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Thoughts from the sick bed

You would think when you are that sick, people will assume charge and let you go about the business of dying. But no...

Thoughts from the sick bed

It seems the mind can play the weirdest tricks when gripped by a 104 degree fever. Thoughts of ‘the end’ start floating in and out of consciousness. Unfinished business, that letter you tucked in a drawer somewhere, facebook, hotmail, gmail accounts, the folders full of confessions, admissions, random thoughts, silly pictures free in cyberspace, all start to haunt /hunt you like garish nightmares.

The events you would miss, the advice and wisdom yet to have been handed over to the kids, the instructions for the husband about to be abandoned mid-journey, all make a jumbled up to-do list in the head and make you cry hot 104 degree tears.

So, understandably, you become a bit hypersensitive, a little grumpy, whiny, perhaps a wee bit needy. You crave gravitas, pampering, caring, full time nursing and respect. Yes some respect for the dying if you please!

What you get instead from those pretending to be your dear ones does not fall under the ‘expected’ category. I feel for the benefit of all going through similar hard times, I must note down particularly hurtful realisations.

The ‘healthy’ cannot read minds.

Your mouth is dry and lips parched but there is no energy to ask for water or to reach out for the glass on the bedside. You would think dilating the eyes would send the message, that there would be some understanding and compassion in those pretending to care for you. But no, don’t be fooled for there is none. They will come sashaying in, condescendingly touch your forehead, blithely pronounce that the fever has come down, smile benevolently at you and sashay away.

Advice: if you need water — shout.

If you are a woman — you stay in charge.

You would think when you are that sick, people will assume charge and let you go about the business of dying. But no, every two minutes you will be shaken out of a feverish stupor to be asked what is to be cooked, how many cups of chawal, do we need double roti, where is the blue hoodie…no not the plain blue one, the one that had pineapple written on it.. etc. etc.

I was even incharge of my own treatment. After having gone through what seemed like interminable cycles of shivering, sweating, bone-crunching pain and having images of being driven in the middle of the night to some emergency or the other to be put on life support, I discovered that the grand treatment strategy at home was to let the bloody virus play itself out. I realised my life was in my own hands. I used a life line and phoned a friend.

Advice: Physician, heal thyself.

You are only your own first priority.

You force your better half to take you for a blood test. We arrive at the laboratory. The husband, in a rare show of chivalry, asks you to stay in the car while he takes care of all the prior paperwork etc. You think finally the bleary eyes and continuous crying in pain has had an impact. You are helped in, being supported caringly by those strong arms (yes, yes this is the way it is supposed to be). Your blood sample is taken, a reassuringly long list of tests is ordered, and you are just as caringly escorted back to the car. Husband goes back in to settle the bill. You lie back with your eyes closed, thanking the Lord for a caring, loving husband, crying in your heart that you would have to leave him soon, when you are rudely awakened by shouting voices. The sorry soul at the desk has just declined your husband a receipt. All hell then breaks loose, doesn’t it? An hour long (no, I do not exaggerate) lecture follows on topics as varied as tax evasion, capitalism, professionalism, the state of hygiene at labs, on employee-employer relations, trusting God, customer service, the fifty reasons this country was going to the dogs etc. etc. etc. The more people gather the more steam the lecture gains. He is having a ball out there, completely in his element. Somewhere in the middle, another hapless customer walks in and to his misfortune tries to interrupt. He too is provided comprehensive advice. The dying wife in the car sits completely forgotten.

Advice: In situations like this don’t feel shy…HONK.

PS: in the evening, my results are faxed and emailed on three separate accounts. We get SMS alerts and the man who stayed behind after his shift, calls personally to ensure we had received them. I suspect a framed copy of the receipt is in the mail somewhere.

Children are strange creatures and there is no one to blame but yourself.

So this one comes along, worried sick, you can tell from his face. ‘When will you get well Mum?’ he says.  He lies down next to you and generously offers you his spare I-pod. He puts the ear phones in your ear, starts the thing for you (implying of course that you don’t know how to), and tells you to enjoy the music. He hugs you and leaves to go out with friends.  Your heart glows with gratitude and love. You close your eyes and relax…then the music starts. What junk do they listen to? Good God, your head throbs even more. You pull out the ear-phones and cry tears of betrayal.

Then the other one strolls in. ‘I’ve come to spend time with you Ma’, she says. She sits next to you, looks at you with wide eyed concern and you are just about to start on your litany of complaints when her phone pings. And well that’s that. The phone never stops. Having ‘spent’ quality time with you and done her duty, the child happily goes back to her room.

Advice: if you want dutiful children…take away their gadgets.

So people, next time you visit a sick person, show some compassion. If you detect dilating eye balls, stick a straw up the person’s mouth.

Dr Narmeen A Hamid

Narmeen Hamid copy
The author holds a doctorate in Social Medicine and works as a Health, Gender and Development consultant.

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