So, toilet sorted out, there was just the problem of getting rest. That was impossible. Right through the night, every hour, the nurses came in and out checking the drip, checking temperatures, checking the light switch still worked in the middle of the night in a darkened room.
Wifey, who’d made use of the spare bed next to me, looked like death in the morning. I was glad I felt like death anyway and was very weak. I feared, during the night that a fist might involuntarily rise up in a hurry and take out a jaw belonging to a very lovely and sweet young nurse just trying to do her job. That would not have done my reputation much good, nor my conscience. Thank heavens I was ill, eh?
I think the doctors took pity on us both after that first night because I was granted a curfew. I could leave the hospital at 8pm each night and sleep at home as long as I returned by 8am the next morning. They made sure the saline drips were finished during the day so they could be taken out for the evening. All I had to cope with before going home each day was my antibiotics injected into me via the cannula.
The antibiotics came in the form of a huge syringe filled with what I can only describe as urine as far as I was concerned. If memory serves correctly, this syringe was about the size and length of your average arm and having the wee-stuff injected in you caused all your veins to burn in a way I always imagined they did in the famous scenes from the movie “Scanners”. It was a miracle I didn’t explode in a shower of blood. Of course, I may have been a bit overcome by the typhoid and may not be recalling these details too accurately. Hard to tell really.
Actually, at its best, the antibiotics injections did give me what I think would still be a called by the young and trendy as a “trip”. It was very strange. As the ‘urine’ went in, so everything became a little blurry, the nurse and the drip stand gained their own auras (leading me to wonder if I was seeing their soul – which then led on to a wonderful discussion in my own mind about whether or not metal drip stands can have souls or not). Meanwhile, the walls behind were wafting in and out in wonderful shades of psychedelic yellows and purples (I really loved that purple). The next day, I just had to play The Beatles “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. If you’ve seen the film “The Yellow Submarine” and can remember that song from it, then you basically have what I experienced. It almost made the agonising pain shooting through my veins worth it. Almost.
Anyway, four days later and the fever finally began to go down rather than go up and the doctor allowed me to be discharged and go home for the weekend. That was last week and, wonderfully, the fever has not returned. The antibiotics are back to being in tablet form to swallow and the toilet is my own Western-style one with no wooden splinters in it at all.
For all the experience, I have to give one damning comparison to the West, at least insofar as I have experienced it in the UK. Considering LAMB is not a posh hospital catering for the rich and elite, but a struggling NGO, charity-funded hospital trying to look after the sick and dying in a population that is amongst the poorest in world; considering all this, I am amazed just how wonderfully pleasant and professional all the staff were. The nurses were just wonderful. They did their job, yes, but they did it nicely. Niceness seems to be something we’re rapidly losing in the UK in general.
These nurses, like all the staff, have to deal with inadequate resources and lack of manpower. They also get it in the neck from anyone who does not feel they are getting a good service (which is often). I suspect nurses all over the world reading this are thinking “yep, that’s just like here”. True. Except you don’t get the poverty and the extreme problems we get at LAMB. Honestly, you don’t. But these nurses remained lovely all the way through. I’m so glad I didn’t punch one in the middle of the night for doing their job despite how annoying it was. It would have been so unjust.
My ‘favourite’ memory, if you can call it that, was when my cannula ruptured and they had to put a new one in before giving me my ‘urine-flavoured’ antibiotics injection. The nurse obviously felt she needed help and went off to get someone to do it. The lady she brought back, bustled in and swiftly, efficiently, but obviously with a sense of “I’m very busy and need to be elsewhere” found a spot they hadn’t managed to puncture yet and got a new cannula in before you had time to draw breath for the anticipated agonizing prick.
But then, she started to put the antibiotics in. She did it slowly and tenderly, pausing every few second to stroke my arm and give gentle ‘shushing’ sounds as if to soothe a baby. It was very sweet and really did relax me. Then, as soon as she was sure all was well and the fluids were going in fine, she flew out like the whirlwind she was, obviously off to her next important life-saving task.
If I could bottle that care and attention in the midst of ‘busy busy’ I most certainly would.
During my stay, the room was never empty for long. If the nurses weren’t in checking blood pressure and my temperature (they always held the thermometer up in a swift and scary manner as if they were about to insert somewhere other than in my armpit. I swear I heard the “thwack” of a rubber glove being snapped whenever that thermometer was thrust in front of my eyes) then the room was full of visitors.
I was really touched just how many deshi friends came to see me. I was even more pleased that most of them brought nasta, home-made deep-fried snacks that were just delicious – though I wish I had had more of an appetite to eat them with at the time. I couldn’t believe how many flowed through my room, a few repeatedly. It did highlight just what kind of people didn’t come to visit though which, I must say, made me quite sad. I don’t like the idea that there are some people out there who I’ve just completely failed to hit it off with. Not when I work with them regularly. Oh well.
Nevertheless, I was also very pleased with how many of my students came to visit me too and loved the card that was made for me on my first day of hospitalisation. It was signed by most of my students (all the ones that could be found, basically). Overall, between students, deshi friends and the multitude of concerned friends writing on Facebook (and this blog) the one, really important thing I’ve taken away from this illness is that I’m loved. For me, that is such a special blessing and not one I could ever possibly hope to earn. Good people have been put my way and entrusted to me – maybe only for a season – to be a blessing to me. I don’t take such things lightly.
We’re always expected to have goals and ambitions in life aren’t we? Self-help books tell us to focus on our dreams and pursue them doggedly. The media seems besotted with our lust to have more and our pursuit of turning goals into a reality. But, despite having little aims and projects here and there, I really struggle with the question “what do you want to achieve in life?” I struggle because I already have it: a family that loves me and friends who care for me and worry for me when things are bad.
I’ve come away knowing more than ever that I am a very fortunate man.
But not that fortunate. The first night home from being discharged and Thing II decided that I had to play a traditional Halloween game. So, despite feeling totally wobbly and just wanting to go to sleep that night, I ended up playing this:
An appropriately humiliating picture to finish this post with; I’m sure you’ll agree.
- Being a Patient and the Art of going to the Lavatory -part I (kenthinksaloud.wordpress.com)