I adopted him early this year through the German Shepherd club's rehoming service. His owners were moving overseas. He's six years old and his name is Bruno. It's an appropriate name. He's big, bigger than that, and he looks and sounds VERY SCARY. But he's ever so friendly and he loves me. I must remember to get Jez to bring her camera and take some shots of him when she comes for her weekly access time tomorrow.
Jez, Jezabel, is my twelve year old, the youngest of my three daughters. Gemma and Bedou are well-and-truly grown up - thirty one and twenty nine.
Today is not a good day. Actually it's only half a day for me because I had to lie in bed until the lunchtime carer arrived. Every now and then a carer will forget it's her shift. I'm not rapt when this happens, but I don't make a big deal of it. It's not intentional on their part and it doesn't happen often.
The morning 'girl' didn't turn up today, so the lunch carer had to get me up, dressed and breakfasted. By the time I'd had a cough-laden morning drink and toast there was no time for the bathroom, let alone whatever I would've had done during a normal lunch shift.
Today is not a good day, and that's because lying down for that long makes me 'chesty' - phlemy. The moment the carer got me vertical, sitting in my wheelchair, I began coughing and spluttering. It settled down a lot after a quarter of an hour, but every mouthful of drink set me off again. The toast too.
It's two hours later and I'm still not a hundred percent. I should have just given up on breakfast, but last night I missed out on most of tea and nothing to drink. You see, it was a new carer for tea and things didn't go too well. She won't be so nervous tonight, though.
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
March 20, 1984 - Prince Henry's Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria
I think Innocent's talking to me. I think she's been talking on and on in that innocent voice I'd know anywhere - it's so open, so trusting, but I can't remember anything she's told me. I think she said she got a plane home from England, a twenty four-hour flight or twenty-six maybe. I can't remember. I think she said she flew home as soon as Mum rang and told her, except first she went to the bank to borrow the airfare - I can remember that -
I can hear her talking from down near my feet, but I can't see her. They're got the bed covers pulled up over my head. It's always like this, but I don't know why.
Innocent's saying I'm in ICU, the Intensive Care Unit. I think I knew I'm in a hospital - I think. She's saying she's been coming in every morning and she's going back to England on Saturday, whenever that is. She's saying she hands over to Rainbow about lunchtime, and Rainbow stays until five and Mum comes in after dinner.
Innocent must be gone, because I haven't heard her talking a while now. At least I can't remember if I have, but I can hear the nurse. I can't see her - the covers are still right up over me for some reason - but I can hear her English voice and her personal way of talking with me.
Talking with me `cept I don't talk. She talks non-stop when she's making my bed and stuff, talking away as if I'm looking at her and she can tell I'm interested. But how could I be looking at her from under here, and how could she tell if I'm interested under here? I don't think I've even got my eyes open - Actually, it's funny under here - I can't see darkness like from a blanket that's up over my face and I can't see lightness like through a sheet. I can't see anything; but then again I can't not see anything. I don't know - I just don't know -
I can't remember seeing anything here in ICU, but I know exactly what Nurse looks like, sort of. I think she's got reddish hair. And I know exactly what this large white room looks like, sort of. I think there's just my bed in it, no one else and a desk way down the end where Nurse writes stuff. I don't know how I know I'm in a hospital - I just know, like I've always known.
There's 2 hefty policewomen kneeling on the shiny creamy linoleum squares right in the corner of a bare hospital room. I don't know what makes me think it's a hospital - I just know it is. They're holding down a slight man in track shoes and jeans, and he's bare-chested and struggling like hell.
and he's coughing,
and he's choking,
and he's coughing fit to die.
There's a big butcher kneeling on his chest and he's trying to ram a bloody big bolt or spike or God-knows-what into his throat. There's blood everywhere. He's ramming it downwards from below the slight man's Adam's Apple - from the bottom of his neck.
I can see the slight man better now and I see he's me. I can hear his coughing, coughing, coughing coming from me and I'm jerking up off the bed with every cough - jerking up close to the butcher's face.
Nurse's talking while she washes me all over, uncovering me a bit at a time. Her hair's more auburn than red and she's got a watch pinned on upside-down, so she can look down near her left breast to read it, I suppose, but she's moving too much for me to focus its hands. She's pointing at the big fan near the bed and she's talking away in her English accent, but all the time she's busy washing my bare chest.
‘We have that fan going every night, because you burn up even with no pyjamas and you never have more than a sheet on you. It's freezing in here, but you still soak the sheets, soak them with perspiration. The stroke threw your temperature control out badly, badly, but that should settle down in time.’
She's washing further down now and she's saying I might think things are weird at times, because I'm still on a morphine drip. It's not as strong as at first, but it might make me imagine things.
She's saying it makes me see things different to what they really are and it makes me just drift off - like when they were doing the tracheotomy, when they were putting the trache tube in my throat for my breathing. She could see there was panic and fear in my eyes, but the doctor said I was probably hallucinating. I don't know about that, though. I mean, how - how could she see what's in my eyes with the covers right up over me all the time?
She's not right about things getting weird though. I don't know why things are happening sometimes, but I just can't remember to think about it. I can still hear her, but I can't see her any more. The covers -
March 24, 1984 - PHH, Melbourne
I never remember to think why, but I never speak to anyone any more, not even to Rainbow. People speak to me, people like Rainbow and Nurse and Mum and everyone, but it's like they don't expect me to speak to them. Like they don't expect me to answer, I suppose. I've never thought about that before -
Why do they do this to me? Why do they stop me seeing anything? I'm lying here with the covers right up over my face like always and I'm thinking - I can't remember. I mean, I can't remember if I was thinking. I can't remember before right now -
They've got me sitting badly-slumped on a low couch so I'm mostly lying down, and they're got something they call the Birds on my face and over my mouth. I'm breathing in hot mustardy air.
I don't know what the Birds are and I don't know why they do it. I can hear them doing it, but I've never seen it because they always have something covering my face. Right up over my eyes.
It's hot and dark in here and the Birds are hissing and they're making me breathe hot air and it tastes horrible. Won’t this ever end? - Why do they do this to me???
I can’t remember much, but I can remember one thing. Nurse had to take the afternoon off yesterday to go to the dentist. I think it was yesterday - I can’t remember. Anyway, when Nurse took that time off, whenever it was, they got an agency nurse in to take her place. They had the covers up over me at the time, but Nurse introduced the agency nurse to me and he asked how I was feeling and stuff like that just like I wasn’t under the covers.
‘I’ll leave you two, then’ Nurse said to us.
An odd thing happened after she left. The agency nurse had been talking to me like a house on fire, but then he just stopped dead.
‘Ahhh, this is garbage’ he blurted out. ‘Talk to him like normal, she said. You never know, he might just be hearing you, she said A brass band could be playing in your ear and you wouldn’t hear it. You can’t hear anything.’
Of course I can hear. They’ve got the covers up, but I can still hear under here.
‘It’s karma, you know. You must’ve done something awful in a past life to deserve this.’
To deserve what? I know I’m in hospital, but I don’t know why. It’s not like I’m hurt or in pain or anything. I can’t see what’s wrong with me from under here. Nurse might’ve told me, but I can’t remember -
‘God, if you could only see yourself. You look like death warmed up.’
How could he see what I looked like under here??
‘You’re being kept alive by machines.’ he said. ‘No-one would want to live like this. I wish I could switch them off for you and let you just drift away.’
Machines are keeping me alive?? Why? Why do I need machines? What’s wrong with me???
He said no-one would want to live like this, but it’s OK for me under here. I wish they’d take the covers off and let me see things more often, but - but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to live. How could anyone not want to live?? Sure, if they’re seventy five and screaming with pain and dying of cancer, but otherwise how could anyone not want to live? I want - I want to - I can’t remember -
It's Hand Over out there. The whole place goes quiet except for the murmur of the nurses' meeting. Nurse told me that at the end of every shift all the nurses get together and tell the new shift what's going on. Things like ‘Mrs. Harris keeps giving herself manual enemas’, and ‘Mr Ross won't stop playing with himself’’. Some medical stuff, too.
It's Hand Over to the night shift and I always hate it from now on. I try and try to stay awake, but by now it's dead quiet out there and soon I forget to try and then I'm asleep. I always wake up just before they come for me, though.
They try to kill me all night every night, but so far I always make it to morning, and then Nurse is back, or the other dayshift girl. I always mean to tell them about it, but they're too busy to talk early on and then I don't remember about it until nighttime again like now. The night shift here are really killers in nurses' uniforms. But they're smart and they never get caught, because they make them all look like natural deaths for hospital patients.
They're here! There's one of them at the foot of the bed kicking the brakes off and the other's doing the same behind my head. There are always two of them. They don't say anything, never do.
They're wheeling my bed out of my dark room, along the dim corridor and straight into the waiting lift. Now they'll take me down to hell. They press B for basement, but we keep going for ages to hell. They push my bed out of the dim lift into the extraordinary brightness and the extraordinary heat and the extraordinary silence.
I can't bear to open my eyes more than a blink or two yet, but I remember now what it looks like. It's a wide wide room that stretches forever with beds packed as far as the eye can see. There's lots of pipes overhead like in a basement, but there's never been this many pipes. They're all shapes and sizes, some are wrapped and some are bare and they're all going everywhere. There are two huge furnaces side by side with a space between them, and there are two huge black men with loincloths and huge shovels for the huge piles of coal. The white killers leave without a word as the loincloths push me close to the furnaces.
It's hot and silent in here. So hot the sweat's already dripping off me and so silent I can hear the drips from my neck hit the bed beneath it, but the other patients are sitting up happy, wrapped up in blankets, scarves, beanies and gloves. They're happily drinking hot coffee and reading papers while I'm dying under here.
Someone must've pulled my covers right up over my face again. There's no light and there's no darkness - it's just not-light and not-darkness.
April 1, 1984 - PHH, Melbourne
I'm still in the ICU where Nurse is. I know its called ICU, because she told me so,. I think she said I've been here three weeks.
I can see Rainbow coming in the door out of the corner of my eye. I wish I could at least move my head so I could look around sometimes, but Nurse told me I can't even make my eyelids blink - or maybe Rainbow did. I can't remember who it was. I can only look at the things directly in front of me like down the end of the bed and the desk, which is really a small table.
I can hear Nurse telling Rainbow I'm being moved to the Neurology Ward tomorrow. She told me too, just before Rainbow got here. Before? Before! I just remembered `before' - I can remember Before!)