The art of medicine

From time to time I tell whoever is passing through that there is nothing wrong with me and eventually, reluctantly, they confess to being baffled...

By HADASSAH BAT HAIM
March 21, 2007 12:02
3 minute read.
emergency room 88

emergency room 88. (photo credit: )

Protesting that I am only here to have an eye tested and evaluated, I nevertheless find myself in a ward, given a bed and a pair of pajamas. Dutifully, I change, still protesting that I am not really a patient but reluctant to try to outwit the system. The cheerfully patterned pajamas are made for a short, stout gentleman. As I am a long skinny female accustomed to buttons on the left it is not entirely a fashion statement, but as long as the staff notice that the occupant of these cheerful garments is not the same as when last attended to, I have no complaints. Most people in and around Nahariya have become acquainted with the hospital workers, patients, staff and volunteers, so there is no feeling of strangeness. In the next bed is a woman who spent her formative years in Manchester, as I did, so it makes the ward quite homely. In a wheelchair in the corridor, I meet my neighbor who, not aware of the dangers that lurk in the most innocuous places, blithely entered her bank, tripped and broke her leg. There was, she told me, an immediate flurry of clerks and tellers and accountants surrounding her with help and advice. A lost opportunity for a bank robber, had there been any in the vicinity. The other patient - an old hand having already spent the night here - knows where the kitchen is and right away comes up with hot water for coffee. The offer from the hospital is indeterminate. Too late for lunch, but a very obliging, small nurse volunteers to descend to the depths and brings me a tray, which she does triumphantly having obtained the last menu, still steaming and aromatic. So eager am I to be helpful and prove that I am here under false pretences, that I swing briskly off the bed and knock the tray out of the nurse's hand, whereby the contents spread out over the floor. The next 10 minutes she and I spend on our knees mopping up mashed potatoes and gravy, slices of chicken, salad, a glass of water and a dish of stewed fruit. The poor little nurse is most apologetic though she is quite blameless and I keep telling her so, but she is worried that I will go hungry. Circumstances being reversed I would have said "Serves you right," but she is most forgiving and concerned. A real Florence Nightingale. There are several coffee shops, canteens and eating venues that I passed on the way here, but I hesitate to go in search of one in case I can't find my way back and would probably end up in the porter's lodge. Great activity ensues in the morning. I get prodded, injected, more blood extracted than I feel is warranted - what do they want with all this blood? They won't tell me. Safely ensconced at a table, I get more food. I greet groups of what look like high-school students with a teacher. They stand at the foot of the bed, look at the chart and discuss among themselves what can be done. Or maybe they are not talking about me. They could be evaluating the football results. Nobody speaks to me. Is this sheer snobbishness or haven't they noticed there is someone in this bed who wasn't here yesterday? From time to time I tell whoever is passing through, including the cleaner who does lend a sympathetic ear, that there is nothing wrong with me and eventually, reluctantly, they confess to being baffled. Either I have a malady unknown to medical science or I am fit to leave. My Mancunian friend has had a similar diagnosis, so we dress at speed before there can be a change of instruction. We are both told, firmly and with authority, to come back in a month when presumably we might have developed some more interesting symptoms. I can hardly wait.


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