I got a bit sick a little while ago, and had to go to hospital. This is my recollection of the time spent in the emergency ward, written shortly afterward. Not all that interesting and pretty short, but I thought I’d post it anyway.
My sheets weren’t clean. I probably would have complained if I had been able to breathe properly. I didn’t know how often the sheets were changed in the emergency department of a hospital, and it was probably best that way. Two nurses hovered around my bed, their faces flit unflatteringly by the humming fluorescent lights above. I always hated those lights. They drained the colour and life from everything they touched, but were suitably pragmatic, to be fair. Mood lighting would no doubt interfere with the smooth operation of an emergency department, no matter how cosy it may be. The nurses talked about their boyfriends as they attached electrodes to my chest, to monitor my vital signs. Each cord led to a different piece of equipment, each beeping like an old Atari game and displaying numbers I didn’t understand in neon green. I strained to sit up. My breathing was ragged, gasping. As I struggled to move air out of my lungs, they cracked and popped like a bowl of fresh cereal. To distract myself, I focused on the conversation around me. The nurses were still talking about their respective partners. To be honest, they both sounded about as interesting as the conspicuous brown stain on the floor beside me. Although, that was a little interesting, I supposed. Permanently staining the linoleum on a hospital floor certainly would take some effort. The only thing I could imagine leaving a ghastly stain of that magnitude was some sort of alien autopsy – it didn’t seem possible that it had come out of a person.
As more electrodes went on, I began to feel like a VCR. The biting scent of antiseptic wafted up to my face as a nurse swabbed my arm. There was a sharp pinch as the needle pierced my skin. I asked weakly if they had just plugged the speakers in, but no one laughed. Not comedy types, I guess. The boyfriend talk continued. All of this made me feel a little depressed, as not only could I not breathe, I was also single. A cool rush spread up my arm as the IV began to flow, pushing salty fingers of saline and cortisol into my veins.
‘We’re going to inject you with magnesium,’ the doctor said.
To be honest I had forgotten he was there. He was handsome, tall, and younger than me. He was also obviously more adept at life, as not only was he more successful than I was, he was breathing just fine. In other circumstances I would have felt a little inadequate, but for now I would have to grudgingly let him stop me from dying. There was a clatter as a gurney rushed down the hallway outside, its wheels stuttering wildly like a broken shopping trolley.
‘The magnesium will help unseize your lungs,’ the doctor said, writing in sharp blue slashes on my chart.
I peered over the top of my face mask through a spiralling haze of Ventolin and oxygen vapour. I couldn’t remember anyone using the phrase ‘unseize my lungs’ before. Since when were my lungs the engine of an old Lada? It did present an opportunity to show off my Year 11 chemistry knowledge by mentioning that magnesium burns at temperatures up to 2200 degrees, but I decided to remain quiet. I failed chemistry, anyway.
‘You’re stabilising now,’ the doctor said. ‘We’ll let your rest for a bit before sending you up to a ward.’
With that, he turned and walked briskly from the room. The nurses soon followed him, leaving me alone. A moan sounded from somewhere down the hall. The machines surrounding me beeped softly. I stared up at the panelled ceiling. It was going to be a long night.