A non-holiday is basically how I feel at the moment. After a summer flu (my diagnosis) had turned into a sepsis (the hospital’s diagnosis) end of July I was taken out of my regular life and dropped into a strange new one filled with a fixed time schedule, lack of privacy and lots of health checks. I had to spend 11 days at the hospital and it seemed three times as long. I was proper scared by the diagnosis as a friend of mine had died of a septic shock and the first few days there were quite a blur. I had a fever and felt weak and constantly on the edge of throwing up, and my lower left leg was swollen and red. I can’t even remember how I helped coordinating our shows in that state – I may as well have texted feverish nonsense. But my wonderful musikverein gang and friends decrypted it all and made everthing work. I’m still sad that I missed so much – Kurt Vile, Karo, The Tidal Sleep, Perfect Pussy and so on…. Anyways: Smartphones once more proved to be the best invention ever, connecting me with friends by a few simple gestures.
My veins proved pretty bad for needles and after five days of punching holes into me only for the infusions to stop working after an hour or two they gave up and switched to pills. That introduced me to the first allergy of my life: My body didn’t like the first kind of antibiotics they had given me and I was covered in red dots from head to toes for three days. But then I liked the next antibiotics better anyways because they were red and even in that state I liked my world filled with pop cultural references: I chose the red pill!
What surprised me about the hospital experience was how little I minded the lack of privacy. It didn’t matter to me that nurses and doctors entered the room without knocking at any time and interrupted whatever you were doing. I would have imagined me being pretty sensitive about that. I guess it’s due to the weakness and the trust you put in them to heal and help you that makes you give up any claims for private space or time.
It also didn’t bother me much to have a room mate but both I had didn’t make it easy on me. It was two 90 year old ladies. Both were basically nice persons but it was tough to share their lives for a few days each. The first one was lively and chatty, even fun at first but then she started repeating her stories. Again and again. No matter if you listened or not, no matter if you told her you already heard it, she kept talking until I could quietly mouth her words along. Also she was insomniac and a few times she scared me shitless: imagine getting up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet and suddenly a voice starts talking to you out of the darkness. It was as if she was watching me constantly only to start talking at me as soon as I didn’t seem asleep. Or reading. Boy, was I happy when I was strong enough to start reading. Books saved me in there. Books meant privacy and escape.
After this woman went home, they brought another 90 year old woman to my room and this time it was a rather weak and slightly dement lady. She was nice but had a talent to time vomiting, urinating and even diarrhoea to our meals. So for the second half of my stay at the hospital having something to eat was steadily combined with heavy smells and trying to look away from her being helped by a nurse to get cleansed after peeing on floor etc. I lost 6 kilos while in there. (I do not just blame her condition; the hospital food was not exactly good nor healthy. I was so happy when my sister and friends brought me fresh fruit.)
It was stressful though because I not only had to contain myself but also help and talk her into not feeling ashamed. It is natural after all and we all get old sooner or later and we will be just as helpless and happy for others’ empathy.
As bonus stress factor there was a construction site in front of my window which I kept open most of the time because summer, sunshine and to get smells out. The workers there really showed off all the cool tools they got, from cement-mixer to jackhammer and something that made really high shrill beeping noises. Soundwise, it was not lacking in variety. Honestly, most of the time this hospital stay was like having to pass a stress test. I was constantly ommmmmmming myself, constantly telling myself: It’s just a few days, you are quiet, you are relaxed, others are far worse off, you will get better, just focus on this book. I think I passed. The last week-end was especially heavy as in a room next to mine a man was apparently in heavy pain and he was screaming, wimpering, shouting… Even all the nurses were on the edge of their nerves. I almost wished for the construction site workers to also do their noisy job on the week-end to make those screams go away. It didn’t help that at that point I was reading Philip Roth’s Everyman.
I just wanted to go home. I’m still not sure if it was too early that I got out – my main doctor said it was okay but the dermatologist said she would keep me in there for another week. That’s why the happiness and peace of being at home (and being with Ninja the cat again!) now is distorted with a little fear that it might not heal properly, that I might miss some bad symptom, that I might do something wrong and make it all worse. Suddenly I missed the controlled cage with all its blood-testing and temperature-measuring and professional bandaging. Especially yesterday, when I realised that it was the first day without antibiotics after three weeks I honestly felt a ripple of fear. My leg is still far from being healed and it’s a kind of wound of which I have no experience to tell what’s a regular time span for it to take to heal. Feels like alien meat, like not-me, alienated shin. Being restricted by having to put that leg up doesn’t help. I miss walks.
From reading one book a day at the hospital I have now switched to binge-watching series in order to escape and pass time. I still feel weak and somehow not capable of thinking more complex than “whoa, it’s not very doctorish to let that scared and lonely dinosaur burn alive!” when watching the new Doctor Who or “gosh, will people read this as police-state-in-the-making as it is? as scary and dangerous transgression from secret service military realm to the citizen-concerned realm of the police? will people read this at all?” when seeing the new Crisscross NSA leaks article. Words don’t come as easily as I’m used to. Contemplating the things I read and watch doesn’t come as easily as I’m used to. Watching and reading things as an escape, not as a stimulus for thinking or getting me creative as I’m used to. With every book I put down and with every series I finish watching I just come back down to the here and now to check if my injury has gone away and to be disappointed again. Ah – patience never has been my strength but I promise I’m trying not to let self-pity rule my world. And taking up writing again is a first step.
Oh, and I miss my musikverein gang and going out with my famiglia of friends! Illness is so isolating. Each visit brightened my day like sunshine melting snow. This Friday, Confused, I will try going out again for the first time. I even have been promised a hammock but will be happy with a chair to rest my leg on and be among huminz and chatting and enjoying a bit of loud pumping bass music.