Thursday, 11 June 2009

A Short Walk, With Bottles

Nick bounces in as if nothing had ever happened. He sits on the bed and holds my hand. Nurse Tiziana enters. “Now you’re off the pump we can take out that central line.” “Right-o.” say I. The central line is a catheter that has been inserted into my jugular vein. It has about four or six different tubes and valves attached to it, all rattling and clunking against my throat.

Tiziana busies herself at the side of my neck, removing bandages, cutting a stitch. Finally, with a swift movement, she pulls out the central line and drops it in the yellow bin. Nick’s eyes seem to bulge and then his face goes a kind of grey-white colour. “All done” says Nurse Tiziana, applying a fresh dressing.

After she has left the room, Nick remains quiet and still for a few minutes. “Get us a cup of tea then.” I say. He looks at me, uncomprehending, "Did you see what she pulled out?" he asks. I shake my head. “It was this long,” he says, holding his hands about two feet apart.

Now that I’m no longer physically attached to life-preserving machinery I can get out of bed. I swing my legs over the side and then remember that there are two long tubes that are draining fluid from my back, where Mr H removed the muscle. Attached to the end of these tubes are two glass bottles. I press the call button and Nurse Tiziana pops in. “I want to go to the bathroom. What should I do about these bottles?” I ask. Nurse T pops out again. She comes back with a paper carrier bag from Pret a Manger.

I make a couple of practise runs around the perimeter of my room and a foray into the bathroom, with rests in between. Now I feel ready to up the ante. With my right hand I take Nick’s arm. In my left hand I take the Pret bag with drainage bottles. We open the bedroom door.

A fellow patient has collapsed right outside. Nurses and doctors are rushing about with oxygen and needles. We step over her. Waveringly, we walk the entire length of the corridor.