Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hell is Other People

I've spent enough time in hospital now to think that Sartre was in a four bed ward when he wrote 'No Exit'. 

My experience of hospital is very dependent on who else is in the ward. I've shared with lovely women who agree to be very civilised, who greet each other each morning, who chat during the day and form some kind of collegiality on the ward.

I've shared with people who have no regard for other patients. Last admission I was with an elderly patient who had travelled interstate to attend a funeral and had a bad turn at the airport. She was travelling with her middle-aged daughter. They arrived on the Thursday evening. The doctors declared the patient fit to be discharged on Friday, however, the daughter declared that they would travel home on Tuesday, so the patient was to stay. There was nowhere suitable to keep her, the daughter told the doctors, even though the patient's son had a house nearby. I heard the daughter say, repeatedly, she'd rather visitors visit her mother at the hospital rather than at the the brother's house because she didn't want to be making cups of tea for everyone. They went on to have a hundred visitors before Monday evening was through. Often they had ten visitors at a time. It sounded like a party. They ignored the visiting hours. One visitor walked a cigarette butt onto the ward, which I removed. It was impossible for any other patient to rest, or to have a conversation, due to the number of visitors. The daughter made fun of another patient on the ward, a woman who lives in a housing commission flat and had a broken leg from being hit by a car on her way to work in a factory. This woman was not well educated, but had a good heart and genuinely tried to do the right thing. We were all relived when the elderly patient and her daughter left.     

Last admission I was on a ward for patients with drug and alcohol problems. That was a eye-opener. Some patients are raised for a difficult life and have little chance of overcoming their huge problems. Some are there by circumstances and find themselves surprised by the turns life takes. Some never grow up and take responsibility for themselves. All had smoked ice (even the women my age). There is no privacy in a four bed ward, and I heard each patient's story numerous times, told to various health professionals and social workers. I realised that every admission there were patients in Emergency with drug and alcohol issues. While most of us are in hospital because we want to live, there are people there who want to die, or just don't know how to live a healthy life.

No comments: