On paper, I was very ill. The trouble was, I right at that moment in time, I didn’t feel very ill. Locked inside the hospital with the dead and the dying, I was akin to a caged tiger pacing around. I bore quickly at the best of times. After 3 days of medical confinement, I contemplated digging a tunnel.
In the TV room, there was a guy about my age, which was unusual. Most inmates could claim at least 3 decades on the pair of us. We were already on nodding terms. As I sat down on the sofa beside him, he asked me what was up.
I told him how frustrated I was with the continued confinement. I went on about the boredom, the tedium, the mind-numbing routine of it all. I was sick of the food. The TV set only had a dozen channels and what I wanted most of all was to go home. My diatribe must have lasted 5 minutes or so.
“Yeah – it’s no fun.” he replied laconically.
I looked at him properly for the first time. “How long have you been in here?”
At that instant, I realised how stupid my frustrated speech must have sounded. I realised how selfish and insensitive I had been. Altogether too locked up in my own misery, it didn’t occur to me that the other people must have stories of their own. We spoke for an hour. He told me that he spent most of his life in and out of hospital. Born with a congenital problem, he had a lifetime of hospital treatment to look forward to.
I returned to the ward and for the first time, spoke to the guy in the next bed. A fellow patient now, not just one of the dead and the dying. He told me of his wife, how they’d been happily married for 60 years. Then a short while ago, someone decided he was no longer fit to drive so they withdrew his license and with it, their independence.
It wasn’t long before someone else decided that him and his wife could no longer cope and committed them to a care home. Unfortunately, for some bizarre reason, they were housed in different care homes. Together for 60 years, separated in a heartbeat, he quickly fell ill. It was a tragic story and I doubt it has a happy ending.
I will always be grateful to those people. They taught me a lesson I will never forget.
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