When life is proceeding in a balanced, calm way, our perceptions are likewise calm and balanced without too much to challenge one, and things appear to be okay. My impressions were brought into sharp focus recently when tested in the health aspect of living.
Spending more than seven days confined to a bed physically can tax one’s sanity to the limits; not crazy insane, but I did come close when I was recently hospitalised in high care for intestine obstruction. There’s nothing like unremitting pain to bring you low! It was a humbling experience.
The first two days were spent in a surgical ward, where I had the most uncomfortable procedure, pain aside, in which a tube was thrust through my nose, to suction out stomach gases trapped there due to the obstruction. At this point, I thought I’d really lose my mind, and the poor nurses bore the brunt of my misery. How to describe a burning sensation in the nose, a throttling feeling in the throat and all the while puking, puking your guts out of an empty stomach which had turned into a torrent of liquid. Where on earth, or rather in my body, did it all come from? Focused on the cleanup, before a bag was secured with the nose accessory, nobody supplied any answers to my question. And then I’m told that I have to keep the elephantine extension to my tiny nose for 48 hours. It turned out to be an under-statement for obvious reasons – if I’d known it would remain for longer than 48 hours I’d probably have yanked it out right away. The good doctor knew it would get better as he calmly congratulated me for my co-operation, and this after he and a nurse had been sprayed with the most horrific contents of my stomach! I stared in confusion thinking, was I given much choice in the matter? He had dutifully explained what he was going to do, and then he did it. Apologies came later!
The next day my “trunk” settled in making me more tolerant of the nurses whom I had blamed for my misery. The good Lord came in for an extensive brow-beating too. What had I ever done that was so bad to deserve this, I asked him repeatedly. He answered with silence – sometimes the best answer. He soon showed me why – no sooner had I said a few calming prayers, instead of ranting, it all subsided. No more pain or puking as the drugs kicked in. I was reminded of someone saying God works with doctors and medicines to heal and I thanked him quietly taking the silent reprimand humbly – without doctors, nurses and hospitals I would probably have died a painful death as the body was starved and dehydrated, as happens in so many war-torn countries across our borders. In the months preceding this incident, I had lost any appetite for food to the point of surviving mainly on liquids. I had dismissed this as related to my diminished sense of taste that I thought was inevitable with ageing; my body is just old and tired, I’d often explain. The accompanying pain had a purpose after all, as no amount of pain killers would mask it, and I was finally driven to seek help in desperation.
Comparing wards was also a revelation. The Intensive Care Unit was of necessity, a well-oiled machine running smoothly with a personal nurse in attendance 24/7. No bell is required to call the attention of a nurse. You become another fixture to the bed until you are allowed to move. Bed baths and body massages are the order of the day, again because you cannot move – a first for me. It is both a hell of immobility and heaven of personal attention. Thankfully, there is no alimentary canal issue to deal with, like bedpans or sanitary wear, because you eat nothing but ice for two days after the operation.
To start with, the stomach and gut were empty anyway. Intravenous feeding is introduced on the third day, and by this time, your body thinks it’s dead. I missed the massages when I returned to the general ward. The daily visit by a physiotherapist, who teaches you to move again was a welcome break from the monotony of staring at the ceiling, although my dreams were much more vivid. I once awoke to write in the semi-darkness a story inspired by a dream, which fascinated the nurse. She couldn’t imagine I could see in such poor light as I didn’t want to disturb the sleeping neighbours. The interaction between patient and nurse is a much more pleasant one than that of patient and ward nurse. I wondered why this was so? There does seem to be a much more rigid protocol in place in the wards.
However, the ability to once again move away from the all-controlling bed into a bathroom or simply to take a walk and chat to other patients heralded a return to normality and was most welcome. Thus began the road to recovery.
My humbling experience was realising that no matter how healthy a diet you follow, you are still not in charge.
In this case, the obstruction was caused, for more than thirty years by the healing process of an old operation and scar tissue from that occasion.
If something is wrong with your physical structure, this must be fixed before your perfect diet can be useful. The people in charge, in my opinion, were God and the doctor. God, for guiding me to a doctor who knew his business (so many don’t) and a doctor who successfully removed the obstruction that was starving the body of nourishment. Not forgetting the medical staff, who assisted so well.
I give thanks daily to God for a successful outcome of this horrific experience.