Laying on my side in a hospital bed in the hils. I’d been here since Friday 19th when I came in with what turned out to be a perforated appendix. Operation was to be a simple keyhole entry and procedure but it eventually had to be done in the old school right lower abdomen sliced open cut style due to difficult position on the organ in my case or it’s deteriorated state.
I had planned to do an instore set on the 26th at Basement Discs but it wasn’t going to happen. I am going to play a show a week after that with the Coral Snakes at Memo Music Hall. (June 3rd)
ON anti-biotics and Oxycontin for first day or so through an IV drip in my arm. Also had a “drain” tube coming out from my right side. Visits to the toilet involved shuffling about in a blue gown with exposed back, wheeling “tree” on wheels upon which hung the meds and liquids tubes and machines for measuring body temperature and blood pressure. Otherwise this tree sat next to the bed and I had to sleep on my back . All through the night I’d get woken to get vital signs measured and noted.
I was on a “nil by mouth” diet and was eventually given some cubes of ice to suck for a couple of days. Took a day or two to pass urine, narrowly avoiding a catheter being inserted. Took three days to pass wind.
It was important to pass the water, air and earth tests.
Mostly sleeping on my back due to drips and drain and the wound on my right side. A television was flown high above my feet on a bar overlooking the bed. You had to rent it. The curtains and the bed cover were beige. Your mind begins to kind of seize up, gripping itself tighter. In my case this meant musical motifs getting stuck on high internal looping rotation for hours. Trying to sleep then suddenly waking myself up with a loud snore.
I was taken from emergency to the operating theatre after doctors had deliberated for four or five hours. My bed was pushed by a young woman who looked a bit like a character from Neighbours called Piper. I was wheeled into the theatre at 8:15 and woke up at about 10:30 with a doctor explaining to me that the operation had been longer and more complex than had been expected.
I had a nurse called J---, a Ghanian born woman with great warmth and authority. Another called ---sha who took over during the dayshift. Egyptian looking and was equally great at getting things done, explaining situations and making decisions. Another was an Indian woman who was also great at her job. Another nurse came around in full bhurka. Hey the Doctors were Chinese and Lebanese and Vietnamese and Phillipine. Outside , the Australians were being yelled at about foreigners ruining the country. In reality they’re making it all a lot better!
Andrew Bolt, Ray Hadley, Pauline Hanson, Peter Dutton go off and fuck yourselves- we’re doing really well despite you.
Some nurses just have “it”. A tone and some signalling of empathy and care. Others are all caught up in the procedures and the protocols and paperwork. I appreciate, there’s a lot of that.
I was also amazed at the way doctors and nurses have to talk through things and test ideas out. I'm used to a world where people just yell so much. Especially in the digital world. One night at 3am I heard a doctor asking patient all kinds of intimate , rote questions about their general health. They can only go by what the other person tells them.
After a few days I got unhooked from the drain and the drips. I had no solid food from Friday to Tuesday. I was given salty broth, green jelly, apple juice and an icy pole. Previous to that it had been ice cubes only.
Perhaps I’ll shield your eyes from the next few scenes as I struggled to touch EARTH. (Euphemism). Could not STRAIN. Words fail. Time stretched out. Dank, dark, clay, mud. Walking corridor with a wonky tree. “You fucking piece of shit!” Literally this time.
Potions, manoeuvres, over a half a day. Measured from somewhere before dawn and after midnight. Dank night of the ….. Pebbles, clay. Stank. Putridity.
Clear air after that. Hard to pass solids when you haven’t ingested any. Hey, I’ve processed it all now. Forgotten it, brushed under the carpet of my wig.
The room I was in had two beds. On the first few nights I shared it with a man who’d had a hernia operation. Then came a 31 year old woman who had come in with appendix problems but the surgeon came in and told her he’d taken out either the tube to her right ovary or the her ovary itself.
She had waited for the operation for a few hours on the Saturday until she was wheeled out that evening. Until then she’d been on a “nil by mouth” diet. She continued on that diet through the next ay as another procedure had been mooted. Her boyfriend/husband came in. Overweight, dressed in black street wear and sound like he had a strong dose of the flu. He brought in a Chinese take away meal and proceeded to eat it all up quite loudly. A young pregnant female came in with “ a big bag of chippies” and the boyfriend helped to devour those as well. The female patient just lay there I guess. The boyfriend then carried on with successive voluble phone conversations with an associate who had some product that another person had arranged to buy but was now talking of a different (lower than agreed) price or just a down payment and the rest to be settled at a later date. Our man in the hospital room seemed to be the supplier to the retailer and knew the buyer too and carried on an artfully vague drug deal at high volume for an hour or two, talking with the two bickering players, assuring them in easy gab that he wasn’t making any profit anywhere, sweet talking the world. And sniffing and coughing otherwise, when briefly off the phone. After one particularly “Ba-Da_Bing” style confab with a male associate his girlfriend in the hospital bed tremulously asked who a woman was that he’d mentioned by name in his pool room flow of oiled words. He had clicked the phone off and asked her why she was looking at him as if he’d done something wrong. He swatted this annoying fly of intimate life away by assuring her it was all business related.
She suffered in the bed. At some point, late in the Saturday night there was a disturbance in the corridors. My sense of distance and idea of where I was in the building was all out of whack. It sounded like a meth head going off at the world. An old voice, though. Nothing really violent, just loud words. None of the nurses or doctors were concerned, no security was involved. Someone walked out of the ward, happily yelling. I had presumed it was our dealer friend but he had been asleep, slumped in a chair by the bed in the corner. His driver eventually came and was off to settle the score down.
I would hear the girl/woman reach for her bag of crisps first thing in the morning, also cracking can of soft drink. Before breakfast came. She spoke to the nurses and doctors, anxious to get her tubes tied.
We exchanged no conversation or pleasantries t all. The day she left I had the room to myself in the afternoon. For half a day I sat in a chair by the window and let the sun shine in on me.
I don’t mean to paint a picture or roughness and dystopia. When I spent those first few hours in Emergency I had engaged that particular entry level nurse in conversation, asking if there were wilder nights or times than there was just then. I was thinking of bleeding brainless wild ice zombies and drunks. She replied casually that weekends were bad due to so many sports injuries. That had seemed so cute. A junkie couple had been wandering the corridor, feeling very much at home.
An older woman took the other half of the room. The first evening, her blood pressure was so low it triggered an event where all the doctors and nurses had to gather around and deliberate on what was happening and what was to be done.
Another night, she had two transfusions. It seemed she was anaemic and they were looking for internal bleeding. She had a catheter inserted and moaned through most nights.
Yes, I was feeling the mortality.
Trapped in my bed, I got equally ensnared by the television. Two reality shows were on from Sunday to Wednesday.
“The 7 Year Switch” on Channel 7 about four revolting couples who are having relationship troubles and are sent away to hang about with different partners and talk about each others problems.
The other show was “House Rules” which was about four different but equally revolting couples who fix up each others houses. There are judges involved, who are crass and disgusting as well. It was amusing for the sheer, choreographed bitchiness involved . Masterful manipulations of weak, thin and dry caricatures.
TV ads I hope to never see again included Ford, Toyota and Trivago. All featuring “brand female faces”, like a throwback to the early days of cinema with the “Biograph girl”. There’s also a Panadol ad with an annoying Barista barrow boy who yells. “do I look like I’ve got time for a headache?”. Far too aggressive, and I was on the stuff.
Nurse talk at different times….
“Oh when he was pushing that swab in – I couldn’t look!”
I said – “hey – I don’t wanna hear any weakness from you! I’m depending on you to be squeam free…”
Another “OOOH, you’ve got great veins- I don’t know which one to choose…..”
We have an amazing health system in Australia. We must do everything to stop the LNP selling us the American version.