Saturday, June 24, 2006

Hospital strength

I've been thinking about Barista's wonderful hospital post (see link in yesterday's entry) and fretting about the gap between belief and inclination when it comes to healthcare. Ideologically speaking I know I should prefer the company of my fellow persons in a two-or-more-bed ward during a hospital stretch. I do know that.

But the truth is that if I'm sick enough to be in hospital then what I want more than anything else is to be left alone. Even if I wasn't the sort of person who inevitably barfs post-anaesthetic, this would still be true. I don't want to hear anyone else barfing, groaning or crying, either, much less some of the other hospital noises. It's not about disgust; it's about intravenous vicarious distress.

But that's the least of it. If I really were a cat and got sick or wounded, I would crawl away under the house and hide until I was either dead or better. My experience has been that if you're very ill or recovering from major surgery then every ounce of energy and attention you have is ideally focused inwards: visualising the medication in the blood and the blood going round and round delivering its druggy burden to the places that need it most; calming and silencing the turmoil of infection and disorder; listening to the whisper of violently sundered flesh as it knits itself painstakingly back together.

You can't do this in a room with other people. Their lives, their visitors, the smell of their oranges and perfumes and body odours good and bad intrude. Sucked in: before you can say 'nosy cow' you're sitting beside their beds handing them tissues, patting them on the back, chatting with their mothers, holding the bowl while they throw up and listening to the story of their lives. Then the nurses come in and tick you off for being out of bed.

Weirdly, I really like being in hospital. I like not feeling guilty, for once, about all the things I'm not doing. I like knowing I'm being looked after: water, morphine and a warm soapy face-washer all to be had for the asking. And I really, really like it that for once I can give in to the knowledge that someone else is in charge.


Lucy Sussex said...

I have spent the last week dealing with parental crises--one case of pneumonia, one fall breaking facial bones, one heart attack. Thus I have become rather more familiar with hospitals than I would have wished. And yes, hallucinations of large bears in the corner (a la Barista) are no surprise, although in this case it was of a Hindu solstice festival. Since the hospital is near the Dandenongs, it might actually have happened, although the appearance of the long-deceased Great-Aunt Hortense in the midst suggests not. If so, I hope her shade had some fun, and didn't find it heathen.
After all the dramas, and a crash course in relative wrangling, I fully intend to take up some extreme sport. Not mountaineering or diving, but something risky enough to preclude a sick old age. yours cheerfully, Lucy

Pavlov's Cat said...

It's our age. After they turn 75 or so, you worry about them all the time.

I hear abseiling is fun ...?