Just another night at the circus

Good news – I’ve been discharged from the hospital. Bad news – I’ve been shipped off to the circus.

Reality – I’m still in the hospital, but the hospital is basically a mini-circus. At least on this particular medical ward.

I was going to read for a while before going to bed but the old lady next to me is having a hard time settling down and won’t stop talking to her stuffed monkey Josephine while the lights are on (no, I’m not making this up) so I’ve shut my light off. Instead, I thought I would take this opportunity to share some anecdotes about some of my many roommates. I’ve shared this four bed room with eleven different patients so far. Let me introduce you to some of the most memorable ones.

When I got here there was a 96 year old woman in the corner opposite me. Unlike most of the others, she actually was able to get up and use the bathroom, but she needed her walker and a nurse’s assistance to get there. She also had an incredibly small bladder. She would ring her call bell very frequently for help but instead of waiting for someone to come on the intercom to see what she needed, she would just start yelling “bathroom! bathroom!” One busy night with a frazzled nurse this poor old woman was actually forgotten about in the bathroom for at least 20 minutes, but she was very good-natured about it all. She was very with it and we had some good little chats. Quite an impressive lady!

The man who was next to me when I first got here also lives in Port Moody! He’s lived there for 38 years which has my 22 years of Port Moody residency beat. Once he realized that we lived in the same city he liked to remind me about it and tell me how his daughter went to Port Moody Secondary, but he could never quite understand that I myself didn’t go there. He was also the first person I ever met in person who, like me, has a feeding tube! Different reasons, different tubes…and slightly different ages (50ish years, give or take), but I’d say a kindred spirit nonetheless.

Over the weekend an elderly man with dementia and a whole load of chronic health problems was brought up to the bed across from me. He didn’t speak much English but he yelled a lot in Farsi. On Sunday morning he tried to climb out of bed twice (he cannot stand up, by the way) and after I called the nurse for the second time to stop him she got help from another nurse and they sat him up in a wheelchair and belted him in. He spent the next half hour trying to figure out how to take the belt off, how to pull his IV out and how to take off his hospital bracelet. When he was unsuccessful at these ventures he reached down and pulled his socks off. Energized from that great triumph he managed to strip down and pee all over the floor (quite impressive considering he was diapered and sitting in a wheelchair the whole time). I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone look so proud of himself! I waved down a male nurse in the hallway to come deal with the situation, except once he was cleaned up and re-gowned, he did it again. And again (the woman next to me responded to this by saying in a dreamy voice “men are amazing creatures”). Then he was moved into a room with a sitter.

The bed next to me was occupied from Friday night to this afternoon by a woman with schizophrenia who had overdosed on lithium. She spent most of her time sleeping or just sitting on the edge of her bed, but then out of nowhere she would start muttering or yelling rather hostile, and often incomprehensible, things. She also rarely used her call bell and instead took to screaming “Nurse! Nurse! Nurse!” until someone showed up (which really means until I rang my call bell and got someone to come by). As the days went on she got more and more agitated and today she refused to let the nurse give her meds, help her wash up or change the bandages on her knees. She was yelling and accusing the nurse of trying to poison her and talking to her family and turning them against her. Then about an hour later a really cool thing happened and I’m so glad I heard it. The woman called the nurse back in and apologized for losing her temper. Pretty classy, and a beautiful reminder of the potential for good in all people, even those who are more challenging to deal with due to mental illness. She has since been transferred to psych where I truly hope she can get the help and care she needs.

And that brings us to the teeny tiny old woman who is now in the bed next to me with her stuffed monkey named Josephine that that she carries with her everywhere, even to the bathroom. Her and Josephine have very in depth and confusing conversations (partly because some of them are in French, and partly because a lot of what she says just doesn’t make sense). She crawled into bed and fell right asleep around 8 or 8:30. That was easy. Around 9:00 she woke back up and tried to get out of bed which set off her bed alarm and a stream of expletives from her mouth. I rang my call bell and it took three nurses and at least half an hour to get her back into bed, and after quite the production they also managed to get her take a sleeping pill. But back into bed does not mean quiet. This lady and Josephine were very chatty tonight! After a few comments about lights being on, I turned mine off in hopes of settling her down. Thankfully both the lady and the monkey have been quiet for quite some time now. To be honest I am quite intrigued to see how this will all play out tomorrow. I think Josephine and I might become good friends.

Although not a roommate of mine, I would like to give special mention to the man down the hall who has managed to escape three or four times in order to head down to the lobby to buy scratch and win tickets. I’m not quite sure why it wasn’t working before, but they finally got it set up so his bracelet sets off an alarm and locks the ward doors. I would also like to give special mention to this man’s rather genius move today of parking himself close enough to the doors to lock them so that no one was able to get in or out. If he’s not allowed to leave, then golly no one should be allowed to. Clever.

Summary: I ring my call bell a lot, but most of the time I ring it because patients are escaping, bed alarms are going off or IV pumps are alarming (sub summary: old people sleep through everything).

Summary number two: it takes all kinds of people to make the world go round!

4 thoughts on “Just another night at the circus

  1. You tell the stories with such humour, despite the fact that it can’t be very restful for you. You must be exhausted. I remember having just had a baby, there were constant interruptions with nurses checking on me or the baby needing feeding or changing, and my nerves were on edge from lack of sleep.
    You have such a gift for writing. Keep it up! I hope you get to go home soon. Sue

  2. Love it! It is quite amazing what goes on it hospitals….
    I wonder what your roommates are writing about you:)
    Hope you get some sleep!

    • I was on a crazy ward! I’ve actually been moved down to a different floor and it’s quieter here so I think I’ll sleep better. I do miss the lady with the monkey though 😛

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