Lives spent

by Liza Essien

 It’s a saturday and I wonder about the fate of two women who I never knew existed before last Thursday and yesterday.  There are lives that touch ours like an experience of an expensive fragrance, just a test whiff to convince yourself that somehow you now know what it is like to wear something worth hundreds of dollars. An illusion, because there’s the other deodorant that does it’s job for  far less than what it takes to pay your transport fare for a week, and really, you’ve got breathing problems and do not need strong scents on you anyway. This minor problem of choice passes away, just like my time in the hospital is beginning to blur into a distant memory, yet while I can,  I will wonder a bit about the two women who happened to share a room with me when I was admitted for my tailbone deformation.

One I shall call ‘babushka ‘, the Russian word for grandmother, as I left without knowing her name.  Yesterday, when I was allowed to go home, the time for her operation had been fixed. She had already had an operation on some part of her body(I don’t know where) and she needed another one to cut out a toe that was not healing. She had diabetes, was 81 years old, had older children in their sixties and her husband was still alive. He looked younger than her even with a walking stick. One of her grandsons came everyday to see that she had all she needed. I wonder if her operation was successful,and in a way I miss seeing her and eavesdropping on her calls to friends  who had no idea she’d been admitted.  I left yesterday with her words being played in my head over and over. She’d needed the wheelchair to be able to go to the toilet and in hospitals like the one we were in, you needed to have someone to go look for who had the wheelchair as there was only one in the whole place as far as I knew. She was worried that when he left and in days after the operation when her walking stick would not suffice, she would have no one to  go to request for the wheelchair on her behalf. She said ‘no one needs me’ and I thought that was sad.

The second woman I met yesterday. She’d been brought in the night before. Yesterday made it nine days since I’d been admitted and had had to smell hospital smells. But I’d already stopped sleeping in the hospital by the third day and only went in the mornings to sit on my bed and to wait for my name to be called to be freshly dressed by the surgeon or nurse. I made sure I was there by nine a.m but yesterday morning, I found my bed occupied. I found out due to the lack of privacy in such hospitals that she had no family, was married to an invalid husband, had lost feeling in both legs from frostbite, and had not eaten since she’d been admitted. A man came within the two hours of unnecssary waiting I’d had to endure before the head nurse brought my documents to show I was free to go home, and I learnt he was a neighbour who needed to hurry to work but would find a way to get all the things the doctor had written. The fate of this woman worries me.  She showed no fear as she covered her legs from the surgeon, defiantly stating she would not allow herself to be amputated. I wonder if money was found to get the things needed for the setting up of her drip, and what her life will be after this,the quality of it and if at all there will be a life after.

Why do I fancy that there is a sinful pleasure to be gotten from recounting our ordeals and listing our aches to people? Maybe because I felt a bit of it when I finally let people know what had occured to my body. There’s the pleasure from making it look like nothing , like look what my body bore, and oh, no , really pfft, it was just a pain that made me scream and cry and not be able to sit or walk, but it’s gone now. It is crucial to our desires prompted by a need problem free state to not want to have the sick and their illnesses encroach on our visual periphery, and we want to silence them, to make them talk about more pleasing things. Drugs are expensive, hospital bills are reaching the limits of our pockets, everyone needs to hurry up and get well. This can be stressful for a sick person as he/she needs to fight the pressure of the sickness itslef and the expectations of family members with their worries . Hospitals in this way are safe spaces where the sick find comfort in their mutual isolation from the healthy. One groans, the other resumes her sighs and there is an exchange of  number of days spent, almosy like a pecking order where we know who is who and just where we stand. There might be a pull to imitate a state of wellbeing to prove that oh no you’re not as sick as I am or to prove that you are even worse off. Whatever the case may be, and my word should not be taken for it as this is only an intuitive observation, hospitals can make change your voice, the tone, there is an aura  there.

This might feel like a roundabout offering of accounts hiding words unsaid. It probably is, because all I’ve thought as I wrote this is just how much people are in need around us, and how little we know of people’s health issues, of how little we can help each other and how sad it is to watch and not be able to do anything .