“the last time I saw you, you were on your back and barely alive!”
I was scheduled to have a check up with the surgeon six weeks after the operation but as it was Christmas in between it had been pushed back a further two weeks.
It was the first appointment I had back at the hospital and it was simply to see how I was doing and to run some tests. It felt like a day of reckoning; if it went well they would sign me off and I would just have yearly check up scans to go to. If it didn’t go well and something was spotted a course of action would have been planned.
When the appointment was only a few days away I thought about someone I had met in hospital. He had to come back a few weeks after surgery because his heart rate was not returning to a normal rhythm.
It was faster than it should have been so they were going to give him an electric shock to see if it jolted it back.
He was with his wife and seemed fine in appearance; I couldn’t distinguish anything out of the ordinary other than the patient gown he was wearing.
We had spoken briefly and he seemed fed up about being back in hospital again. He was taken away and after his wife kissed him goodbye she turned to me and said: “is this the part when I’m supposed to cry?’’ She sat alone in her chair with an empty space next to her where her husband had been a moment ago, started to cry and then left.
I was both excited and nervous. It was great to be at this stage of recovery, feeling good and happy, but I also felt cautious about going back to the hospital and anxious about whether everything would come rushing back. That was the last thing I wanted, to relive it and have flashbacks.
I decided to get to the hospital early and visit the wards I had been on to see the nurses, doctors and staff in general so I could thank them for all their help. I took thank you cards with me and left a personal message of gratitude in each of them.
I had three in total, the first for the main ward, the second for the high dependency ward and the third for the surgeon and his team. I addressed each card to the whole team of people and hoped I would see them when I handed them out.
As I arrived at the front entrance of the hospital where I had once said goodbye to my family, I felt anxious. It was a familiar place and yet the memory of that day was already vanishing.
I got in the lift and went to the second floor where the high dependency ward was located. The door was locked shut and I needed to be buzzed in. As I peered through the glass pane in the door I could see a nurse coming down the hallway towards me and I instantly recognised her as ‘crazy nurse’.
As she opened the door she gave me a slightly puzzled look and was about to stop me from going in when I smiled at her and explained why I was there. She paused and then grinned back saying she did remember me and told me how well I now looked: “the last time I saw you, you were on your back and barely alive!” We had a brief chat wishing each other well and she went on her way.
I got to the reception desk and didn’t recognise the nurse who also gave me a bemused look. Upon reflection I don’t think anyone was meant to be on the ward unless it was absolutely necessary.
I explained that I had been a patient, had come back for a check up, and while I was here I wanted to thank all the nurses for their help and would she mind taking this card and giving it to the right people. She asked me the date of my surgery, duration of stay and my name so she could check the records and give to the appropriate team of nurses.
It was lovely to speak to her, especially as having told her what had happened and why I was here she gave me the biggest smile and firmly promised to make sure the right people got the card.
I then went up to the main ward on the third floor. I went through the double doors and the hot temperature hit me square in the face with a heavy rush of air similar to getting off a plane in a hot climate.
I started to walk down the corridor and instantly felt lifted, as if I had grown in height, and I marched along with newfound vigour. A feeling of peace and happiness flowed through me along with an air of confidence.
I passed through another set of double doors down the corridor with various rooms on either side of me. A few doors had been left ajar and I could see the pain, exhaustion and insanity of the patients inside. That familiar look of despair I had become so used to. I felt relieved and assured; I was beyond that!
I arrived at the reception and recognised the nurse, who instantly remembered me. She had a bubbly character and was one of the main nurses who checked on all the patients on the ward. She was the maître d’, the mother hen in charge of the flock of nurses. We chatted and I explained how grateful I was for everybody’s help and as a gesture of thanks, here was a card, asking if she could make sure it was seen by the other nurses.
Opening up the card, a wonderful smile appeared across her face and I could sense the other nurses’ curiosity about what was going on. They leaned in on the conversation as they walked past with some peering over the reception desk to see what the fuss was about.
All these smiles were becoming infectious and a buzz of conversation filled the air. I felt so happy to be able to share my sense of joy and gratitude with them.
She said “you look so well! I can’t believe the progress you have made. You’re young and that’s of great benefit look how quickly you are recovering!”
I didn’t stay for long as I had my appointment to keep and felt the need not to linger. It was long enough to appreciate how well I was doing. By going back and expressing my gratitude to them it had made their, and my, day.
I walked back down the corridor a free man, head held high with life and all its possibilities before me.