Tag Archives: hospital

1886. A small tragedy

(Dear Friends – a footnote at the top of the page! All my poems in the past have had an audio except for “Self-portrait in landscape” which was promulgated the other day. I’ve fixed that omission, so there’s now an audio of me reading it if anyone is interested. None of this has anything to do with the following story!)

When Charmaine was peeling potatoes she accidentally cut off her baby finger. Her mother had always said, “Charmaine! Don’t peel the potatoes with a sharp knife! Peel the potatoes with a proper potato peeler!” But you know young people. Charmaine knew better. It was inevitable that one day she would cut off a finger with the knife.

It wasn’t just the tip of the baby finger; it was the whole hog; the entire pinkie on her left hand.

Part of the tragedy was of course that Charmaine was a fabulous concert pianist. What a fabulous concert pianist was doing peeling potatoes I have no idea. Nor did her mother, my wife. Naturally, her hysterical mother phoned for an ambulance after wrapping the little finger up in several pieces of paper towel, the roll of which sat on the window sill above the kitchen sink. There was blood on the cutting board and kitchen bench and everywhere, and the couple of potatoes that had been already peeled were ruined.

I said to Charmaine that I wouldn’t mind paying a famous composer to write a piece for piano that used only nine fingers, and she said “Don’t be silly Daddy. How would a famous composer know it was my pinkie on the left hand that was missing?” I wouldn’t have thought that such things mattered.

And then the ambulance, while turning off the road into the driveway, missed and drove into the ditch. It was stuck. And what is more it was blocking the gate so that the next ambulance (that my wife had called for immediately) couldn’t get in. To add to the inconvenience, the ambulance personnel got the stretcher through the gate, but with Charmaine lying on the stretcher they couldn’t squeeze it between the stuck ambulance and the garden wall. It simply wasn’t possible to turn the stretcher on its side. Not with Charmain in it.

The ambulance crew tipped Charmain onto the grassy verge and managed to get the stretcher through the gap. They then had to get Charmaine through the gap and onto the stretcher and into the usable ambulance.

That is when I said, “Look Charmaine, I can tell the famous composer which finger is missing when I commission the piece.”

And Charmaine said, “Oh Daddy, it’s not the same.” I didn’t have a clue what she meant. She can be so obtuse at times. But anyway, before long the ambulance was on its way and I followed (with Charmaine’s mother as a passenger) in the family car which fortunately I had parked on the side of the road outside the gate. Somehow the ambulance got through all the heavy traffic but we got stuck. We were sitting on the road in the car halfway to the hospital, and I said “Well at least the right vehicle got through”, and my wife said “Yes, but I have her finger in my purse. There’s no hope now.”

I said, “That settles it. I’m commissioning a piano piece for nine fingers from a famous composer. I’ll do that tomorrow.”

That is when Charmaine’s mother’s phone rang. “Hello? Hello?” The batteries went flat. The phone was dead. Now it’s going to be hours before we find out what the lottery numbers are.

1615. Garden measurements

Vincent had spent just over six weeks measuring the garden he was intending to dig. He had driven stakes into the ground and outlined the garden with string. It was going to be huge.

It’s huge, said Vincent, because apart from the regular vegetables I also like to grow plants that crawl and take up a lot of space. Pumpkins, for example. One plant takes up an enormous amount of ground. And watermelons.

People walking by would stop, not quite in awe but at least in admiration.

It’s going to take me a long time to dig, said Vincent. If you’re going to do something it pays to do it carefully and properly. They taught us in the military to mind the 5 P’s: Prior planning prevents piss poor performance. There are always detractors ready to scoff. Just wait until they stand at the fence on a hot day with their tongues hanging out wanting a slice of a cool cantaloupe.

How Vincent could talk for hours to the people passing by! No wonder it had taken him six weeks thus far to measure up the plot he was going to dig. In fact, he was such a blabbermouth it was a wonder he had managed to drive in the seventy or eighty garden stakes measuring the perimeter of his proposed garden.

The day always ended the same when in the evening the hospital nurse came to gather up the stakes and bring him inside.

1601. A flick of the switch

It would be so easy, as the saying goes, to get the doctor to simply “flick the switch” and Myrna would be freed from the burdensome duty of visiting her husband in hospital. He had been in a vegetative state for over a week now, and really it was easy to perceive that there was little hope. Even if he did come out of it, Myrna knew she could be burdened for many years to come with a person who needed care. Who wants to spend their life feeding an incapacitated person by hand who slobbers and dribbles? Who wants to spend some of the most productive years of ones life wiping a bottom? Yes, a flick of the switch was definitely the answer. It was the humane thing to do – sort of like putting ones cat down so it didn’t have to endure desolation while one went on an overseas trip of a lifetime.

It was not an easy decision of course. It was an onerous responsibility. Only last week Ainsley had said to Myrna that should anything happen to him she was not to feel hidebound into living a life alone. “Try to find a new way! A new life! You live only the once!” That positive attitude was so typical of Ainsley. Myrna knew that living out Ainsley’s prophetic observation was only “a flick of the switch” away.

The kindly doctor (he was marvellous! such a caring man!) had explained to Myrna that things were not as easy and straightforward as many thought. There was a good possibility that Ainsley would recover. And recover he did! Myrna was devastated. She had to phone Neville and say that her foray into matrimonial liberation had to be put on hold. “Next time, Neville darling,” she said, “you had better do a better job.”

1167. Burning bus

When Garth set fire to the bus it was so he could drive it while still burning into the wing of the local hospital. It was an old wooden building. He did it because his life time enemy, Josephine, was in a bed somewhere there.

It so happened that all patients were able to walk, and very quickly they gathered at the bottom of the staircase ready to make a hasty retreat outside.

Garth was still in the bus, laughing his head off. His aim, once the building was aflame, was to dash outside and never be seen again.

As Garth alighted from the bus ready to make his dash, Patient Gwendoline tripped him up with her crutches. Patient Josephine, who had just finished reading “Fifty Shades of Grey” and whose husband, while she was in hospital, had brought her some grapes and a pair of handcuffs to cheer her up, managed to handcuff Garth as he passed and close the other end of the handcuffs over the springs of a bed on wheels.

All traipsed quickly out, except for Garth who dragged the bed behind him and got stuck in the doorway. He burned to death. His dying screams could be heard all over the suburb.

Now, children, tomorrow’s Halloween. The bed Garth burned to death in is the very bed you’re lying in. I managed to get it cheap at the secondhand place. I’m going to turn the light out and you’re all to get a good night’s sleep. We don’t want kiddies yawning their way through trick or treating tomorrow do we?

1149. Some aliens are never satisfied

“You can go home,” said the doctor to the hospital patient.

“But doctor,” said the patient, “you know very well I am an alien and I was in hospital with broken limbs because my space craft crashed. It’s pretty obvious I can’t go home.”

“I had quite forgotten that,” said the doctor. “It’s amazing how quickly one gets used to seeing you wear that mask that enables you to breathe propane. I’ll see what I can do.”

Special accommodation was arranged for the alien. He could walk around freely while breathing healthy propane gases. But the alien was most unhappy.

“I’m sick to death of the food,” said the alien. “Day after day it’s the same potassium cyanide. Why can’t they vary it a bit, like the drink of carbon tetrachloride I was given last Christmas?”

They tried to vary the food a little after that, but to be honest the nurses in the Psych Ward were getting tired of it.

778. My dog has fleas

778ukelele

When Selwyn was a boy he learned the ukulele. He would tune the strings – as does every ukulele player – to the tune of MY DOG HAS FLEAS.

778bukelele

These days Selwyn is in his fifties. He gets twenty-four hour care. He goes around singing MY DOG HAS FLEAS. No one has a clue what he’s talking about. Well, no one had a clue until Nurse Veronica came along. She knew exactly what it was about.

“You wash your mouth out with soap and water,” said Nurse Veronica. “We’re not having that kind of language here in my hospital.”

“MY DOG HAS FLEAS,” said Selwyn.

“You wash your mouth out with soap and water,” said Nurse Veronica. “We’re not having that kind of language here in my hospital.”

Poor Natalie! She looks after both of them. She has the patience of a saint.

690. No chest pain

690pork

Libby had just picked her husband, Jonathan, up from the hospital. He’d been there for “more than a few days” for a rather serious operation. It’s amazing what medical science can do these days. The surgeon (he was from the Middle East; hospitals are such cosmopolitan places!) had replaced one of Jonathan’s heart valves with a pig’s valve. They can do it! They did it! Jonathan was feeling a box of birds!

The thing he most looked forward to was a decent meal. Not that there was anything wrong with the hospital food. It was quite alright. But Libby’s home cooking was much nicer. It was so carefully prepared, so tasty. And of course, being at home, the meal could be eaten leisurely in familiar surroundings without everyone looking. How tired he was of eating from a tray!
And how wonderful it will be, with his brand new pig’s valve, to eat without chest pain!

“So what’s for dinner?” asked Jonathan.

“Roast pork,” said Libby. “The surgeon gave it to me. He said there was quite a lot of pork left over.”

528. Overheard conversation V

528fishnchips

(This is the 5th of 6 in this “Overheard conversation” series. I’ve just spent a week in a hospital ward – a mixed ward, men and women. It can become tedious, so I jotted down some overheard conversations; some on the phone, some with visitors, some with other patients, some seemingly spoken into thin audienceless air. Slightly edited!)

Margaret (to visitor #1): You wouldn’t believe what they served us for dinner two nights ago! Fish and chips! That’s fish with batter! Batter! And fried chips! That’s the last thing Lydia over there wants. She’s in here to have a pacemaker put in! Fish and chips in the coronary care unit! Take a good look at Lydia. You’ll never see one like her again. She’s as rare as hen’s teeth. Her heart’s on the wrong side. It only happens in one in millions. Have a good look! And they gave her fish and chips! And Andrew in the corner. He’s in for angioplasty. And they gave him fish and chips! That won’t help his bowel movements. I heard him tell the nurse this morning that had hasn’t had a crap for two days. They’re thinking of giving him a pill so the stool can pass easily. And then there’s…

Margaret (to visitor #2): You wouldn’t believe what they served us for dinner two nights ago! Fish and chips! That’s fish with batter! Batter! And fried chips! That’s the last thing Lydia over there wants. She’s in here to have a pacemaker put in! Fish and chips in the coronary care unit! Take a good look at Lydia. You’ll never see one like her again. She’s as rare as hen’s teeth. Her heart’s on the wrong side. It only happens in one in millions. Have a good look! And they gave her fish and chips! And Andrew in the corner. He’s in for angioplasty. And they gave him fish and chips! That won’t help his bowel movements. I heard him tell the nurse this morning that had hasn’t had a crap for two days. They’re thinking of giving him a pill so the stool can pass easily. And then there’s…

Margaret (to visitor #3): You wouldn’t believe what they served us for dinner two nights ago! Fish and chips! That’s fish with batter! Batter! And fried chips! That’s the last thing Lydia over there wants. She’s in here to have a pacemaker put in! Fish and chips in the coronary care unit! Take a good look at Lydia. You’ll never see one like her again. She’s as rare as hen’s teeth. Her heart’s on the wrong side. It only happens in one in millions. Have a good look! And they gave her fish and chips! And Andrew in the corner. He’s in for angioplasty. And they gave him fish and chips! That won’t help his bowel movements. I heard him tell the nurse this morning that had hasn’t had a crap for two days. They’re thinking of giving him a pill so the stool can pass easily. And then there’s…

Margaret (to visitor #4): You wouldn’t believe what they served us…

525. Overheard conversation II

525gossip

(I’ve just spent a week in a hospital ward – a mixed ward, men and women. It can become tedious, so I jotted down some overheard conversations. Slightly edited!)

Barbara: That was my grandson, Juan. It’s pronounced “Jay-wharn”. You wouldn’t know, but it’s Spanish. Even though he’s only four he has the IQ of a seven year old. I reckon he’s gay because he’s not interested in boys’ toys like trucks and stuff. I call him “my little gay boy”. Of course, I wouldn’t say that to his face; that would be cruel. I am very good with kids. I have two of my own and nine foster children that I call mine. If I won the lottery I would buy an orphanage. My youngest daughter she Chinese. She 17. She come see me this afternoon. She reliable. I ask her who at my house. She tell me. I ask her to water pot plant. She also very bright. Not as bright as “Jay-wharn”. Do you have any children, Naomi, and what do you do?

Naomi: Well, I’m 84, so I’m retired and I…

Barbara: I said to my daughter-in-law that India, that’s another granddaughter, she’s 2, has a “big mouth”. I didn’t mean that she was a blabber-mouth; I meant she could put a lot of food in her mouth at once when she was eating. Of course my daughter-in-law took it the wrong way didn’t she? She’s so sensitive. Too sensitive if you ask me. So do you work, Naomi?

Naomi: Well, I’m 84, so I’m retired and I…

Barbara: Then there’s Riley. He went off the rails. He got his girlfriend pregnant when he was 15. He’s 26 now, and…

Naomi: … and I lectured in Russian at the university.

48. May I Be of Help?

48bowels

“Have you opened your bowels today?” asked the nurse tentatively.

“No,” replied Edward.

“Of course,” said the nurse, “I could always give you a pill. That should aid your bowel movements. Hospital patients often have trouble.”

“I’m fine thanks,” said Edward.

“What happens,” said the nurse warming to the subject, “is that it can turn septic. People are sometimes too embarrassed to admit they have constipation, then it turns septic. You can die from it, you know.”

“I went only yesterday,” said Edward.

“These things happen,” enthused the nurse. “I could give you a suppository. It’s very clean and quite painless. I simply gently push a pill up your rectum, and before you can say Bob’s your uncle, your bowels’ll be hunky dory.”

“But,” repeated Edward, “I went just yesterday. Last night in fact.”

“Today’s a new day!” gushed the nurse.

“Oh for shit’s sake,” wailed Edward. “It’s only 5 a.m.”