So, for the past three months, my quiet writer’s life has been tossed about, shaken and stirred, the days on my calendar being x-ed out. X-ed out by frequent missions to St. Ann’s Bay. St. Ann’s Bay Hospital to be exact.
“Pray tell, why?” you enquire, eyes glinting as you gaze at your digital, audio-visual device.
“If I must be honest … ” I pause, eyes shifting left then right as I check for ears in the walls. All clear. “An elder, whose identity I’m not at liberty to disclose, defied the health pundits of the universe.”
(This is where you shoot up from your seat, glare at your digital, audio-visual device and breathe like a dragon.) “What?!”
“For decades, he neglected his mind, body and soul.”
“What exactly are you saying, Capitaine Angie?”
“During his years of machismo and virility, he failed to maximize use of the fresh produce and atmosphere for which his planet is known.”
“Unbelievable, Capitaine! Surely, you jest.”
“I don’t have time to jest, Lieutenant Reader. In the second hour of the crew’s Saturday evening shindig, we received a distress signal.”
“A distress signal?”
“Affirmative, Lieutenant Reader. Him bad habits ketch up wid him, run past him and threatens to drag him into the abyss of … ”
(Dramatic conga-drum music plays for two seconds. A tambourine shakes once.)
My eyes shift left then right. “Ailments.”
Cameras zoom in on your glaring eyes then on my squinting eyes then on your glaring eyes then on my squinting eyes. … Cut!!
Moving right along.
Since I-n-I, still of sound mind and body and flexible-ish schedule, live nearest to said-elder, the Bee Kinstribe to which I belong looked to me as overseer of the … whatever-is-needed-to-be-done-for-the-elder.
I teamed up with flamethrowers and bastions of the healthcare galaxy to drive back—or at the very least contain—the disease demons. Argh! Arrrrgh!!
But, alas, soon after the battle began, hospital waiting rooms and out-patient clinic waiting rooms and laboratory waiting rooms coupled with a fighting, stubborn-like-a-wha’ elder drove me to my portable communication device.
“Must … retreat. … Must … retreat!” I shouted to the Kinstribe.
“Retreat for now, Capitaine. Retreat for now. But DO NOT surrender.”
Before this experience, the word hospital seldom featured in my vocabulary. For the past few months however, my daily speech has been peppered with hospital-speak: blood sample, urine analysis, ekg, x-ray, pharmacy, docket, clinic, accident and emergency.
The hospital-visit routine is now embedded in my psyche. I know to conduct a full outfit inspection before exiting home:
No spaghetti straps or sleeveless tops. Check, check!
No short shorts, exposed underwear or setters. Check, check, check!
No weapons. … Don’t even have to check. I’m a lover, not a fighter. Heehee.
I know the hospital route by heart. Take a left at the roundabout in St. Ann’s Bay then a right then a left. Drive past the old Roman Catholic church with the vines creeping up its walls and then past the ramshackle vending stalls crammed with sweetie, sweet biscuits, sodas and cranberry water.
We know to drive through the monstrous security gate; hail the guard; pull up to the Admissions block; beckon to a porter, who’s quickly at our service with a wheelchair; wheel the elder through the security checkpoint at the grilled up, glass-door entrance; head to the glass windows on the left; state our business; collect a number; and go to the appropriate waiting area (because there are more than one).
Be prepared for whole heap of waiting if ever you have to visit this edifice of free healthcare services. You’ll wait to hear your number. Wait to hear the patient’s name. Wait for a doctor. Wait to do tests. Wait to hear the doctor’s verdict.
The entire process may take hours. How many hours? Any number of hours. It may be two. It may be three. It may be four. It may be more.
Regardless, prepare thyself. Strap on thy mental armour. Walk wid one or two tough crackers, juice and/or water, a book, newspaper or crossword puzzle (don’t forget the pen).
I confess. I failed to prepare for my first hospital-run with the elder. And so, I bowed under the boredom—counting seconds, counting minutes, counting hours.
I bowed under the pressure of battling with the stubborn senior as we waited for a doctor and then another doctor and then for the admission process to be done.
Preventing the old man from running away—or should I say shuffling away at the speed of snail, with an IV in his arm and a catheter up his whozit-whatsit—soon became a block-him-if-he-won’t-hear exercise. (Don’t criticize mi. You and I both know all seniors ain’t cute and cuddly.)
Anyhoos, when I finally grew weary, I let him be. I let him shuffle away.
“Aren’t you going to get him?” asked other patients in the tiny waiting area.
“Get him!” ordered a passing nurse.
“No!” I said defiantly, childishly.
“Go get him, nuh,” encouraged the patients.
“But him is your responsibility.”
But I don’t want it to be my responsibility anymore. (Of course, I didn’t say that out loud because you know it would’ve sounded really bad, right?)
“Gwaan fi him, man,” they cajoled.
Reluctantly, I rose, took five steps, spun the elder around and insisted he come sit down.
When the wait finally ended, a male patient stopped me, looked me square in the eyes and said, “Hol’ di fait’, mi sista, hold di fait’.” At one o’clock in the morning, it was just the kind of unexpected reinforcement my raggedy armour needed.
For those of you who have an elder, related or not, whom you’ve been assisting and it’s been a challenge, mentally, financially or even physically: hold di faith, my sister; hold di faith, ma brother.
But don’t be afraid to hand the reins of care over to someone else for a bit, whether to a nurse, another professional caregiver or a family member. Hand it over before you get to the point of exhaustion and frustration. Because if you allow yourself to get to that point—and I’ve been to that point a couple times—it’s neither beneficial to your health nor to your elder’s care.
Schedule regular breaks for yourself. Find ways to power down your mind. Sometimes, our minds race a mile a minute although we’re physically at rest. We planning, we organizing, we re-planning, we re-organizing, we double-checking, we fretting and we wondering, because we want to ensure everything gets done.
Have iced sorrel tea with a friend, visit your place of worship, walk or cycle and tek in some breeze, dance in your living room (and wave your hands in the air, wave them like you just don’t … ).
And, do, for God’s sake, have as-often-as-needed, honest-to-goodness, heart-to-heart talks with a close friend, sibling or relative about your situation. Verbalize. It may help take the edge off your anxiety and re-energize you for the journey ahead.
Thumbs up to the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital staff. Mi nah lie, some a dem miserable! And some who not miserable don’t kin teet’. They don’t realize the power of a smile. But, overall, I’ve found them helpful.
To all the hardworking hospital, clinic and nursing-home staff in Jamaica and foreign, may the Lord bless you.
Peace and love,
Image ‘Cartoon Businessman Run Away from Vaccination’ courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image ‘Illustration Digital Painting Dragon Hunting’ courtesy of saphatthachat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image ‘Japanese Samurai Warrior with Sword’ courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net