Leah Francis : Finding the Way contents

Hospital

Although it was minor surgery I would be required to stay in hospital over night - I became apprehensive. Even packing a bag was a strain. That faded old dressing-gown had passed its rag-time date. I felt ashamed, but it was too late to buy a new one. It would have to do.

My husband walked to my ward together and he left.

For five hours I waited, thinking all the time about that shabby dressing-gown. Occasionally I would retrace my steps to the toilets, mostly to reinforce my memory of where they were.

So far, everything was easy. I simply sat, and sat, and sat.

I took a nurse's arm and climbed on to the bed.

I didn't recognise the surgeon's voice and he seemed surprised when I asked him who he was. Neither would I recognise the voices of the anaesthetist and the assistant. when they returned next morning.

Back in the ward, all vague and woozy, I discovered I had been moved from the ward I began in that morning, and nothing was where I expected it to be.

Again, I lay for a long time, waiting. Waiting. Finally a nurse approached. No, I had not eaten since dawn.

I heard someone put a tray on my table and after a while scrabbled around until I found sandwiches and a cup of something.

Food revived me.

Then a nurse brought flowers to me. She read the card, told me she'd put them "over here", and was gone.

I'm always pleased to see the man I married, but tonight he was especially welcome. "Husbands become functional," someone had remarked, and it was true. He brought the flowers close, so that I could smell and touch them, and we discussed what they were.

Next he found my shabby dressing-gown and together we found the toilets. They were conveniently close, but not where I had expected them to be in this unfamiliar ward.

He also answer a few questions. How many people in this ward? Where was the door? Where was the window? Where was the buzzer?

Woozey but content, I drifted to sleep and he was gone.

During the night I had to buzz for a nurse to remind me where the toilet was. But first I searched for my shabby old dressing-gown. No, it wasn' on the chair, not in the wardrobe. But where else? No choice but to go without the old thing.

"I'll be right," I said, retracing my steps the short distance to my bed.

But where was that dressing-gown? Sleep knits up the unravelled sleeve was care.

I forgot the dressing-gown until I was roused by a nurse.

When she left I carefully returned to the toilet, this time not even searching for that dressing gown but slinking along in my nighty.

When the surgeon stopped me in the corridor I forgot to be embarrassed. In five seconds he looked at his handiwork and was gone.

After breakfast I went to clean my teeth. But first I made another fruitless search for the old dressing-gown.

For some, thank goodness this nighty wasn't of the revealing, honeymoon type.

They needed my bed, so I drew the curtains, dressed and packed.

Fortified with food and buoyed by the prospect of going home I looked everywhere, but no dressing-gown. I thought I looked everywhere, but finally I gave in and asked a nurse for help.

"Here it is," she said. Losing my embarrassment I asked where it had been.

"Just hanging on the rail beside your bed," she said. On the rail, I thought. That rail they put up to prevent me falling out. An inch, perhaps, past my hand.

And we (gone, taking the flowers home to touch and smell, and leaving embarrassment behind. It didn't matter about that drab, shabby, dressing-gown, you know.

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