It was bound to happen, wasn't it? There I was a fortnight ago, frolicking about barefoot by the river, training for a marathon, yabbering on here about how I felt all strong and at peace with myself after my various misfortunes while, hidden out of sight, fate was rubbing it's hands together, unbelieving of the amazing opportunity I had landed in it's lap.
Earlier this week, I was planning an outdoor lake swim with a friend then a twenty mile run for marathon training. Then I ate lunch and gave fate it's moment. By 11pm, I was sobbing out loud, unable to stand straight and being driven to hospital.
Hospital is a strange place. It is a place of great comfort and healing. Hours tick by just waiting for a visit from the hallowed doctor who will permit you to eat, be given painkiller and explain your worryingly painful body to you. It is also, however, a place of fear, a place to be fled from at the first opportunity, a place that will drive you crazy. Strange things start to become normal. Four people of a similar age to you standing round taking notes as you announce proudly, "I've had two poos!" is par for the course. Wearing an open-backed dress-gown thing and knowing a large number of strangers have seen your knickers doesn't even warrant a reaction. I got to the point where I'd instinctively bare my midriff to be prodded the moment anyone in a uniform entered the room. The nurse who had simply come to take my temperature was a little taken aback but it didn't bother me, poked and stuck and x-rayed as I was.
This is the first time I've been hospitalised since the big operation about five years ago and I'd forgotten how unsettling it is to not be sure of what's happening. There was talk of my insides having become a little 'sticky' after being operated on (what this means in real terms, I've no idea), possibly food poisoning, possibly a minor colon twist that had righted itself, possibly salmonella. There was talk of operating a second time but having to be aware of the potential consequences that may come with a second operation.
There was also a woman down the corridor who shouted constantly in a despairing voice, "Help! Help me! Please help me! Somebody please help me!" and rang her buzzer so that the noise was inescapable. There was the rather unsavory family in the corner of my ward who's casual loud swearing would have been unbelievable had I not been witnessing it. They would laugh when the woman shouted for help. They would say, "I'm coming! I'm coming!" They burped. They farted. The patient yelled, "I'm going to s*** myself!" They played films loudly on their television then all traipsed outside to smoke, including the patient, leaving the television on so that the rest of us on the ward all sat in our own despairing medically-induced hazes listening hopelessly to Harry Potter.
At my last visit from the doctor, I flipped, declaring that if it hadn't been for the Bill Bryson book I was reading, I wouldn't have coped. The doctor decided to let me go home although he wanted to keep me for another day.
"I can't. I can't," I wept. "Thank you for looking after me and making me better and I don't want to be a pain but I can't stay here. I can't."
I then proceeded to change out of my backless dress (sounds sexy, definitely isn't) back into real-world clothes and demand my cannula be taken out.
"Someone needs to take this out or it's coming home with me," I bleated, like a petulant child. A friendly nurse hurriedly removed it and off I stomped, determined to go home.
I can now report that I am feeling a lot better and suitably humbled by my body's ability to knock me down just when I feel most smug and in control.
I'd like to think that I have relayed all this to you in order to draw a conclusion of some sort, to provide you with a moral to my little tale but I'm afraid there isn't one apart from, perhaps, I have recently discussed my bowel movements with more people than is socially acceptable. Or, I am a real baby when I have to go to hospital. Or, I should stop trying to draw conclusions about life's inner workings and accept the fractious, disordered nature of life?
Whichever it is, next time I'm writing to you all about how my experiences 'have made me a stronger person' and that I'm now 'in control of my future,' remind me of this hospital stay. It is sometimes important to remember how easily you can be taken down.