We are told that as we get older, time speeds up. It makes sense on one level. Each year is a smaller portion of our life experience. At 2, a year is half your life. At 52, a year is barely a morsel of the pie-chart. No wonder the weeks flash by.
But age makes no difference to time in some respects. It feels, now that I'm back in this hospital, as if practically no time has elapsed since I was here last – twelve weeks ago.
The huge difference is in me. When I left last time, I could walk – with a frame, that’s for sure – but now I have no safe grip with the right hand. When I left last time, I could get to the bathroom unaided, stand at the sink to wash hands, clean teeth, or stand at the toilet. I could exercise my legs in the passageway. When tired I could put myself to bed.
At any time I could easily get myself from bed to chair, where I could open my window on the world via the laptop.
I can’t do these things now, but I didn't really know the significance of that until today. Everything is set up in a hospital to solve these problems, right? Well, yes....
We arrived at my room yesterday at about 4 pm. It was difficult for staff to get me from wheelchair to chair. At home, Tracey and I had our own method, involving the frame. With care and time, it wasn’t hard, and didn't mean Tracey was taking my weight.
But here, the two staff were holding me firmly on either side. It felt wrong although they were doing everything right.
It felt too late for me to have my usual afternoon sleep. Dinner was at the hospital time of 5.30 PM. You know, that time when everyone’s hanging out for their full evening meal.... Ha ha.
But you go with the routine. There’s not much choice. I didn’t want to start setting up an internet connection, and staff who knew me dropped in for a quick hello.
“It’s lovely to see you back.” It was often said, or a near equivalent. Only a few realised the irony, but it was a greeting sincerely meant, so Tracey and I privately enjoyed the joke.
“We have so many patients in. Would you like to go to bed now?”
“What time is it?”
I laughed, but had a quick think about it. 7 PM bedtime was even more alien to me than 5.30 PM dinner. But the day and its implications had taken its toll on me, and they were busy. So I figured it was a good idea to sleep while I was tired and see where the evening took me. I didn't have a plane to catch.
I woke what seemed many hours later, bursting to pee. For the first time my new dependence struck home. I couldn't just shuffle off to my bathroom on my own.
But I could of course call for a nurse to bring me a bottle. The call button was there, dangling above my head, and I had one good hand. I pressed it.
As I said, it was a busy night. I heard the alarm ring at the other end, but amongst a host of others. I was going to have to wait my turn.
There's nothing you can do in these circumstances but batten down the hatches, as it were. There may have been cases much worse than mine. I hoped they were, if you know what I mean.
Eventually a senior nurse bustled in, very apologetic for the delay. I was too happy to see her to complain, which would have been both churlish and pointless. With great difficulty because of the lack of responsiveness of my right leg we got me into a standing position to drop the drawers (i.e., pull the trousers down). I then sat on the side of the bed, the deed was done.
“I’ll try sleeping on the other side now.”
To return me to a sleeping position, another struggle with the paralytic leg ensued.
“I’ll put the rail up on this side as well,” she said, ”and you can use it to turn properly to this side.”
It was a good idea. I had solid grip with that hand and could turn myself right to the side. Still, it seemed strange to be in what looked and felt like a baby’s cot, even though the side-rail was barely a palm width in height from the bed.
“I guess I'm not going anywhere. I don't have a plane to catch.”
But it was a stark reminder of how things had changed.
“What time is it?”
“A quarter to ten.”
Hell’s bells. I expected it to be about 3.00 AM.
I settled down to try to sleep and after 30 minutes, there was pain and a deep rumble in my stomach. It had been upset for days. I realised that was not my bladder this time that was demanding urgent attention but something that was not going to be solved by a bottle by the bedside.
The buzzers of other patients signalled yet more demands. I was back in the queue, with increasingly urgent business to attend to.
I intended to get further than this but am having vision problems, so will finish this next time.