The day of Emily’s surgery.
Clock and iPhone alarms shattered our slumber, pre dawn; getting up at 4am allowed enough time to muster ourselves in front of the admissions booth on level four, Royal North Shore Hospital (RNSH) for 6am. Emily is only expected to stay 2-3 nights so we hadn’t packed much, no home comforts are required as a speedy discharge is anticipated. We loaded up the car with her single half empty holdall, waved to our energetic neighbour who was out power walking in the dim morning light.
We accompanied Emily through her admission procedure, gowned up, she was slipped between the stiff white linen sheets where she cracked a small crease; we witnessed the induction into her being a patient. There is no choice; everyone adheres to their role, meekly conforming to their allotted position in the hospital hierarchy. I stayed with Emily while she was interviewed by the nurse in the short stay surgical unit, pre theatre. I was comfortable in the medical environment, the clinical surroundings; I was not intimidated by the staff in blue papery ‘scrub’ uniforms. It was pleasantly companionable chatting to Emily while she waited for her whole world to change. When the preliminaries were finalized I was asked to leave which I did with a flourish, waving gaily over my shoulder, to make the patient, Emily, smile.
So now we wait. RNSH has just been upgraded to a new building. It does feel architecturally sophisticated with its shopping concourse and light filled atrium. Gary and I set up camp in the cafeteria with coffee and Danish pastries. After an hour we had seen the entire patient information presentation on the wall mounted flat screens, we had eaten more than enough and needed softer seating for our numb derrières. Gary went off in search of a new, better, quieter camp site. We resettled in the atrium, perfect for watching the RNSH world creep, walk, hop on crutches, run, gossip and queue for coffee. Like Hobbits we had a second coffee and second breakfast, it was still only 11am. We were now comfortably ensconced in our corner and received our first guest kindly inquiring how Emily was faring.
The atrium ‘stage’ was very watchable. To my eyes patients enter with their RNSH letter held high, squinting between the referral text and the hospital directory. Mothers guided their children, searching for their appointment venue, treatment room or consultation clinic. Doctors walk with knowledgeable haste and purpose, they have an ease which puts them seemingly at home amongst the mothers who are still querying their whereabouts and their destination within the buildings maze of clinics and levels. Visitors are easy to spot as they cruise at no particular speed as they are here to stay and chat. Staff come and go, on their breaks, enjoying a relaxed moment in their busy shift. I watch hidden behind a pot plant, moulded into my precious padded armchair, quietly observing concourse life.
At midday Gary approached the ladies at the front desk to enquire if there was any news of Emily’s progress. Nope.
I peruse the concourse shops, a chemist, post office and an independent living gadget supplier, do I need anything? The florist had an appealing display; I may leave my lair and investigate in a bit. Time is ticking by and Gary has gone to buy tea in our only untried outlet. So far The Green Shop Organic is expensive but leading in our taste ballot, the chocolate mint ball divinely moorish as our midday snack.
Oh the tedium of waiting and the strong lure of home, the desire for quiet, solitude and good health. A gentle inner yearning for our soft, chocolate eyed Beastie, just to ruffle her noble head and watch her sleep, her legs akimbo! To sink my stiff frame into our comfortable sofa and close my eyes. Watching people is exhausting; so many stories unfolding in front of me, so many backgrounds fabricating in my imagination. The atrium has a diffused light that muffled the day; it becomes intangible whether its morning or late afternoon. Another hour drifted by, my tea was like dishwater.
At this point my computer battery was below 8%; Gary said he had seen a single lone plug in the dining area. He went stealthily, as a 193 cm man can be, to investigate. The table, next to the plug, had occupants who were finishing their meal so Gary slowly circled, he stalked the plug table from the fruit buffet then swung around by the cutlery counter with his final direct approach from the sandwich pay station, securing the plug table with an intimidatingly possessive maneuver; he slammed his chocolate brownie onto the newly empty table! Having procured the table we had to repack our possessions and move, like concourse nomads. We reestablished our stuff and took advantage of our new electrical base; we recharged the computer, whilst busy on our iPhones.
It was early evening when the surgeon phoned to tell us that Emily had received a tendon transfer. After a wave of relief that all had gone well, I didn’t know whether I was disappointed or elated, the deltoid tendon transfer has guaranteed success but suffice to say the short recovery from the nerve transfer had been very enticing. After 14 hours loitering in a hospital atrium I was shockingly drained, physically and emotionally, and my sanity downright questionable.