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.
Denis, Denis. How do you do it? This must be one of the most incredible blogs in the brief but numerically massive history of blogging. I am not surprised that it was accepted by the Pandora Archive in the Australian National Library as being of significance and long-term research value. Thank you for the update. This is just to let you know that you and Tracey are constantly in our thoughts. Love to you both.ReplyDelete
I suppose I could quote from my favourite life-and-death guide, the Tao te Ching - “Great acts are often accomplished through little deeds”, but given that some dreadful acts are often accomplished by little deeds, I’ll say more on that but leave to others to judge. Thanks Bob to you and Julie for your unwavering support.Delete
[Written early this morning
Welcome to my world of physical disability. It's worse in hospital than when you leave. If you find yourself needing to use a wheelchair either permanently or not, remember it's not the end of life, just the beginning of a new one which brings with it opportunity, enlightenment and a whole new way of normal.ReplyDelete
Just like able bodied people you will face challenges, they will just be different that's all. This world is my normal. Yes it involves reliance on equipment and people to do things that others consider everyday, like going to the toilet and showering. But it also involves family, love, running my business, holidays, boredom, frustration, growing old and those shorter years you mentioned. Like most people. It is just my normal and I like it now if not at first. Good luck for your future whatever that may bring you. John Little
It surely is another world, and you either embrace or ... what? The truth for me is that I haven’t embraced it fully. Even though it's crept on me in relatively small stages, I have resisted it in often negative ways, believing I was capable today of what I could do yesterday. This has exacted its toll. It's the Black Knight syndrome. Every injury but one has been due to overestimating some capability or other.Delete
And yet I, like you, have adjusted to a new ‘normal’ in many ways. I don't see the point in railing against what can't be changed. There's a difference between that and overestimating an ability. Some things just have to be accepted with grace.
[Written early this morning]
I'm trying to think of what to write without being maudlin or tactless. I know there's a middle to be had...ReplyDelete
I appreciate you using your (waning) strength & abilities to communicate with the readers of your blog.
I appreciate your good humor through this journey, when you'd be justified in raging against the dying light. You continue to amaze.
I appreciate your posts about your upbringing, as well as the posts about history & religion. I've learned so much from you.
I appreciate the friendship you've shown me over these few years. I'm still amazed at the opportunities afforded by an internet connection, & grateful for a friendship spanning more than half the globe. I know that sounds hokey, but I can't think of a better way to put it. :-p
Much love to you & to Tracey. XXXOOO
Pegs: over the years you have been a faithful and delightful net companion with the best of American qualities. Although Chicago born [and I am fond of that city], you reside in Texas, so I think of you as its Yellow Rose, not to mention a computer wiz [or is that ‘witch’?] Thank you for your company on the trail! xoxDelete
[Written early this morning]
For me you have nailed it with this comment.
The points you make - the blessing of Den's efforts, his humour in the dying light and the astonishing breadth of what s discussed here are just the ones I would make. Other than referring to them, I won't remake them.
The one I would add, and here again I echo other comments, is the extraordinary accuracy of the description, the electric jolt of surprise, when reading the minutiae of growing dependence. I am not aware (though if truth be told I haven't searched) of anywhere else that the agony, for example, of waiting for the buzzer to be responded to has been described. Or the leg hanging over the edge of the bed, or the struggle with the walking frame, or.....
Thank you both, Denis & David. Denis, I accept the compliment of being the Texas Yellow Rose gratefully. So glad you accept my appreciation of you in all aspects. :-) David, I am glad I could help bring your thoughts into focus.Delete
Denis, hugs to you and Tracey. Time flies and I didn't realise how long it had been since I checked on your situation.ReplyDelete
You are doing a great thing documenting your journey. I am sure it will help many people.
Robyn: you have done an amazing job documenting the Team Oyeniyi saga and I know it will achieve its long-desired and worthy result.Delete
[Written early this morning]
I find myself searching for a "like" button for most of these comments. I appreciate the contribution so many of your readers have made to your blog, Den.I find myself wanting to shout out, "Me too! Me too!" Bob, Peg and Robyn - thank you for your contributions to all us devotees of My Unwelcome Stranger.ReplyDelete
As always, Den and Trace, I am thinking of you more than daily.
Den. You, like me. probably buzz once and briefly. In the distance we hear the sound at the ward reception and of course the light has gone on above the door to the room and the light too is lit above the bed. Confirmation that we pressed adequately. The music of ward life is the continuing frenzy of buzzer activity, much sounding so much more urgent (rapid repeats) than ours.ReplyDelete
I flashed for an instant on how all this must seem from the nurse point of view. Looking down the corridor at light after light outside room after room. Hearing the crescendo of buzzing and wondering where to start, who to prioritise. Cursing the governments who think that four patients to each nurse (the figure in Victoria) is lavish which in a quieter time it might seem.
My personal struggle has been to steel myself to use the three short, sharp stabs at the button that signal an urgent need. Are all the other patients going through this? Are people crying wolf? I suppose that the nurses learn who is and I console myself with this and the reassurance that my buzzer-scream will be taken appropriately seriously.
Exactly like you in this regard. This is small enough for staff to get to know me pretty well. It helps. They know I mean it for any buzz and appreciate no frivolous onesDelete
I'm finding with the onset of dysphasia and head seizures that my concentration has fallen to near zero. At the moment at least I’ll suspend one of my most enjoyable occupations - of responding to comments - in the hope of finding a time when I’ll get some back. Please be assured that I've read every one and thank you deeply for them.ReplyDelete