Patients. They’re a rich collapsed vein of bio-hazardous material, never failing to delight, horrify and amuse me…particularly those residing in ‘Basement Ward 1’ although technically, as cadavers they’re no longer referred to as patients. If you’re considering a medical career but you’re not a fan of litigation, it’s unquestionably the best department to work in. Nobody’s going to take you to court for miss-diagnosis or administering incorrect doses and as long as those selfies of ‘everyone’ wearing funny hats are just for personal use, then where’s the harm? Just don’t take it any further than the hats. You know what I’m talking about, don’t make me google it and post a slideshow of hi-resolution images, accompanied by the Benny Hill theme tune.
When I was a young boy, full of naïve charm and sparkly-eyed innocence, I wanted to break into the Hospital Mortuary and look at dead people; I told myself I’d stop short of poking them but I’d take my green biro along, just in case the urge was too great. I’d already pretended to be visiting fictitious relatives in various departments, with the Burns Unit being of specific interest. There was something about all the swaddled gauze and petroleum jelly that intrigued me, not to mention the high-doses of IV pain medication rendering the patients incoherent and unable to announce ‘Hang on, that’s not my nephew! Get out of here! But leave the grapes’.
In those days, it was easy to wander around hospitals without being challenged as to why you were there or why one boy’s extended family could be so frequently involved in fires. It was the 80’s and nurses were more interested in comparing their giant hair and scrunchies than apprehending weirdoes, not to mention I looked so super fly in my Hi-Tec Hi-Tops and ‘Frankie says Relax’ t-shirt, they just left me alone. In hindsight, if only I’d taken Frankie’s advice, my blood pressure might not have soared skyward, destroying my kidneys in the process. ‘Relax, don’t do it’ however was confusing and contradictory for a stupid 14-year-old who thought t-shirt slogans were important and meaningful. Should I relax, or shouldn’t I? Which one is it Frankie!? And actually, are you even a qualified medic with cardiology experience? After watching the video for ‘Relax’, I was starting to think maybe not.
I persuaded myself that an interest in looking at patients was just indicative of a healthy interest in biology and medical care; ‘who knows?’, I thought, all the early experience could pave the way for a pioneering career in medicine. Looking back, it was disturbing and peculiar but thankfully one day, I was challenged and I never did it again. It was on a high-dependency unit, where my questionable roaming came to an end. After initially striding confidently along the ward, I was apprehended by a senior nurse.
‘Hi, can I help?’
‘Er, yes, I’m visiting a relative, they’ve had an accident. They’re in…Bed 9?’ (Stupid…)
‘Ok…what sort of accident?
‘Um…. motorcycle?’ (Also stupid…)
‘Right, a motorcycle. I’d say your Aunt is a bit of a daredevil’
‘Ha. Yes. She sure lives life to the full!’
‘I’d say! She’s 100 isn’t she?
‘Er..yes, I know! Crazy. I hope she’s OK?’
‘Yes. But she’s not 100 she’s 89 and she’s recovering from her cardiovascular surgery. She’ll be fine but she’ll never be your aunt. What are you doing here?’
‘I’m lost, I’m looking for the loo’
‘Right. There’s one in the reception, on the ground floor’
‘OK, sorry, I’ll go there now’.
‘Yes, you do that. Goodbye and don’t come back or I’ll call the police. Weirdo’
I ran away very fast, feeling very silly and very ashamed. But I think of dear fake Aunty sometimes, the crazy old bird. I imagine she was a lot of fun, told a good story and could put away quad measures of gin before 9 in the morning, although my residing memory of her will always be that she sure did love her Japanese Superbikes.