“The new arrival looked over his shoulder, and saw a looming threat of ‘hard luck’ rivalry.” – George Toles, Facebook post excerpt, March 3, 2018
I arrived in the hospital in an ambulance, entering into an awareness of a new world of hard luck rivalry. The hospital competition is fierce but not between the patients, as you would expect.
The first instance was an ambulance driver who wanted to complain about how his team fucked up in some massive way. I tried to walk away from his loud and intrusive voice, that’s when I discovered that my leg no longer functioned, and fell, I still have the scar. Where are you going he wanted to know, away from you was my response, I find you really intrusive. Well sit down before you hurt someone ya rude fuck…
In the almost 6 months I spent in hospital, the scenario was often repeated, usually by visitors claiming for their patients greater hard luck than mine. I’d ask my colleague to take their visitor to a family area, saying I’d like to take a shower or a nap. Fuck off, in other words, your patient had a stroke, yes, but I imagine he’s gonna walk out of here, and right now I don’t know if I will use my right side of my body ever again. I don’t want to hear how terrible his life is.
But mostly it was just the visitor claiming his life was really horrible. One guy who discovered his wife had taken a kind liking to me, in direct competition to his relative, a stroke victim, called me ‘that thing’ when my first attempt with the water flosser sprayed him inadvertently. I mean I was early recovery and half my body was flacid, on my dominant side, and my speech was almost unintelligible. The fact that I found it amusing while I apologised didn’t help I suppose. I mentioned it to the male nurse that night when he asked why I seemed so down. He said they had zero tolerance for patient abuse, and the visitor wasn’t allowed back. Cool.
Later when on the rehab ward, rapidly recovering, it was the nurses who had the hard luck stories. I was formerly an addictions counsellor, empathetic and I knew how to listen. Problem was, they didn’t want tools for their misery, they wanted to win the competition for hard luck. Later, if I asked if I could chat, as I was feeling lonely, or worse, the response often was: when I feel this way I talk to my Lord Jesus Christ. Fuck off, in other words, you ain’t winning no hard luck rivalry with me.
Several nurses gave me their phone numbers. I could get in real trouble for doing this….but when I was discharged I texted or left a message there was never a response, fear I suppose that I might not want to talk about their daughters death, or their bone crunching isolation, and instead they would find me looking for a friend who might be more accepting of my situation, warding off my own isolation, in a healthy way by reaching out.
The elevator guys were the worse. They would stand holding the door heroically in some agonizing posture, completely blocking the door to me and my wheelchair, and later my walker. Uh could you excuse me please? Well you don’t have to be so rude…well you are standing there with your arms splayed like Christ on the Cross and you really need to visit your shower dude, say hello to your toothbrush while you are at it….the subsequent silence in the elevator was a tad thick with only the occasional giggle from the back…
Sammi was my favourite colleague in the hospital. Just out of high school graduation she found herself paralyzed from the waist down. How do you find this new lifestyle? Well, I can do wheelies was her smiling honest answer. I fell in love with her immediately. We talked about finding what choices we have to find satisfaction in life. I told her I enjoyed being in a wheelchair in the mall. I mean you are at crotch level with the world and its amazing the number of people who are scratching their Brazilians absently while maintaining eye contact with the rest of the mall. I never knew so many people just had to be in contact with their stuff. Sammi and I were laughing and enjoying the day as if the wheelchairs and the hospital with its keen rivalry for victimhood were all roundly ignored, while we focused on something more satisfying. Each other, and the joy of new unconditional friends.