The few times I’ve spent a night or two in the hospital have left me with the theory that there is a definite social process that takes place if you wind up sharing a room with another patient. First of all, the outcome can go either way: harmony and congeniality or complete mayhem and chaos. It’s bad enough already if you are there because of some kind of serious illness, but if you wind up with an incompatible roommate, that can be about as miserable as things can get. I’ve been lucky, but I am also pretty tolerant and compassionate…because that is just the kind of guy I am.
So I get settled into my room following my total knee replacement surgery and within a short time another victim is bought in to join me. He’s had a recent, similar procedure done to one leg, but has fallen at home and screwed up the other one. So already you gotta feel bad for this guy.
The knee operations are about the only things we have in common. Everything else? Well, let’s just say we were at opposite ends of the room when they were handing out assignments. He’s a retired automobile mechanic and army vet. He has a large family with brothers in the military or chiefing some police departments somewhere. His interests are Harley’s and shooting. Yep, we are indeed strange bedfellows except for one major commonality: we both hurt and we have to rely on someone to help us if we want to do any of the basics like eating and going to the bathroom.
The routine plays out. We small talk through careers and family stuff, medical histories and critiquing the people taking care of us. At night, I’ve found, is when the real test begins. One of us is going to have an especially bad night and how well the other copes will determine how goes the rest of the tour. In this instance, he’s the one who has the bad night. I won’t go into details other than to say he had bathroom issues and despite making several attempts on his own, he was not able to get up out of bed. His trying to do so was not a popular decision given the wrath displayed by several nurses. The up-and-down battle went on most of the night until he was ultimately left with no choice but to take care of things using the uncomfortable portable container made for the situation. In sum, his having a bad night meant my night didn’t go so well either.
I kind of take it all in stride. First of all, I am used to having lousy nights given some sleep issues I have. Second, I’m sympathetic because it is obvious he is in a lot of pain and the slightest movement of his leg results in warzone cries of agony. The situation is intensified by the fact they’ve filled him with several doses of medicine to encourage his plumbing to let loose…and so it does. This is the point at which one human weighs the emotions of relief vs. embarrassment–that would be him, while the other displays extraordinary patience and understanding–that would be me.
As the next day progresses, he has his knee drained, thus relieving him of much pain, and his pipes are now flowing normally. I’m a happy camper because the excruciating degree of pain I expected to arrive after the nerve block wore off, doesn’t. Now we can attend to continuing the small talk which focuses on things like the quality of meals we’re getting and where each of us has gone on a cruise.
We are getting along splendidly by the time I am being released and wheeled out of the room. We say our goodbyes and good lucks and the two of us share a quick insightful glance toward each other…two old blokes with little in common and never having met before, but having gone through an intimate and embarrassing moment together only to hold the instance in total disregard and silent acknowledgement that such is life when you are sick and need help.