Rules For Visiting
It is a familiar scene. I sit in emergency waiting area after handing my referral to the nurse at the desk. I have come with a book on the history of God, a fully charged phone, phone charger and headphones. There is an old man sitting in a chair wearing a dressing gown and shorts. His pale legs spread out. He is in pain and its obvious to look at him. A nurse sits down next to him and they have a conversation. He simply wants to lie down and rest. There is so where for him to lay down as he is not being seen yet. he whimpers. The nurse goes away and comes back. he gets given some pain killers: Endone I over hear him get told.
There is an old woman who is not enjoying waiting. She keeps going up to the dest and saying how unfair it is she has to wait. Each time she is told that there are people who came before her who are also waiting. The old woman is making so much of a scene its hard to believe she is all that unwell. Illness is not always obvious, I remind myself. Still, I find myself hating her anyway. Shut up. I think as she goes back up to the desk for the fourth time. I go back to my book and try to finish the page I have been stuck on for a while.
Through the door that leads to where you get taken once your name is called, I hear some truly disconcerting sounds coming from a patient. Its loud shouty words that I cant make out, followed by laughing, the kind of laughing you hear in horror movies. The sound gets clearer and then I hear the person say the same two words over and over again and getting louder and louder. Oh No. Oh NOOOooooo. This is followed by laughing. The sound spills out into the waiting area and gives a very startling and uncanny bfeel to the environment. Its like the person is simply saying what we are thinking to some degree for a variety of personal and unifying reasons.
Eventually the patient is revealed. He is an obese man in an extra wide wheelchair thats being pushed passed me by a nurse. They are not in control of what they say. The person keeps repeating ‘Oh no’ in varying octaves and laughing as the nurse wheels them away towards the main part of the hospital. Is he being taken back to a ward? Is he being taken home? The emergency waiting room seems extra quiet without him around.
This lasts only a few moments because someone behind me starts watching something on theIr phone with no headphones. This is what puts me straight into foot stomping murderous level anger. I count to stop from standing up and turning to search and destroy the person that has no care for the people around them. What kind of sociopath does such a thing? among the weak and enfeebled? The sound stops abruptly. I am a witch.
I am hungry. I have not eaten well in the last three weeks due tp being sick and coughing non stop. I may get called soon so I cant go far. There is a drinks and snack machine in the hallway . I go get two small bags of pop corn. I was smart this time and bought along my own reusable water bottle.
That is when my name is called. I rush towards the door where the nurse is waiting for me, trying not to drop the snacks and my water bottle.
I sit on the bed and start coughing straight away. The nurse takes my blood presser, with a cuff that says small adult on it. We get chatting about Prince and how sad we both were when he died. I mention how beautiful and attractive he was. The nurse does not agree, she only loved his music, not his looks. Oh thats a shame. I say sadly. You must have very boring taste in hypothetical imaginary sexual partners. I tell her that at a concert Prince told the audience that he wrote the song Cream while looking in the mirror.
Of course she has to take blood they always have to take blood. I get worried because i dont want to have a coupging fit while being pricked with a butterfly needle. The nurse reminds me that she will also have to put a canula in me. The nurse manages to do both of these things so quickly and painlessly that I am in genuine awe. Oh, yes. She tells me I didnt want to jinx it by telling you but, Im really good at this kind of stuff. I concur, i say.
She asks me a bunch of questions. Including my weight. I have never weighed a more healthy amount, i brag before she weighs me. Oh. I say afterwards. I have lost 5kgs. oops. After she gets some of my medical history she is impressed. I know. I say at least my face is still adorable. I don’t know why i lie so much to medical people about how confident I am. She tells me she likes my charisma more. Not that your face is terrible. She says. I tell her i understand. Then an older guy looking a bit stressed comes in and says my name with a question mark at the end. He has been looking for me to take me to get my chest X-Ray. Once he has taken me to radiology, he goes off to do another human to human delivery.
Kneel before me. The bionic woman. The radiologist was hot. Why are they so attractive?! They ask about what kind of bra you are wearing and if it’s underwire. They say you have to remove it. I know it’s for a chest X-ray. But. Is it REALLY. The answer is yes. The radiologist makes sure I am standing correctly while I hug that box you have to hug when they want to e ray your chest. I am braless and wearing a hospital gown that would fit me if I was a normal sized person. ”Oh,” says the radiologist. ‘Nice metal work you got there.” I smile and then laugh. He IS flirting with me. I think triumphantly. My insides are astounding. I make no apologies and give no credit to god.
When I see the Xrays on the computer screen while the doctor is looking at them. I ask and then take photos of the images. I feel self disgust well up inside of me and try very hard to push it away. It is not the way i should feel. about myself, I know that. There they are my faithful stainless steal rods, still clear and strong as they were when they were placed inside of me when I was 13. The only difference between the xrays of me at 13 and now, is now I have boobs. Rachel Bloom does not lie in her show Crazy Ex Girlfriend, when she sings a song about having boobs. They’re just sacks of yellow fat.
A doctor comes to see me and says that I should be ok to go home soon. I call my partner and tell them the good news. As soon as the phone call is ended. The doctor comes back and explains my blood tests have come back and shown high white cell count. My kidney doctors want me to stay overnight. I sigh and nod. When the doctor has left, I take a photo of my arm with the canula in it. I place my arm on the black and white square print fabric of my skirt. I take the picture and give it a black and white filter. I have just invented hospital noir, I think happily. I like making myself abstract.
Another nurse starts her shift and asks me if I’m experiencing any pain. I say that its all existential rather than physical. she responds with a distracted ‘What?’ reminding me that she is just doing her job and does not need a smart ass throwing philosophical terms around. I tell her I don’t feel any pain. She faces me holding a very long q-tip. The nurse has to poke the thing up my nasal passage in order to get a swap of it to see if I have this particular kind of flu that is going around. I do not relish the idea of having something shoved way up my nose. It is not fun but it is over quickly. The q-tip gets taken away to be studied. I sit there jerking my head around and rubbing the right side of my nose waiting for the feeling to pass. I think I prefer blood tests.
My partner comes with overnight things and some dinner and dessert. My partner tries to bargain with me, if I eat all my greens I will get dessert. I will not get dessert if I don’t. This is a foolish game as my parents used to try it with me all the time. I simply went without dessert. I tell my love this with arrogance as if I have won some big battle of the minds. Which I haven’t (i do end up with the treats anyway). I simply have refused to eat all my greens. Like a stubborn brat. Of course I know that I am simply trying to maintain some semblance of control thge only way I know how, while being in the medical system, a coping mechanism developed in childhood and hard to disentangle from.
Looking for a silver lining in the annoyance of staying overnight, I finally rest on the fact I will get to see some of the nurses from 6 South West again. But, when I finally get to see the kind old man who moves humans around again, he wheels me to the 9th floor. I am not pleased. Its nearly 10pm, I have had blood tests and canulas and a thing shoved up my nose. And now Im going to a ward where they don’t know me or how funny I am.
The next day my nurse comes to take my blood pressure. ‘Oh, i am jelouse of you.’ She says. ‘I wish I was like you.’ ‘In hospital?’ I say. ‘No, not that.’ She says. ‘Skinny, like you are.’ I let her take my blood pressure as I grapple with what I just heard. My nurse is not skinny. I want to tell her that I actually just found out I lost 5kilograms and I needed those five kilograms. I wanted to tell her that being skinny is something I have always been but I’ve also been in and out of hospital a lot. I am in hospital now. I want to tell her that my skinniness comes at a cost. But, I’m too tired to argue and its not her fault. She is not young and probably burnt out from working in this field for so long. Probably something happened recently that made it seem like she would be happier and life less hard, if she was thinner. Even if that meant more visits to hospital. if anything I should introduce her to the music of Lizzo.
It could have also been simply an awkward attempt at complimenting me and making me feel better about being in hospital, like, Hey! you may be here and getting blood tests and all that but at least you’re skinny. It is society that feeds the thin obsession to the point where it seems like being skinny equals happiness and health. I am aware that I have skinny privilege. I get “Anorexic, Bitch!” Shouted at me from guys driving past and don’t get judgemental looks when eating junk food in public.
I am in a three bed hospital room. The two beds near the windows have old ladies in them who speak Arabic back and forth together. Their nurse practices her Arabic and it sounds so lovely. The daylight seen through the curtain wrapped around one of the beds, gives the curtain the look of something heavenly. It makes the drab curtain look bright blue. That light would be good for a selfie I think. If I can get a beautifully lit photo, this could be a good day. I take some photos with the curtain as my back round. The light is good but I don’t share the photos.
One of the old ladies is ready to go home. He son and daughter in law come. The daughter in law immediately causes a fuss, shouting at the nurse for not coming straight away when called. ”I shouldn’t have to do your job.” The daughter in law says as the nurse follows her to the bed, it is found that the buzzer is not connected. This is why the nurse didn’t come straight away. The daughter in law does not apologize for her outburst. I stay looking at my phone but really I am paying very close attention to what is unfolding.
The nurse in charge of the ward comes by and speaks to the daughter in law. She explains that the nurse she just verbally abused is actually one of the most experienced and it was unfair to speak the way she did to someone who works so hard. Once the head nurse leaves, the daughter in law says to her husband. ‘Some people just don’t like being told.’ Then she proceeds to get her husband to press the buzzer again, just to check to see of the nurse comes running. The nurse does.
When my doctors come to see me. they are familiar and friendly. Its been a while since we have seen you, which is good! and they ask me what I have been up to. I tell them with some pride that I have a show in the Melbourne comedy festival this year. Where they ask. I tell them at The Malthouse. And like every doctor I have told, they light up with recognition of the venue. ‘It turns out I am funny outside of hospital as well.’ I say as the press down around my stomach and ask if it hurts. It does not. Then it happens, the doctors start giving me advice about what my next comedy show should be about. The suggestions are terrible. I say ‘Look, Doctor Handsome. I don’t give you advice on how to doctor. You don’t need to tell me how to funny. But by all means please buy tix to my show.’ No. I don’t say that. I simply tell them that I can figure out my own content, but thanks for the input.
I end up spending two nights in hospital. I do not have the strand of flu they thought I might have. They give me some IV antibiotics and send me home on Saturday. I wonder if it’s bad luck to start the Chinese New year in hospital. Its the year of the at so I guess only time will tell.