In my life time, I have been to the hospital many times, but always as a visitor. I usually occupy the narrow bed by the wall or an uncomfortable chair. Looking at the patient, I wonder what he is sulking about. Why can’t he just relax? He has undivided attention of team of doctors and nurses, he has waiters and butlers attending to his demands and a social gathering during the visiting hours. His room and bathroom are cleaned at regular hours, he is neatly tucked into a clean bed, he is served with fancy meal of assorted vegetables, soup and sweet dish and the unlimited pampering of his close relatives and friends, and also (of course) he can control the TV channels. Okay, I agree, he might have little pain, but they give him painkillers and antibiotics. Don’t they? Envying his luxuries and style, I had decided then, that, when my turn comes (it always does, at least once in a life time) I would have fun, just chill and enjoy the paid leave. I would not have to worry about the monetary problems too since my company would foot the bill.
The day finally arrived. I had to go for a minor surgery for the removal of the renal stones and had to be hospitalized for a day.
“Only one day?” I asked the doctor.
“Yes, the entire necessary medical tests should be done in OPD.” He said.
“Can’t I stay longer? I need rest too.”
“You can rest at home. We have only 300 beds and all are booked.”
(All the beds are full? Is this hospital busier than the city hotels?)
I started receiving many calls as the news of my stay in the hospital was spreading. (Normally, my phone hardly rings, many a times I have to call from my landline to my mobile to check whether it is still working) Everybody wanted to re-confirm my disease, and educate me on its precautions and treatments. (I wished they had known of my existence before) They promised to pray for my swift recovery. (Gosh! I was so lucky!) I reassured them that it was just a minor surgery but still, some believed that they might never see me again. Suddenly, so many people were offering to keep me company. I had almost become a star! I selected just one introvert person to accompany me to the hospital, while the talkative ones were invited to visit me during the visiting hours.
Neatly dressed, with my hand bag, medical reports and shiny suitcase, I reported at the concierge at 6am. I had packed my suitcase with all the necessary items such as: toothpaste, tooth brush, one night gown, under garments, hair brush, lipstick, deodorant, and mp3, mobile, a bestseller hard bound, few magazines and an extra pair of clothes for the next day. (Later on, during the day, I was to realize that such items were necessary only when I had occupied the narrow bed by the wall)
As soon as I entered the ward room, I was asked to change into a fresh set of pin striped clothes. It took me some time to figure out the art of tying out the knots of the garment. (As I unclipped my wrist watch, I felt naked without my jewelry) I settled on a big metal bed that was inclined at an awkward angle. My medical file was placed at the foot of the bed. (Prisoner no 1022, scheduled for electric chair at 10 am). I was asked to autograph a form stating that I am ready to be butchered at my own free will. Popping in few pills, I watched the idiot box, surfing the channels and waited.
At 10am I heard the rumble of the wheel chair being rolled down the corridor to my door and bedside.
“I don’t need the wheelchair, I can walk” I protested.
“Never mind. Please sit down.” The nurse told me sternly.
Ah well! I might as well enjoy the ride.
As I was wheeled down the corridor, into the lift, and towards the operating theatre, I smiled or waved to every passerby and studied the panorama of every passing wall and the doors.
Finally I reached the operating theatre. (Do they call this theatre because the act performed here is without any rehearsals?) I roved a glance at the gleaming instruments that would shortly rip open my body, the tubes, knobs, valves and gadgets that would try to keep me alive, the surgical team in its green overalls and masked faces and caps resembling the characters I had only seen in TV serials. The room was so crowded. Why do they need so many people to make a surgical team? (Are some of them attending tutorials?)
I lay down on a high narrow couch, in front of crowded surgical team. The lights came on, above and the theatre was complete. I was given a spinal block, a not too painful anesthetic in the spine, the lower lumber region, and from waist down I became two logs of dead wood. A curtain was drawn separating my upper body from the lower and blocking my view but I could hear the doctor ask for scalpel, scissors, knives, guts, swabs.
And I could also hear them gossiping.
“Sister Mary is having an affair with Dr. Satish, our heart specialist”
“How do you know?”
“I met them at Chinese restaurant yesterday.”
“Wow! Are you sure?”
“Why else would he take her out for dinner so late at night?”
“Shut up! Don’t make up stories.”
The mobile rang a tune, people talked.
Finally I inquired, “When is the operation starting?”
“It has been on 30 minutes.”
“You have been a very co-operative patient.” said the doctor as I was transferred to a stretcher. (I do not know how I could have been otherwise.) As I emerged from the theatre, I was in yogic coma, people who saw me, stood up and stared hard to see if I was blinking. I was tempted to play peek-a-boo.
I dozed for the rest of the day. The only discomfort was the saline water, blood bottle and the urine bag that were plugged to my body, hindering my freedom of movement. I accepted all in my stride because whimpering can deepen ugly lines on my smooth face.