Witnessing how my fellow comrades-in-pain experience the hospital stay, has been one of the most eye-opening endeavors of my life, I think. How people deal with pain. How people deal with setback. How people deal with patience. How people deal with loss. How people deal with healing. And of course, how I, myself deal with all these.
Out of respect for my “fellow patients” I decided not to use their real names. The very first patient I have noticed on the day I was rolled in the room 403, was the “Biker”. He was my angel in disguise. The perfect room-mate. He was my age, jovial, cracking jokes, never allowing anyone around to sink in depression. Lifting our spirits, encouraging, and above all: putting my injury in perspective. He knew all the nurses, all the doctors, the daily routine, everything there was to know. By the time I arrived, he has already been there for a week since 21st March having suffered a motorbike accident. Three weeks after buying his dream motorbike, he was on his way to buying protective clothing when his vehicle slipped in a curve, he fell and followed it, sliding along the tarmac. Without any protective suit, only a leather coat and a helmet. The entire left side of his body was badly damaged. The skin on his knee was split, his thigh burnt and infected due to slipping on the tarmac for several meters, his hand damaged, his toe broken, his left elbow required skin replacement… and that elbow was also broken, with some parts missing – which he only got to know in the last week of his stay – remember that I mentioned communication as a weakness in the hospital? Seeing this, knowing how long he stayed, and he will still have to stay, gave me strength and reassurance that I am not alone in this. And also, that there are people suffering much more than I do.
The Biker was my guardian in restoring my faith to some extent, as well. The very first day, he handed me a little journal, which started on 1st April and for three months, contained biblical messages for every day, which I read ever since. He played a big part in me taking this journey to recovery as a spiritual journey as well. And above all, he was my source of good mood, the person I could mentally, hold on to.
Then, the “Butcher” arrived the same day. He was a middle-aged man, who fell with his bicycle and had his biceps come off the bones. A very kind, patient and calm person who earned our respect straightaway. Then, there was the “Cyclist”. He joined us on the second day from the intensive care, once it was confirmed that he had no major injuries. He was hit by a tipping truck and fell of his bike. All his ribs were broken on his left side including the collarbone, and his skull was damaged as well. He looked like the proper “two-face” with the dried bloodstains on his face and two teeth that went also missing due to the collision. He was very fit though, and he was able to walk on his own three or four days after his injury, despite the concussion he suffered. Then there was the “Spartan”. Another super fit guy, whose right ankle ligament was torn during the Spartan race on the 1st April. He finished the race with the ligament torn. He also made me realize how lucky I am with a little fat around my belly, since the daily injection of Clexane was much less painful for me, then for someone with almost zero fat around the worked out six-pack. How one can start to learn loving their own body, right? These four of us, the Butcher, the Cyclist and the Spartan all suffered injury the same day, the same afternoon. April’s fool got a totally new meaning for us. And despite all the setbacks and pain, we tried to make the most of it, enjoy the time together and became friends.
Then, there were the ones, who took this experience with negativity. The second day the room was already full, because two other patients were introduced following a car accident. Both had their upper right arms broken in the same place. Both had difficulty at being given infusion as they were dehydrated as a side effect of alcohol drinking probably. And both had their numerous family members come in for visits on the Sunday which made it difficult for us to relax. Dozens of people – I counted at one point more than 20 people in the room we were being treated in. Overhearing some whispered conversations saying “deny the alcohol”, “remember there was a deer”, “always say the same thing as the other”, “do not mention the speeding” told me there was something suspicious in their story. This feeling was confirmed, when the doctors were asking them how it was possible to get injured like they have, and shaking their heads in disbelief, tellingly… They were allowed home after two days, but they left a lot of question marks behind them along with the bad feeling, that they made up parts of their story to mislead the insurance company.
Then, there was the most negative person I ever came across. The “Farting Turtle”. He was carried in hospital following a car accident, that happened a week ago in the UK. Allegedly, he did not ask for treatment there, despite a chronic back ache, he claimed he was fine. After he traveled home by plane and came in to the hospital to be checked on, it turned out one of his spinal bones was broken. He was utterly frustrated with this situation, cursing nearly on all occasions, when he opened his mouth and vented both his anger and his gases without any civilized limits… Nothing was good enough for him. The food, the treatment, the room, the bed, the doctors, the air, his son, his life… As an example, he learned that there is professional, custom solution available for this type of injury. He was carried in on Friday, Saturday a person already came in to take his measures in plaster and promised to come back as soon as possible, with the ready, plastic, custom vest for him. As it turned out, the shield would be ready by Tuesday morning, and he would be allowed to leave the same day. But by Monday he was so angry, that he felt the need to let everyone know that. We reminded him, that the expectation was set for one business day – which, considering his measures were taken on Saturday – meant Monday. Of course, what we said, did not matter.
Scariest was, though, that the fundamental pain for him was not his back: but his addiction to nicotine. He wanted to smoke cigarettes all the time and when no-one was around, he was always looking for the opportunities to smoke. Of course, it is prohibited to smoke in the hospital, which literally enraged him: complaining that “in England and in Germany you would have designated areas where you could smoke!” Never mind the consequences: he did everything possible to follow his addiction. Hiding in the toilet, moving around the building, despite not being allowed to… He risked his own health, risked total paralysis of his own body, from hip down. He risked an entire hospital to be emptied if the smoke alarm went off, as his addiction was much stronger, than his own will. He was notified many times that if he is caught, it can result in consequences and if the entire hospital is emptied – with people unable to move – and fire brigade coming out, he would have to pay the bill. It did not matter. It was scary to see that one man’s addiction can make him do this. He spent only four nights in the hospital, but those five days when he was placed next to me were the lowest period for me and for our group.
His son visited him only once – who was his only visitor during his stay. That man had tattoos on the back of his head, not only on his knuckles and arms. He was scary. He had an inexplicable aura of danger. The next time I saw him, he was escorting his father home. The Farting Turtle received his protective vest, in which he really looked like a turtle – therefore the nickname. I was never happier seeing the “turtle” back of someone, when he left. It was pure relief.
All in all, observing his behavior, I learned and understood, that by being so toxic, so negative in any environment, one can easily ruin the mood of the rest of the people around. One can strike fear in a group. And no-one would be willing to communicate, when he was around. Such a destructive negative force, in such a fragile environment.
Then, there was the “Old Man”. He arrived on the last day before my departure. It felt like I would be given one last reminder from God, how lucky I still am to be alive, young, mobile – even if limited temporarily – and how to treat my condition in perspective.
I don’t think I will ever forget the moment he arrived. I was coming out of the bathroom, when he was rolled in from the ambulance car. I was stuck in the doorway so I was “forced” to watch what was happening. Two nurses arrived, with a man from the ambulance, who put his arms beneath his naked body, holding him like a baby, uncovering a missing leg in the process. And while the Old Man was shouting from the pain, he placed him carefully onto the bed. The nurse that day, tried multiple times, what felt like an eternity, to find a vein she could use for the infusion. After half an hour or so, she had to ask for help from the older nurse, to give it a try. She made it, albeit not on first try, but the Old Man was visibly and audibly in pain. His hip bone was broken. He looked like in his seventies, and with a missing leg, and a broken hip bone, hearing his exclamations of pain from time to time: it was a sight that made everyone else in the room silent. In the evening, he was told he would be operated. Normally people were operated in the mornings, so this came unexpected. For the first time, I have seen blood infusion introduced to a patient. He was rolled out, but was not rolled back. At night, his items were removed from the room in silence. We were told that he was moved to another room. Whether that was intensive care, or somewhere else: we never got to know…
What I do know is, witnessing the Old Man, before my last night in hospital, felt like a reminder for me. That one day, That Day will come. And that I should be grateful for my life, my health and make the most of my time on Earth. Being grateful. While I am lucky enough to move, to express myself and to do something about my life: I owe myself this.