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You do find humour in hospitals!

You do find humour in hospitals!

Granny from the heartland

My dear little boys

Summer is here. The tomato seeds that you planted and pushed into the pots with your chubby little hands during your visit here have grown, and rows of tiny tomatoes are gleaming red-cheeked on their stems.

In our late summer years – that’s where Grandpa and I find us now – a little body panel beating is required every now and again. That means a trip to the hospital where the doctor can tighten all the loose bits and straighten all the crooked bits.

This time around, it was Grandpa’s turn. His hands could no longer grip the golf club securely. Last year we did two fingers, and it was now time for the others. ‘Good thing I only have so many fingers,’ he grumbled on our way to the hospital. Not his favourite place – he reckons that one is at the mercy of others there.

With all the forms completed in advance, they only needed his signature. The printer behind the desk were spewing out little stickers with all his information: medical aid details, doctor, birth names, surname, age, weight, theatre and ward number, reason for operation and more. ‘Why so many – it’s only my hands?’ he wanted to know anxiously by the time 30 or 40 stickers were lying about. With an ‘I-ask-the-questions-here’ look the clerk answered: ‘There are lots of places that must get stickers!’

Shocked into silence, he daren’t ask, ‘Where exactly? At the mercy of others, already, see?’ A porter offering to push him the fifty meters to the ward was rejected stiffly. The ward sister gave us a friendly greeting, but, clearly tired after night shift, barked at the porter: ‘Fingers go to Bed 4D.’

And that is the other thing about a hospital. Your name gains you admittance, but as soon as you enter the ward, you become your illness or your ache! And because everyone in a hospital seems to be deaf, this is shouted across the ward for everyone to crane their necks and welcome ‘Fingers’! There were three other patients in Grandpa’s ward and they were solemnly introduced to us.

In the corner lay a 15 year old Knee who needed an operation after a rugby tackle. Across from grandfather was Kidney Stones, an elderly Portuguese gentleman, and next to your grandfather was an 82 year old Bladder.

The next thing that you littlies must know is that all patients wear blue theatre gowns. A theatre gown is a very small, very thin, see-through blue garment that looks exactly like a folded wet wipe. (Mum uses them to wipe anything from your mouths to your bottoms.) But actually this thing is a fold-over gown, reaching just to the hips, with a tie string at the neck and nowhere else!

To go with that, grandfather was given briefs – yes, you heard right – and a cap for his head. ‘But can’t I keep my own underpants …’ Grandpa pleaded, ‘it is only my hands that …’ but the new nurse silenced him with a glare of African correctness and yanked the curtains closed between him and three pairs of curious eyes. ‘Be ready in five minutes to fill in the forms,’ she commanded through the curtain gap.

What?! More forms? We’ve told them everything already on the phone and via e-mail. They already know way too much of his family history to just straighten his fingers. But apparently not! Five minutes later, she returned with a stack of forms. Grandfather had pulled up the sheet to under his chin to just cover his scantily clad body. Clearly well-versed, she fired the questions, because theatre won’t wait and the questionnaire is long.

‘Surname.’ ‘But that’s on the stickers,’ he pointed out feebly. She sternly repeats the question. He answers with a sigh. ‘Full names.’ He surrenders and wearily answers the questions. They wrestle through his age, address, allergies, weight, height, childhood diseases, medication, smoking and drinking habits and every operation, cut and complaint he has ever had. Almost done. She fires off her questions without pausing and without looking up from her page and Grandpa answers patiently. ‘Describe your general health condition, Sir.’ ‘Excellent.’

‘Are you pregnant, Sir?’ He is stunned into silence. She repeats the question, glancing up for the first time and catching our wide eyes. The moment becomes too big when the realisation hit and the three of us shriek with laughter, each one in our own language.

From behind the closed curtains, Kidney Stone, Knee and Bladder share in this priceless mishap and chuckle along with us; all pains forgotten for the moment.

The Kidney Stone had to go in first – an emergency.  By this time Grandpa was starving. His last meal had been the previous night and now breakfast was being announced and served in the wards with a loud clanging of dishes and crockery. Later, on his way to the bathroom, still desperately clutching the gaping gown at the back, he drily remarked over his shoulder that he now understood what ICU stands for! Mr Kidney Stone had been returned to the ward and was still crying quietly in Portuguese when they came to take Grandfather to La La land. Then the ward sister spotted an omission! He hadn’t put on his theatre cap! This was jammed onto his head with half his hair still sticking out. He waved weakly, the look in his eyes clearly saying: the final mercy of others.

Two hours later, after three cups of coffee and many worried little messages from you guys, they brought Grandpa back, the two wrapped hands raised above his head as if in prayer. He was famished by now and I had to feed him tiny bites of sandwich and help him drink his tea through a straw. And then he wanted to go home, because at least there he had a semblance of control – even if only over the TV remote! Did you think he couldn’t operate the remote with one finger? Think again! And a soothing glass of red wine went down nicely through the straw.

Thanks to your messages, he is already feeling much better. Like Little Brother lisped so wisely: ‘Grandpa’th handth became a little old and twithted, but the doctor fixthed them tho that Grandpa can pick uth up again.’

Clever doctor, clever child!

Heartfelt love from home to play room.

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