a hospital patient - quotes and descriptions to inspire creative writing
I can survive anything if I feel loved, even these pains that come to explode within, these silent hand grenades. With kindness I can make it, with compassion there is grace. And when you smile at me you are my heroine, my morphine, finer than any doctor can prescribe.
The woman in the bed is old beyond a natural lifespan and paying the price. While her heart beats stubbornly within her pigeon chest, her skin is so fragile it ruptures on anything more than the softest of touches. The open eyes are not focused but move randomly, white, obscured with cataracts so completely that I cannot tell her eye colour. Her hair is wispy over a scalp that shows signs of pressure sores, pink from constant contact with pillow or chair. I raise my voice and call her name "Emma, Emma, can you her me? It's Doctor Raymond." After no reaction I ask her to raise her arm, nothing. I apply mild pressure to her temple and her hand moves feebly as if to swat me away but missing by many inches. She's still in there alright, just deaf and blind.
In her life Diana had given more of herself than perhaps was wise. She had loved without boundaries and donated money when she should have kept it for herself. There was no slush fund for a private ward with food worth eating. When her friends came calling they brought something home cooked, and so, in one go, they nourished her body and soul. But the process of dying was more cruel than any fiction she'd ever read. The pain would be with her until the end, everyday a battle not to loose hope. She had a stack of books next to her cot and not the strength to read one for more than a minute at a time; with the pain it was hard to follow the plot anyway. Sometimes her son would pick up her favourite detective novel and read to her until she fell asleep. When she awoke he'd always left a note to say when he'd return, signed love, Jackson. She had every one kept in the dresser and stuffed in her make-up bag to make sure the cleaners didn't throw them out. The mornings brought bed baths from strangers, kindly though they were, and when her legs gave way she'd be winched onto a commode to do her business and afterwards left in an adult diaper. There was no dignity here. When alone she let her face, so deeply etched with the lines of laughter and love, fall with gravity, reserving her strength to smile for her visitors.
In the bed lies everyone's future unless they are lucky enough to pass in their home. Today it is an old woman, all of her useful years, her happy and healthy years in her past. Her eyes once sparkled at a pretty christmas tree as she eyed the gaily wrapped gifts. Her fragile collar bone once sat above a lace wedding gown and the arms covered in tubes held her newborn baby. Her feet have known the streets of Rome and the sidewalks of New York. That person is still in there, locked into a body that won't quit like it should, tethered to a heart that insists on beating despite her chances of recovery being non-existent.
Earnest lies in the bleach tinctured ward on the crisp but thinning sheets. A curtain hangs limply on the chrome railing, looking like it's been washed a thousand times. With eyes on the polystyrene tiles above he hears the door open and in comes Tara with a priest. He feels his chest tighten into a knot like a cramp and a quiet rage builds inside.
"Love, I know you said no priest, but darling, this is when everyone needs one." Tara rests her hand on his, feeling the coldness in his fingers. He pulls his hand away and turns toward the wall. The priest looks to Tara and smiles apologetically.
"Nobody has to see the priest, if he'd rather not talk to God that's OK." At his words Earnest turns over faster than he has done this past month that has seen him wane into a shadow of the powerful man he was.
"God? Don't want to talk to God? Actually, that's a fine idea. I want to meet him right now. I want to know why a man who's worked every God damn day to provide for his family, to be a good man, has to die like an animal. Worse than that, they get put down right? All I want is enough morphine to drop a cow and you can send me to Jesus with a smile on my face." Tara blanched.
"I'm so sorry, sorry. That's not like him at all. He goes to church every Sunday, he loves God."
"No Tara, no I don't. He can make a planet in six days but he can't put a loaf of bread in a starving child's hands? He can make mountains but he can't make a clear book of instructions everyone can follow? Damn it, Tara, even Lego does a better job than that. You want me to worship a God that leaves children to suffer? You just want a God that saves you your favourite parking spot and reminds you to put the trash out on Wednesdays. So yeah, I want to talk to him, I want to give a piece of my mind." Tara opened her mouth, but her tears were falling too thickly. The priest stepped forwards.
"Son, God is a spirit, he can only work through our spirits. He's in everyone, if they want his guidance..."
The new patient is mobile and spry, bored, yet grinning at May as she enters. Her smile extends to her eyes, twinkling like she's greeting a beloved daughter. May reciprocates in her way, her smile limited to her mouth, unsure of what happens next and wary of being drawn into a conversation she doesn't have time for. "Hello, m'dear, Edna, Edna Forrest, and you are?"
"May, I'll be your nurse today. How was your sleep last night?"
The patient was testing the May's patience. One more moan and she swore she'd find an illegal use for his pillow. She knew it wasn't his fault, for the most part he wasn't aware of anything he did anymore. The man didn't know he was he in hospital or what had happened to him; his existence had become little more than an extended nightmare until the sweet angel of death came to take him away. But his moans were loud and unpredictable, each one coming just when May was relaxing into the idea he might have stopped.
The patient peered from the bed before letting her head fall heavily on the pillow. It was like that every visitor time. All of the others had family and friends, nice food and flowers. Nelly got disappointment served cold. Some days May would wander in with some Dutch cookies and a coffee, but Nelly would perceive it as pity and turn the other way. She wanted her daughter, the one she asked for every day. She wanted her husband, forgetting that he'd passed. She wanted to go to church, but leaving the hospital wasn't an option. Nelly got everything she didn't want, nothing she did want, May could see that. Still, every few days she'd bring the butter cookies, persevere until the old girl let her in.
The patient has just passed her third birthday and she was as tiny as a doll, pale with slender limbs. Her head was bald from the chemo and despite the sickness she was playing with her doll, showing her mother a "wonderful new dance." Greg paused to breath. There was just nothing right about kids and cancer, the two just shouldn't go together. No matter how long he'd been in oncology there was just no getting used to it. The girl spied him and let the doll fall to her bed, her eyes shining brighter to see Doctor Greg.
Her hands were frailty and caution, shaking gently as she reached for the hot tea. In her movements were so much of the woman she was and still is. They were ashen where the sunlight caught them, not ghostly like a white person, just subdued and greyish. I think that's the first time I realized how vulnerable she was and how much of a toll the sickness had taken.