For those of you who have read 100 perks of Having Cancer Plus 100 Health Tips for Surviving it, you may recall the amusement that I got from eavesdropping on the hospital ward while undergoing cancer treatments in 2012. Well, as luck would have it, I just had the opportunity to spend 3 more days on a hospital ward, and once again, one of the perks of my hospital stay was eavesdropping on the conversations taking place around me. (More about my hospital stay for breast reconstruction in an upcoming post.)
First of all, to appreciate my story, you have to be able to picture what the ward looks like: a large, sterile room with four hospital beds in close proximity, each enclosed by a thin curtain, falling one foot short of the floor. Just imagine if you will, a jail cell without the security. And like inmates, us patients chat away without ever seeing each other, and swear about the crappy food, and the slow response time of the guards….ummmm, I mean nurses.
The real entertainment begins around 11:00 a.m, visiting hours, when kind hearted family and friends arrive with bags of treats and out-dated magazines, all clamouring for the one chair that is shared by the entire ward. (Eventually, visitors just end up wrestling for space alongside the patient on the narrow hospital bed.) And then, the conversations begin. Here is a verbatim script of a conversation that I overheard from the curtained bed next to me, as I lay staring at the ceiling:
Visitor: How are you feeling today, my dear?
Patient: Not good at all. I have the absolute worst case of stomach cramps.
Visitor: Oh my. That’s terrible. What did you have to eat today?
Patient: Well, you know I can’t tolerate the food at this hospital, so Fred brought me in bacon, eggs and coffee for breakfast, and fried chicken with mashed potatoes for lunch.
Visitor: I know the food is disgusting here, that’s why I brought you in this Big Mac meal, but I guess you won’t be wanting that now.
Patient: Are you kidding me? Hand it over, I am still starving! I would murder for a glass of wine right now. Do you think you could sneak me in a sippy cup full of wine when you come back for evening visiting hours?
Visitor: Sure, that’s what friends are for. I will bring in a red to compliment the philly cheese steak that I am making for your dinner.
Patient: You are going to make me dinner?
Visitor: Of course. I can’t have you eating the garbage they serve in here.
All in all, not an unusual conversation to overhear on a hospital ward, I thought as I lay still staring at the ceiling. But as soon as the visitor left, in came the doctor to talk to the very same patient, and this is when the conversation became really interesting. (I am not making this up!)
Doctor: How are you feeling today?
Patient: Not good. Not good at all, doctor. I have had very bad stomach cramps all day long. I can’t bear the pain!
Doctor: Although we haven’t gotten a positive diagnosis yet, we are pretty sure that we are dealing with bowel disease here. Are you sticking to the diet that we gave you?
Patient: Yes doctor, I eat really healthy foods every day. I haven’t had any kind of meat in months and I’ve really cut back on the fried foods! (I shook my head and thought, “What a blatant lie.”)
Doctor: Do you drink alcohol?
Patient: OH MY GOD! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!! I would NEVER drink alcohol!!! (She seriously could have gotten an Oscar nomination for her dramatics in answering that question. I rolled my eyes.)
Doctor: We need to know if there are any bowel obstructions. Have you passed any gas today?
Patient: No, doctor, just a few burps.
Well that is when I really had to restrain myself from jumping to my feet, pulling back the curtain and yelling “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” Because if I had had a match, I seriously could have set fire to the sulphuric gas that was coming from the arse of her pants that afternoon.
Just another day on 4 North B.