In the beginning there was much violence. I could not trust anybody. No one spoke English to me. Where was I? The police came, I wanted to go, much blood. Sedation.
Why had I tubing in my throat? Hold me tight! Seven-point restraint, I wanted to leave. The hallucinations – much badness – evil ideas – bad times. Who was against me? Everyone?
The head doctor was a well-known TV comedian from another land. The hallucinations came from my medications? From my malfunctioning body?
Who took my belongings and hid them? My nail scissors? My phone? Who was scared of me and what I could do with them? More hallucinations. Everyone, everyone I knew, was evil to me.
Gradually I lost most of the badness and much of the evil. I woke up in bed in hospital. I was a normal person, or almost. They let the gates down on the bed and I learned to walk again. It was not easy. Was I a normal person again?
In the next bed was a demented, he was always fighting with the nurses. He would wake up in the middle of the night and scream meaningless English at me. Apparently he had been an English teacher.
I could not stay in one place at night, only a minute in bed or on a chair or on another chair. I could not sleep. Restless legs syndrome. Sleeping tablets.
What did I remember? Why was it all bad. Why was I in hospital? What was the illness? No operation scar.
Throw away the pills, do I need them? Who was against me?
A porter took me away – in a wheelchair – over the bridge to the Senior Residence in the building next-door.
Did I need help by dressing and undressing? No!
I had left the hospital and was now parked in a home for helpless old people. Most of them were horizontal and stayed that way – leaving only in a coffin.
Just a few of us were mobile – in body and thought. My walking and vocabulary improved. I read a book or two. I walked around on my own, I walked up and down stairs, I walked around the outside of the “health complex” – I knew the code to open the door.
There were a few who moved around the ward – mostly female – mostly with wheelchair or walking frame. I walked.
There was a group of three women who smoked. Had they the right to smoke on the balcony? Yes, they did. I joined them by sitting on the balcony and starting a conversation. Warm summer days. We met three times a day – between meals which we ate alone in our rooms – pandemic.
We all had handicaps, one had a badly broken foreleg, one was physically very weak, what was I? Handicapped in the head? In the body? I didn’t know yet.
The little one was weak, very weak; but I was surprised to see her once pushing her wheelchair back to her room, just bouncing along.
It was my last evening on the balcony – tomorrow I would be taken somewhere for convalescence, 50 km away in another land – the day after she would move to an old people’s home, 30 km away. Time to go – just the two of us left on the balcony.
She said that I had a wonderful sense of humour. She showed me how she could smoke with her feet; she was tiny, she had a broken neck, she had long limbs and long feet and the voice of a child. “Look here! I can smoke with my foot.”
I had to go and fetch my writing pad – first alarm. I wrote my name, telephone number and home address on it; and gave it to her. She reached forwards and kissed me between my right ear and cheek – second alarm. I wrote her name and her new address on my pad.
Rehab is short for rehabilitation or convalescence, for Gerry Hattrick and friends. It was a combination of hospital and physiotherapy for old people. I was booked for two weeks, or so I thought. Reha in a hospital in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere.
He was a wreck, he said so, the man who shared the room with me. He had had cancer of the lungs, he had had an operation, new blood, bad blood, more blood, another hospital, his body was in a bad state, but the lung cancer did not come back. He used a walking frame, he crashed into the wall, more blood, I pressed the red button.
Did I need help by dressing and undressing? No! And no, I didn’t want to weave a wicker plant pot holder, I was not a basket case, yet.
Again mostly female, mostly with wheelchair or walking frame. I walked.
I had her name and her new address, but no post code and no telephone number. My phone was gone, stolen perhaps. Note to self: do not trust your first ideas. There was however a land line phone next to my bed, the ward was very old-fashioned, a friend looked up the address in the internet for the post code.
I went for walks in the woods: “Walk backwards! Walk and look up at the trees, walk and look down, walk and look up at the trees.” In the gym: ergometer, weights and the mystery machine. Coordination and strength, could I touch my toes?
Write her a postcard. I needed a postcard and a stamp, the hospital had a post box, collection once a day. The village had no shops and the post office was closed for two weeks holiday and the hospital had no shop. What to do?
A ward sister volunteered to get me a postcard and a stamp. The next day I was given a postpaid envelope and a blank sheet of A4 paper. Marvellous, thank you!
I wrote my name, address and home phone number, and also my temporary number at the Reha. Some gentle words too. I posted it on the Friday. I had been powerless to communicate with her, but now I could, albeit in 4 days:
Yes, I did receive visitors, and washed clothing. And phone calls. Thank you!
The nurses and the doctors helped me. Thank you!
I had done what I could. I liked her, I would like to pick her up and put her on my lap, she is so small. I know what I am doing; as my Mother would or could have said: “You are old enough and ugly enough to know what you are doing.” I would like to pick her up and carry her to a hill top.
That’s when I realised, I was in deep, first alarm; the kiss, second alarm. I had to do something positive in her direction. Would she get my letter? Would she phone me? Would I go to her address?
No, I had to stay for three weeks, in the Reha; I was not pleased.
I cried, I am back in my own home
after ten weeks in hospital.
The garden is a complete mess and so is the house. There is a lot to do, so don't ask me about my plans for the future. First I have to recharge the car battery and run the washing machine N times.
I'm not as strong as I thought I was, picking up something from the floor is hard, but the stairs are OK.
Love from Me.
I looked back in time, ten weeks ago I went to see my doctor, I was feeling weak and wobbly, he said: Get an ambulance and go to hospital! In hospital they saved my life – I don’t remember much. I reread my leaving report from the hospital, it was horrendous. My kidneys had failed. How many times had I been defibrillated, resuscitated and intubated?
I don’t remember much from my hospital time – it was hard, it was violent. Life had been better in the Senior Residence and the Reha. The hallucinations had faded away, my Tourette’s syndrome had come back. I was feeling better, I was happy, I sent another letter, but no reply.