Les Miserables

“I’m in a skanky mood!” announced Isabella, waltzing into our dining area. The rest of us looked up briefly, then continued with our breakfasts.

“Well don’t be.” snipped a nurse, engrossed in the mountain of paperwork she had to complete for the day.

“I think it may be time to retreat to the nurses station..” our male resident student nurse joked. We all laughed, including Isabella. We liked Josh.

And so it goes. A fairly regular morning on a locked ward. We all had our madness, and we all accepted it.

This post again is written in conjunction with my Book of Things to Remember. The memories I have of the locked ward are kind of like the memories you have of when you are two. You think you remember something, but it’s really because it is a story that has been told so many times. I think I remember these events, but it’s really all down to my Book of Things to Remember.

Early on in my stay I opened a door and found a second TV room. Marvelous! Some time to myself, and actual choice over what to watch. I settled down on the couch then glanced out of the picture window.

It was there I saw something that chilled me to the bone.

Old people. Lots of them. White hair, perms, wheelchairs, walkers. Sitting down with blankets over their knees, heads lolling to the side. I crept up to the window and let out a blood curdling scream.

A nurse rushed in. “What is it?!” she asked, flustered. I pointed dramatically out the window. “What? That’s the geriatric ward.”

“What if I end up there?! I have been in hospital for months…what if I’m…a…” I lowered my voice, “a lifer.” By now I was in floods of tears.

“oh Rachael, you’re being silly! You will get better and out of here. I promise.” She patted my shoulder, the staff equivelent of a hug as they weren’t allowed to touch us unless absolutely necessary.

I knew she was right, but I never felt the same way about that room. Somehow that room latched onto my deepest fears that I would never get better. It wasn’t the people that made my stomach flip, but the concept. Ridiculous, as those patients had probably been admitted months rather than years ago, by caring family members concerned about memory loss and increasing fragility. Logically I knew this, but I still stayed away. And so did everyone else, and I never did find out why.

* * *

Usually we were fortunate enough to have our own ensuite in our rooms, but one day Isabella claimed hers was broken. She went to the public toilet and suddenly there was a lot of shouting.

“When someone is in the toilet, taking a shit, you don’t just fucking barge in!” growled Nicole, slamming the door closed once more.

“You’re fucking disgusting Nicole! You know that!” Isabella didn’t like any mention of bodily functions, they were far beneath her. She walked past me saying “This sort of thing would never happen at the palace. You know with your Daddy, Prince Charles.”

“I can’t deal with you right now..!” shouted Nicole from behind the toilet door. “I’m in the middle of a drug deal!”

I snapped my card on the table: “UNO!” I said triumphantly, basking in congratulations from other patients and staff.

Yeah, this kind of thing happened all the time.

* * *

One morning we were all singing. It was a terrible racket, with the din of people who could sing combined with those who can’t. Lesley looked like he was about to implode, and retreated to his room.

“You lot should be in a musical,” a nurse joked.

“yes!” Isabella piped up, “Les Miserables!”

We all fell about laughing, including the nursing staff.

“That was really funny!” Nicole said appreciatively, holding Isabella’s shoulder. “You should be funny like that more often!”

Isabella looked pleased with herself.

“No touching!” a nurse directed at Nicole.

A few days later Lesley finally got his transfer, and Isabella missed his company. She wrote him a letter, of which the envelope was covered in childlike drawings of hearts and flowers.

“Can you please send this to Lesley in the all male ward? I am worried about him. I am not sure he will survive a criminal attack.” she asked a staff member.

“Sure.” the nurse responded, absent mindedly placing it in the “mail out” tray. “Hang on a minute…what does this letter say?” she asked, suspiciously eyeing the hearts. “I can’t send anything inappropriate.”

“Oh, it’s appropriate. It just says that I am missing him and that I hope he hasn’t been killed yet.”

The nurse ripped open the envelope and read it.

“I can’t send this!” the nurse said, horrified.

“Why?” asked Isabella, pouting.

“Because it’s just…” the nurse shook her head, “no. No way is that being sent.”

Isabella stalked off and Dani and I looked at each other. What we would give to read that letter! Somewhere out there Lesley avoided a surprise oestrogen attack.

If he hadn’t been killed of course.

Yes, life was never dull with Isabella on the ward.

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