Things I never thought I’d be excited about: my brother being able to sit up to 60-or-so degrees. I say sit up; I mean tilt his bed. But, needless to say, the situation is looking up (literally), and the change in his condition from Saturday – the first time I saw him – to now is remarkable to say the least.
I’ve never spent much time in hospitals before – actually, I can probably count on one hand the amount of visits I have made prior to last week. So I’ve never really appreciated the absolute cross section of society you get in them. Nobody is immune to hospitals, as I so abruptly realised on Thursday night. In this country at least, nobody is too poor, too rich, too stupid or too qualified, too old or too young. In terms of people-watching, they’re even better than airports. There’s a strange sort of solidarity between fellow hospital-goers, too. There doesn’t have to be a conversation or any words at all, necessarily. There’s a look that says you’re going through something horrible and scary and I am too.
On the ward, though, it’s a different story. All of the nurses, doctors, porters and water-pourers we have encountered so far at my new very large, very sanitized second home have been wonderful, but it’s my brother’s ward-mates that really make the visits memorable. I can’t say I had planned on spending 10 hours a day sitting in a hospital room this summer, but I also can’t say that it hasn’t provided me with some great entertainment.
Yesterday, for example, the four-person ward was briefly full, and honestly, I could have been sitting in the middle of a TV show – a Channel 4 documentary at the very least. First, the new arrival, a middle-aged maintenance worker who’d been hit by a car while at work in the road. My brother, freshly adorned in a comically enormous metal traction halo and special sheepskin-lined plastic vest, looking like an incapacitated Nordic king and still unable to see much more than the ceiling. L, who arrived yesterday, an old man seemingly confused as to who these people were in his house. Obviously, it’s tragic and heartbreaking, but when he asks the nurse for the 12th time to call his wife and ask why there’s someone in his bed, and shortly after expresses his utter delight that the nurses will clean up his mess, it has to become funny.
And finally J, without a doubt the person I will remember most about D’s hospital stay. J is the self-appointed king of the ward, a 16-year-old kid who’s been sitting in that same hospital bed since a horrendous motorbike accident almost four weeks ago. I can only wonder how many people J has seen through the ward, and he’s taken on the role of greeter, calling out encouragement and friendly greetings as new arrivals roll in and watching over proceedings with one of his legs bandaged to twice its size and a snapback firmly in position on his head. He’s an expert on leg bones, having broken basically all the bones in both of his legs, and has an endless bank of tales to tell that would definitely land him in jail if a policeman happened to be present. He’s a street kid with a heart of gold: bad boy just waiting to be made good. He’s a feelgood movie in a tiny, skinny, bandaged up little bundle of cheeky grin and bravado.
This morning when we got to see Dom, J was nowhere to be found: he has, apparently, been moved to another ward. I suppose that’s the nature of hospital and hopefully it’s a sign that he’s on his way to recovery, but still, we’ll miss that kid.
To the people you never thought you’d meet, in the places you never thought you’d have to go.