As luck would have it, I am in hospital.
I have been for 4 days, and it looks like the men and women in charge have no intention of sending me home – home is a touch and go place at the moment anyway, considering I rely on the kindness of friends to keep me hobo-less.
After being in the high-dependency unit for a few days, I was moved down to a general ward.
However, the only space they have here (in a hospital where everyone and everything is lovely however) is a bed in the geriatric care unit… Which is where I currently am, listening to 80+ year old ladies slurp and sniffle and croak. So far I’ve felt awful- exhausted, nauseated, my head aches and my body is sore. I’ve gone from being swollen with fluid to dehydration, because I can’t generally keep water down. Thanks to a severe tummy bug, I haven’t quite won this round. Even though I’ve done nothing but lie in bed, my sleep has been wrecked by half dream/half hallucinations, where I’ve flown thrown the streets attached to plastic bags and been lost in the hospital maze- sometimes it would become difficult to tell the drug hazed, sleep deprived freak shows from the dreams, but when the nurse I asked for directions turned around to show a blue face with the ears of a cat I realised it couldn’t be real… Though the worst times were when I was in tears in my dreams, feeling real anguish and pleading to just wake up, to get open my eyes to the plain ward and the sounds of night.
Fortunately I had a lady, crinkled and dry with a contrasting smell that was wet and unpleasant, heaving and moaning like a resurrected corpse, retching throughout the night to a chorus of “stop it, just stop it” and, “nurse nurse”, delivered in small reedy voices cloaked with phlegm and non-coherence from the other patients. That tended to wake me up.
I know I might seem rude. But I’m speaking the truth. I know their frailness is beyond their control, that they didn’t ask for a 23 year old to invade their space and their room, even though they stare at me whenever my bed curtain is open. I know that it’s not all people of a certain age who are like this… The lady I shared the HDC unit with had balls bigger than any man I know, and took her punches and her pain like a pro. She was also sweet and strong, and a pleasure to talk to. But even so, she too was not physically capable of everything. And so, amidst my rushed trips to the bathroom, hallucinations and the sounds of old woman making odd noises, I got to thinking.
I don’t want to be like them. And I very well might be.
Even though ending up here wasn’t my fault, I still don’t look after myself as a should. I drink too much too often, sleep too little, exercise too seldom. A life of excess in any form does not lead to longevity, nor fullness of life. And most people live lives of excess. I’m here because I got sick, true. But i could be here in a few years because I don’t treat my body like the temple it is, as cliched as that might seem. And I don’t want to be old and slow and shaky, speaking nonsense or spite because that’s all I can muster. When you are young, especially as a woman, you might feel you have a shelf life- now, while that is a conversation for another day, the one thing you shouldn’t feel is limited by your age. I know great woman who work and walk, they climb over obstacles both physical and mental with grace and determination, and they are older than the ladies I am sharing this ward with. But you wouldn’t say so. They seem meek yet hostile, and I’m sure it’s because they’re feeling so unwell. I don’t like myself for how much they’ve bothered me while I’ve been ill.
Now, I’m not judging the woman here. Their presence might be just as accidental as mine, simple misfortunes that struck and set them in hospital with a 23 year who knows nothing. They’re here because they need help, as do I, and no judgement is being delivered. But I see their glazed expressions, their smacking lips and dour faces… All I’m saying, in the most eloquent way I know how from my hospital bed, while feeling like the world is falling down on my head, is that I don’t want to be like them.
I realise I want to be healthy and happy, and that it’s my responsibility to make that happen. There’s nothing wrong with that is there?
Let me know.