Hospitals are boring.
When you’re in there for months at a time, unable to see your friends, go to school or uni or work or even, at times, move for a while, it becomes agonising.
There are ways to occupy yourself, sure. But you can’t FaceBook or YouTube all day, not for a few weeks in a row in any case. You can’t read forever. You may not always physically be able to do assignments or answer calls for work. Being stuck in a room or building for a long time is never easy.
It’s what our prison system is based on.
But there are moments which stand out from the blur of hospital staff, time-pass and treatment. Moments which keep it all interesting.
And they’re almost always funny.
Humour is really important for a lot of patients. It not only gets them away from boredom, but also cheers them up when life seems rough, especially kids. It can be powerful in doing those things. And the great thing is, it can come from literally anywhere – doctors, nurses, random occurrences in the hospital, or the patient can create it for themselves.
This series will be about some of the funniest, most memorable things that have happened to me while in hospital.
Here’s the first one.
It started off an ordinary night. I was recovering from a dose of chemotherapy. Not many people know this, but most chemos don’t hurt or have too many immediate side effects as they’re injected into the veins. When it really begins to take effect, the week or so after that, is when it gets hard.
One the common side-effects, one I was experiencing, about 2 weeks after the chemotherapies had been infused was low blood counts. For me that night, platelets were especially low, so I was getting a bag transfused at around 6pm.
My nurse for that shift came and began making sure it was actually me the platelets were for, engaging in idle banter with my mother and I as she did so. They always check with another nurse as well to make sure that there wouldn’t be a mix-up. Once she was done, she put the bag up and let it run as usual.
“Wait a second, you’re Mary Johnson right?” she exclaimed as she was about to leave the room. We all laughed as she walked out, attending to another patient. She was one of the funnier nurses in the ward.
I’d had at least a hundred of these transfusions before (I’m not even exaggerating), so it was all pretty much routine for me. But 15 minutes in, my lips began feeling… heavy. It seemed like they were growing bigger, minute by minute. Soon I couldn’t even close them.
I pressed the panic button. Something was up.
Nurses came rushing in, and soon enough, doctors were surrounding my bed. I was in anaphylactic shock – I’d had a severe reaction to the platelets. My face had swollen to twice it’s normal size, I was itchy, everywhere, and my throat was beginning to swell, slowly constricting my air ways.
I was lucky though. The nurses were fabulous at keeping me calm in such a scary situation, and the doctors were doing their job well too. Within an hour and a few shots of hydrocortisone, anti-histamines and a hit of adrenaline, I pulled out of it fine. A few days later, I was perfectly fine.
It wasn’t the nurse’s fault. I’d had a reaction to the preservatives in the platelets, or the antibodies in them or something else in the bag. It’s not like they weren’t matched to me. It was only fate which made her joke seem tasteless. She stayed back almost 2 hours past her shift, helping in my recovery and keeping an eye on me after it had all settled down, visibly trembling with worry.
The next morning, when both dad and mum were in the room with me, she peeped through the door during her shift to check up on me, even though I wasn’t her patient at the time. Even though we knew it wasn’t her fault, and though she knew that we didn’t blame her, she was pale with guilt.
“Morning, Mary Johnson,” said Dad before bursting into maniacal laughter.
The horrified look on her face, the laughter of my parents and the reluctant chuckle she broke into after a few moments will stay with me forever.
From that moment onwards, I knew that whenever I saw her, or whenever I’d be getting another bag of platelets – even whenever I’d be administering them, I’d think back to that night.
But I wouldn’t be thinking about the excruciating pain of adrenalin as it forced blood too rapidly through the tiny vessels in my head, or the insatiable itching all over my body or the drowning feeling as my airways were constricted by the swelling of its own tissues.
I’d instead be thinking about the newly dubbed Mary Johnson. I’d remember the shock on her face. I’d remember my father’s laughter and my mother’s chiding look as he howled on for nearly a minute. I’d remember the looks of glee on the faces of the other nurses as we told them about her new nickname for work.
And I’m glad that I can see it that way.
All it took was 1 little joke.
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