips, took blood pressure and temperature, applied catheters and gave injections. In a weird sort of ‘patient-care sharing’ with relatives, the daily routine of the ward seemed quite efficient. There were no set visiting hours as visitors were part of the health-care team.

By the sixth day... to be continued.

I will tell the rest of my story tomorrow but after one month I can tell you that, apart from not wanting to pick up the vacuum cleaner or walk to the shop alone, I am doing OK. And I am finally beginning to think about my music practise. Maybe tomorrow!

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