While I was enjoying the amenities of my local outpatient clinic recently (today) I had quite some time to tend to my own thoughts.
Not being distracted by a caring family member (they all live hundreds of kilometres further west) or a caring lover (don’t have one) trying to chat away my pain, I was reduced to staring to the ceiling from a hospital bed and to the opposite wall.
I had managed to hurt my shoulder just by stretching to the left in my bed after waking up in the morning and when I arrived in the clinic, the hospital had not yet properly woken up in that part of the building. Everything was quiet and lonely except for 2 medical staff people inside the examination room they rolled me into in a wheel chair.
When you are reduced to waiting for the medical proceedings to be performed you get a feeling for the small things in life. As the pain starts to fade and time drags along you notice the dripping tap in the room which makes a sound like somebody was constantly cracking their knuckles for fun. Very appropriate when you wait for an orthopedic doctor to examine your maybe dislocated spine. As if I needed someone to hammer home the fact that I had moved unnecessarily stupid this morning.
You notice the poster opposite you informing you of ways to replace damaged orthopedic joints. Not yet, thank you very much.
After a while on a hospital bed and changing over to a bit more comfortable chair (you don’t want to experience not knowing how to lie or sit, believe me) a doctor arrived, or at least he looked like one. He had barely condescended from his God-in-white-heaven to greet me and hold out his hand to me to tip the scales of a time measuring device when he already turned to the nurse asking what we had here, not even pulling back his hand when I would be done shaking it.
I suspect he is one of those who despise being reminded of lesser beings known as patients, who probably take him out of riding one of his pricy cars / boats / horses or whatever the fame of his profession brings about. He informed me I was about to get x-rayed now, before he walked away to his morning staff meeting.
After the x-ray an hour passed without him coming back again. Slowly more and more staff began shuffling along and the day routine began. Patients were brought into the room next to mine and I heard bits and pieces of conversation, got glimpses of plastered legs and once a very distinct smell of some kind of liquid stung my nose and almost made me sick. Probably antiseptic.
At that point I was no longer a person fully in control of her wit and dignity. I had melded into the chair and had become invisible. I had turned into furniture. At least to some people in white walking past me like I wasn’t there. Or to the woman standing just 2 feet away from me at a computer terminal to look up something for a paramedic next to her. In a casual chatty tone niceties were exchanged that could pass as a tiny bit flirty. When a man in white joined them he asked the woman if the wedding dress fit and she declared with a beaming face and a little squeal and excited jump that it did fit perfectly. I just managed to avoid making myself noticeable by not saying “Congratulations!” to the soon to be bride.
I felt like prying on them, but in a good way. Like watching the characters of “Grey’s Anatomy” having a jolly conversation in the cafeteria.
The english word “patient” for an ill person wasn’t picked unwisely. I still had nothing to do but to guess the rank of the arriving personnel by the level of attention they showed me. I privately assumed that the higher up in the ranks the less need they felt to deal with a “person” as opposed to “a broken leg” or “the dislocated joint”. I’m sure that’s not true, but my private little game neither did any harm to the doctors I secretly degraded to nurses for greeting me in a friendly way, nor to nurses who I promoted to doctors for giving me the cold shoulder.
In every patient’s career there comes the point where the pain is bearable enough for him to become aware of his appearance. I have to admit that I’m not a very skilled emergency patient, because fortunately I have only spent very little time in hospitals. So when I managed to get out of bed somehow just seconds before the paramedics smashed a window in my locked door to come and get me, I was too taken by the pain in my shoulder to think of how I looked.
Although the fact of suddenly having four men in my bedroom who were supporting my every move with their strong hands made me a little bit nervous. Being not a very experienced hospital patient I did as I was told by the obviously most experienced medic (and the most handsome, by the way) and just grabbed the next best jumper to put on with my pyjamas, and a pair of shoes before they carried me down three floors like the Queen of Sheba and during the five-minute drive to the hospital the two guys doing civil service kept an eye on me and sweetly checked every ten seconds if I was having all I needed.
I wish I had paid more attention to my attire before we left my house. When I had enough time later it dawned on me that I hadn’t picked the most stylish outfit at all and when a taxi driver came to pick me up three hours after my arrival I made myself believe I was dressed in nice day clothes and thankfully the taxi driver politely pretended not noticing my mismatched pyjama/jumper combination and my deranged hairstyle and casually talked to me like I was on my way back from a shopping trip.
You may say that looks don’t matter in the face of suffering. They don’t. As long as the pain lasts, that is. But it’s astounding how quickly you switch back to being vain. Well, at least a little bit.
P.S.: Thank God my spine is as beautiful and well as ever. I’ve “only” got a pulled muscle and will be as good as new soon. But I really have to take up doing more sports…
P.P.S.: The doctor who first greeted me never showed up again, plus he forgot to mention to the staff taking over the day shift, that I was there at all, thereby adding a bit more to my waiting schedule and proving my first impression of him right. So much for “never judge a book by its cover”. 😉