THE VOICE

1902/16th September 2021

This next part of my medical woes story will require a degree of tact. I don’t wish to appear indelicate. You’ll see what I mean as we go along…

What with all the noise and the absence of a needed medication as well as a fairly sharp pain in my middle, I had arrived, next morning, in a rather delicate state.

Which was in large part, on account of my roommate.

At the best of times, I am not keen on sharing a space, particularly with a stranger, especially a space so small.

My roomie had arrived first and was installed in the “window seat”. I was relegated to the remaining space that was barely big enough to accommodate my bed.

It reminded me of a time I had travelled in some aircraft which was configured with a bank of 5 seats across and I was in the middle seat from hell. I had been young then, with a sense of humour.

That first morning, in my tiny hospital space, I still retained a vestige of humour. But it ran out fast.

Let me introduce you to the VOICE behind the curtain.

The curtain which remained, luckily, firmly in place.

When I’d first heard that “nails on a chalkboard” voice, I had misinterpreted the words, thinking the owner objected to sharing her space.

Had a conversation been initiated between us, it would have been fatal. The lady just liked to talk.

When I am unwell, it’s the last thing I wish to do.

So mercifully, I was only subjected to hearing.

And God knows, that was bad enough.

Now, I’m afraid you will think I am horrible.

Yes, I am horrible.

But I was in pain and exhausted and deprived of my anti-anxiety medication. I had some reason.

A more delicate person might not tell the story.

But it has it’s humorous side and it’s about a person you will never meet. I’m sure she is a much better woman than I.

But she made my hospital stay HELL.

She was deaf, so everyone had to shout at her and her own raspy voice was pitched at high volume.

So it was impossible to ignore.

Also she was very needy, so there was constant traffic back and forth, night and day, past my bed.

Why do I feel horrible?

It wasn’t long before the voice announced it’s age.

She was 92.

So, I kept saying to myself, over and over “she’s 92, be nice Carolyn.” I tried. Believe me, I tried.

Perhaps if THE VOICE had been feeble, memory challenged or pathetic in some way, I would have been more tolerant.

But she was not. Her marbles were still all together.

As I very quickly discovered.

Soon after my installation, there was a period of loud moaning from behind the curtain and a series of nurses were in attendance. The VOICE had had it’s gall bladder removed.

She announced loudly to everyone that this was one of the most painful surgeries you can have.

It’s not. But the lady was 92 and at her age no doubt it was quite painful. This I could accept while I squirmed around trying not to gasp myself.

With considerable discomfort, I had managed to extract my cell phone to update Grant. The VOICE apparently had hers clutched in her hand and so it began:

HI LISA! LISA HI! IT’S GAMMY! I’M IN HASPITAL! I HAD MY GALL BLADDER OUT! OH, I TELL YOU, IT’S SO PAINFUL. BUT LISA, LISTEN, CAN YOU GO TO MY PLACE? I NEED YOU TO GET THE TAMADAS! THEY’RE ON THE WINDASILL! IT WILL BE A BIG MESS IF SOMEONE DOESN’T GET THEM. ALSO, LISA…IN THE FRIDGE..THERE’S A COUPLA ZOOCHINIS AND A CUMCUMBA AND 2 GALLONS OF MILK. I THINK THEY’RE NOT OPEN. YOU CAN GIVE IT TO THE BOYS…AW…OH, AND HALF A CABBAGE. WILL YOU DO THAT? I KNOW YOU’RE BUSY. I’M SARRY LISA. I JUST DON’T WANNA MESS ON THE WINDASILL.….

Gammy’s heavy New York accent grated on and on. That story and others were repeated to all contactable family and friends.

If I had ever managed to sleep, I would have dreamt about “zoochinis” and “cumcumbas” and half cabbages.

Every time the grandchildren were mentioned, there came the “AW” which was particularly grating. There were apparently many grandchildren, you see.

After a couple more conversations, Gammy dropped off to sleep. I know because she snored, but not at a high pitch, so this I welcomed. It didn’t last.

An appalling, raucous and loud NOISE suddenly erupted behind the curtain, so startling I literally levitated, which I was in no condition to do.

Whoever invented such an atrocious ringtone should be confined forever to hellfire. It had to be loud so Gammy could hear it but it rang and rang..

It was another family member who’d got the word from Lisa and so I heard the whole litany, again. I began to have uncharitable thoughts about the sodding tamadas.

When phone conversations ended for the night, the procession of medical attendants took over, in and out. I had no objection to this, after all they would have been remiss to neglect a 92-year old surgery patient.

Presumably the lady was lonely and needed to talk. If I was nice, I would have talked to her, but I was so not nice just then. She talked to the attendants and nurses…

…on and on…throughout that very long night.

Then a magic moment arrived. I can’t not tell the whole story because it is funny. One has to see humour in these things, surely? Life would be dreary otherwise.

Time to get Gammy on the commode.

She had announced to the whole ward that she had refused to be catheterized and now she must test the waterworks.

2 attendants arrived and behind the curtain there was a lot of heaving and screaming while my roomie was seated on the throne. And there, apparently she sat, and sat, and sat.

Eventually: “Are you done?”

“NAW! WAD IF A’VE GAD A BLACKAGE?”

“We can catheterize you.” “NA! OH WAID A MINUTE I THINK I CAN GO!”

“Are you done? “NAW”...”OH WAID”

It was a waterfall. It went on and on and on….

…and on…

If you think that was indelicate, do not read further!

After surgery, it is a matter of importance that you move your bowels. You will not be released until you do. This I know.

“Did you move your bowels?”

“NAW! LOOK AD MA BELLY! ID’S ALL DISTENDED. I LOOK LIKE A’S GONNA HAVE A BABY! CAN YOU IMAGINE! AT NINDEY TWO. A’LL BE ON TELEVISION! WHEN A HAD MY FIRST CHILD A GOT AN ILEUS. A’M TELLING YOU ID WAS AAFUL. THE NOIS HAD TA STICK A TUBE IN MA RECTUM.”

This I heard repeated over and over…

It gets worse…

What is an alternate cure for constipation? Suppositories.

Gammy’s bowels did not move. So in due course, the suppository arrived.

Fortunately, I only had to tolerate the sound effects:

…and I’ll spare you some of them… “Did it go in?”

…a stifled giggle… “it shot off somewhere, I don’t know where it went! Hold on D, we’ll get another one…”

And after more sound effects the hoped for event…

The curtain was not aroma-proof.

Since the days I spent in an Asian boarding school, long ago, human excrement is something that utterly disgusts me.

Now, I was disturbed.

Consequently, when a sparky young woman entered, eagerly clutching a guitar, I suspect my face may have discouraged her. She did not linger long by me.

But Gammy wanted a rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

It just about put me over the edge.

Somehow, the day drew to an end, but sadly not my headache. The anti-anxiety med still had not arrived.

Since my days in chaotic airports and crowded suburbia, I have moved to a blissfully silent part of the world. My house is quiet.

What I realize now is that I have become totally intolerant of noise and chaos and crowds and I am very sensitive almost everything, including odors.

For dinner, Gammy had fish. It was as if I had my nose in a can of my cat’s food. I felt green already. Fish?

That evening, I curled into a fetal position against the bed railing, with a pillow over my head.

Until then, I had been very controlled, well aware that the nurses were totally over-burdened with work. The discomfort I was feeling was mostly due to the headache and back and shoulder pain brought on by the hospital bed.

Clearly, I needed to leave. I was in sensory overload.

On day two, I announced my intention to depart.

The attending doctors and nurses were very sympathetic and would have gone to the trouble of moving me to another room, had one been available.

Finally, I received anti-anxiety medicine and agreed to stay another, a third night.

Next afternoon, a bit reluctantly, they discharged me.

That was two weeks ago.

For ten days I continued to vibrate. At night my ears always ring, but for at least a week after being in the hospital, the sound was strident and deafening.

Emergency surgery happens to people all the time and usually it’s a simple enough thing, as with me. But what about people who have serious illnesses?

Is this any way to care for them?

Again, I have nothing but praise for the doctors and nurses, but medical care should NOT be run by big businesses.

Why do we accept such chaos?

6 thoughts on “THE VOICE

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