Bed, bath & stars. More from the ward

Chapter Ten: Then they came for me.

Sara was our latest departure.

The doctors deemed her fit enough to go home, though they warned she may never recover her lost three days.

Her mother and father had gone too from her memory of who had picked her up from the roadside.

It was a man. He helped me take off my jacket, she said.

We exchanged numbers and Facebook profiles.

In her place came Joyce.

I was here two weeks ago in Christine’s bed, she said. I have bleeding in my brain from a fall and some seizures.

She was in the 2-day-stay bed  (Sara, preceded by Lily, who I’ve not mentioned before, and Hashimoto, and Pam with pins and needles) but I got the feeling she might be there a bit longer.

Night stalker, who was really called Tracey but would only answer to Jane, also had plans to leave – waking up in the night to pack her plastic bags of possessions and move them into the day room.

The nurses moved them all back this morning.

When they told me I was finally going to rehab I burst into tears.

I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to my dysfunctional ward family.

It’s amazing how quickly we become institutionalised getting used to the routine of eating washing physio resting.

Lights out about 10 listening to nightly chaos.

The madness of ward 11 in 13 days. I’d had only one night of full sleep since I’d been here.

Vertigo was still dizzy in the head to my right.
Christine was still very dizzy in the head to my left. Calling out for husband John children Sarah and George, grandchildren Sophie and Julia in the night.

Still insisting she did not have dementia, despite agreeing with me she did get confused.

This morning believing she had a lunch appointment in the Isle of Wight and she needed a car to get there.

And despite being on bed rest deciding to get up change out of her hospital gown into her clothes and make for the exit.

How would quadriplegia fare?

A family full of drama and friends who seemed not to understand that sometimes the best help they could offer was to stand back and let her decide for herself what was best for her not them.

I hate goodbyes.

The ambulance was coming at two.

Tales from the ward Chapter Eleven: The bed bath.

Keeping clean is one of the animal world’s essential needs.

Just this morning I watched a blackbird perform his own daily ablutions in the stone birdbath through the window of my new hospital room.

First he would lower his chest onto the water then dunk his tail into the liquid and with his wings artfully fling it over his back. It didn’t look particularly effective at first but a few splashes later he was wet all over.

Obviously, he did not have the benefit of a weather forecast, as it is now bucketing down.

But how about when you are stuck in bed and unable to get to the bathroom yourself?

Let me introduce the ‘bed bath’ performed by nurses in every hospital everywhere.

This is no time for prudishness. You are going to get naked in front of strangers and they will be prodding poking and rubbing parts of you that you might prefer they didn’t.

But what choice do you have?

Scuba diving to cleaner stations has allowed me to witness close up manta rays, thresher sharks and even my own fingernails being manicured as cleaner fish and shrimp nibble parasites and dead skin from their far larger counterparts.

So the human version: face arms and torso first.

Would you like soap on your face, you are always asked. Then it’s your pits and under your boobs.

Next your legs the delicate parts followed by a roll to your side for your back and bum. A good wash and dry between the legs and you’re done. No more than five minutes to complete.

A roll of deodorant, a slather of moisturiser and body lotion finishes your look. A hair wash can wait until tomorrow.

Tales from the ward Chapter Twelve: Twinkle twinkle little star.

Maybe I am going mad, but I woke at 4am this morning asking Christine where she was going and then turning over to ask quadriplegia how many times Christine had tried to get up in the night.

Dawn had broken and it was already light outside.

I realised in another second where I was but the act of rolling had induced my need to pee.

And here is one of the more difficult issues facing the bed and wheelchair bound – what to do when you need to relieve yourself.

You can’t simply get up and go to the loo and the length of time it would take to get you onto a commode would also likely mean just peeing on the floor.

So what do you do?

Quadriplegia preferred a bedpan but I can’t pee horizontally and I generally end up peeing down my legs. Yeuch.

She’d also used a catheter until it gave her a UTI.

A doctor had previously tried one on me but it felt like being raped and we’d had to abandon the idea before I’d even used it.

So I pee-ed in my pad like most women. These are like an industrial sized sanitary towel with an amazing ability to capture liquid. Humiliating? Yes. But also a necessity.

In the boredom of ward life quadriplegia then coined a code word for peeing behind the curtain. Twinkle meant success.

We began comparing the amount of each pee.

Epic was for obvious reasons just epic.

We kept a tally of who was winning our pissing match.

I think I won on a technicality only because Danielle our nursing assistant would teasingly count the number of pads I’d used during her shift threatening to limit me to three.

Our crap shoot was a different matter altogether.

Lying bed bound means getting peristalsis going is difficult if not impossible.

Often days went by without a poop. Feeling bloated was a constant.

A daily dose of laxatives was required. For quadriplegia, multiple doses. Her paralysis affecting the movement perhaps more than me.

I needed the benefit of altitude to get me going, using a hoist to get me vertically off the bed. A contraption that can only be described as an instrument of benevolent torture. My opponent still preferred the pan.

I don’t know how she did it.

There were a few epics, sometimes smelly, but finally success when the unicorn had landed.


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