So now I'm home, struggling to cope with the sheer randomness and unpredictability of non-institutional life. It's all very strange.
First things first - I was eventually diagnosed with pneumonia and pleurisy in a kind of double whammy of pulmonary trauma. If you look up pleurisy on wikipedia, you get a list of famous people who snuffed it from the disease. Wordsworth, Charlemagne, Cezanne, Hardy. Luckily as the list gets more contemporary, the results get more slight - Steinbeck, for example, merely had a rib removed. Not that I really wanted a rib removed, but given the option of the Steinbeck or the Wordsworth, I would have plumped for the Steinbeck. In addition, I had very high blood pressure and an enlarged heart. All in all quite a selection.
Erika went off to buy me some pyjamas and slippers, vital parts of hospital uniform, which I didn't previously possess, and on Wednesday morning at the appointed hour I drew up, clutching my new nightwear and various items of foodstuff to tide me over in case the Romanian hospital food didn't really meet my needs. After a few more tests ("Please spit in this cup"), I was shown to my new room. This room, I later realised was effectively the VIP room. Perhaps because I was foreign, or a bit rubbish at Hungarian, or just very important in some other unspecified way. [I think they use it for problem patients too, so maybe I fit into that category]. The VIP room had it's own en-suite bathroom (well, a shower and toilet) and only two inmates (while all the other rooms on the corridor had 4, and had to share the bathroom at the end of the corridor) I changed into my pyjamas and slippers and dressing gown, what the hip-patient-about-ward is wearing these days, and slid my bags and so on under the bed. I chatted with my roommate (the director of the town's "culturehouse" - VIP room I told you), and quickly began to get into the routine.
It was the next morning that the bad bit of the routine became apparent. At 6am (I'll repeat that time, as it's a little unreal at first glance), at 6am, the door was noisily opened, the lights (of the bright retina-searing fluorescent type) were turned on, and the first injection of the day was administered. For me this involved the insertion of a needle in a vein, and the slow intravenous drip-drip-drip of 500ml of antibiotics. In terms of sheer brutality - the bare room, the bright lights, the insane hour, the needle - it must be akin to Guantanamo.
I'm exaggerating of course. The difference between the two are many. Guantanamo is on a tropical beach for a start.
On the downside, the regular injections of sodium pentathol, which I imagine in my seen-too-much-TV way to be a feature of "enemy combatant" life, are administered by bull-necked crew-cut marines, rather than by attractive young women. And then there are the snarling dogs, and the bags on the head, and the electrodes, and the probability of never being allowed out, and never getting a fair trial.
After the rude awakening of the 6am jab, the day settled into it's regular flow. 6.45 am (ish) drip is completed, needle removed; 7am shower (this wasn't a mandated time, it was just the time that there seemed to be some hot water); 8 am breakfast (bread roll, cheese or meat - as far as I was concerned then, bread roll); 8.30 am cleaner comes in; 9am blood pressure checked; 9.30 am pills brought. Not quite sure why I needed to have them hand delivered every day, and not just left for me to take them when I was supposed to but perhaps it's a way of preventing prisoner suicide bids. They should really have taken my belt from me.
At this point I think I must have done this extended prisoner metaphor to death so I will attempt to leave it alone now, since it must be getting a tad tiresome. I can't promise it won't return, but I'll do my best.
To continue with the exciting day outline: Noon lunch; 1pm doctor's rounds; (long fun-filled gap) 6pm second intravenous drip of the day, coinciding exactly with dinner appearing (a tad annoying really, it's not like there couldn't have been a way in which to stagger these two major events of the day); 10pm lights out.
As you can see it was a fun-packed existence. There were a few bonus moments though - Once we got a surprise 4am visit from a delirious patient, roaming the corridors randomly waking everyone up, which added a certain je ne sais quoi to the evening (and also to the 6am wake-up). There were two trips out in an ambulance, too - once to the cardiologist and once to the throat specialist (there must be a Latin-derived name for a throat doctor, but I have no idea what it is). I also managed to break a few rules while there. On Saturday afternoon, for example, Erika walked up with the kids in tow. Rather than have them come in the ward, they stayed out in the garden and I got dressed and came out to join them. We had an enjoyable hour soaking up the late afternoon spring sun, in the courtyard garden of the hospital, and then they headed home and I went back to my
So, gradually, the minutes intravenously dripped by, slowly becoming hours and days. I had no need to carve notches on the walls to see how many days I'd been inside though, as I could conveniently count the track marks on my arm. (Or at least I could for a while, until my veins, sussing out what was going on started to bury themselves further and further into my arms, pulling the muscles over their heads in an effort to avoid the needle, and thus meaning that each session started to involve two or three holes each).
I should at this point say that despite my whining above, the experience of being in hospital was really very good. The nurses were all extremely friendly and professional, the doctor was fantastic (I gave her the URL of this blog, so she's probably reading this, but I'm saying it because it's true not for any other reasons), the food was...well, the food was food, the place was spotless, despite being in a run down old building, and on top of that I got to read a stack of books. I can't compare it with hospitals elsewhere, because I haven't been in one for this length of time, but I reckon that despite the pressures everyone is under in an underfunded system, they manage to do a great job of taking care of patients.
At the end of it all, my blood pressure is still pretty high - though as a complete layman, it seems logical to me that if you stick a litre a day of extra liquid into someone's system (as they did) then the blood pressure would be bloody high. I know it doesn't work like that, but I don't really understand why not. But everything else seems to be getting better. I have to take it easy for a little while, and have not strain myself or be too active. Does anyone know where one can hire handmaidens to feed one the occasional grape?
There's another post to be written about the building itself in which I was