Wednesday, 10 March 2010

A Trip to the Countess of Chester Hospital: Part Two

When you're sitting in a hospital being ministered to by people who obviously Know Something Useful - from how to put that tube in your arm to whether you're going to live or die and what drugs to prescribe to prevent the dying part - and are Doing Good Things - like treating a teenage girl's black eye or sorting out a  schoolboy's elbow after it got whacked because he was fooling around, let alone Operating On Someone With Sharp Knives - it is easy to feel like you maybe chose the wrong career and are not the worthiest person on the planet.

The ward nurse for most of the afternoon was an attractive woman called Heather. She had come on at seven thirty and was going off at twenty-thirty - that would be a thirteen hour day - and had not had time to eat much, except some of the chocolates that my visitors brought. As she pumped the second dose of industrial-strength antibiotics into me, I found out that she visited Sierra Leone to do charitable work there every year, had also had a facial infection that made her look like a scary monster, had graduated the LSE with an M.Phil in Medical Policy, found Jesus, belonged to a local organisation that organised charitable work overseas, and a few years ago would have made me feel like a whinging useless twerp.

Except I don't feel like that now. I have no idea what she feels inside: you do good works to do good works, not to feel better about your life. Heather wore her religion lightly - you would have had to have listened fast to hear her talk of Jesus as "the absolute truth". We all have to do what we can - I have never had the memory for medicine or the organic sciences - and trust that at least a few times in our lives what we do matters in some way. The salesman who lands the big contract and the pricing manager who ensured that it was profitable kept a whole bunch of people employed and let them take their kids on holiday - that sounds like Good Work to me. Exactly how much reward is there in dealing with someone with Parkinson's who is going further and further into quarrelsome dementia? I'm guessing that's not the favourite part of anyone's job.

I find being ill gives me much more of a break than a holiday. On holiday I still have to fake it, when I'm ill all I have to do is just shut down, cope and wait to get better. I can still obsess about work on holiday, but not when I have a fever or am in reduced consciousness mode in hospital. That's the real rest. All I had to do that Friday was get breakfast and take the train home: nothing else. I didn't have to enjoy myself, put the washing on or think about work. Lunch. I had to get lunch. That was it.

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