Hospitals are places where new life is welcomed, where healing is expected to take place and hope is restored. But sometimes the places where we seek healing are also the ones where our death takes place.
I was a child who frequented hospitals having suffered with asthma from age two to twelve. But there came a time when I developed a dislike for hospitals which emanated from the death of a loved one. The image of her being wheeled into the hospital might forever remain in my mind for it was also the day she died.
But over and over again I find myself visiting loved ones; braving my way into the place where many spirits of those who breathe their last breaths and the hope for those who breathe their first, are intermingled. Though I hate the reminders, I make the daunting trips because many times the sick just need to see a smiling face to bring some cheer to their day and to encourage them to fight to recover.
This was another week where I made several trips to the hospital. I was very conscious about my anxiety, but as always, in my mind, my discomfort was far less significant than need of the loved one to know that someone else cared about their wellbeing.
There was a young girl aged thirteen and suffering from diabetes since the age of ten. With a swollen leg which was very painful she seldom grimaced. She never had a visitor while I was there. She was from Essequibo but living on the Linden Highway and because of the mother’s occupation she could only visit once every other day. It was one of many admissions to the hospital. I could see that she had grown accustomed. But would that be the rest of her life? Hoping for healing but never quite realizing it? Not accessing the adequate care for certain illnesses, is familiar to many Guyanese– a plight many face because of lack of resources or knowledge and sometimes because of what they would have grown accustomed to – behaviour change is almost impossible for some people even when they are facing debilitating illnesses.
And there was the woman suffering from cirrhosis of the liver. From someone who seemed only slightly delusional the first day reinforced by strange mutterings and the fact that she poured water on the sleeping thirteen-year-old diabetic while she slept to finding it difficult to walk and having to be wheel chaired to the washroom voicing only her discomfort, her transition could be described as from ‘bad to worse’.
Then there was the woman who was dressed and ready to be discharged the first day I visited. She looked well and was discharged only to collapse on her way home resulting in having to be taken back to the hospital. Every other visit she was either sitting with an oxygen mask or panting for breath when she did not have it, apparently worse than before she was discharged. It was her kidneys, I was informed.
And then there was the woman whose distress was also related to failing kidneys. Depending on dialysis to live is no doubt a trying experience.
And there was the loved one who ignored signs of ill health until there could be no more denial and she had to face the truth.
There were lessons to be learned from each of those patients. The young girl reminded me that we all experience life’s griefs and at any age. That even the innocent face challenges sometimes beyond the scope of their understanding and that the young often exercise as much and even more courage that the oldest of us.
The woman with cirrhosis of the liver reminded me why we could never take life for granted and that some of us even in desperate times may cause harm to others. She reminded me why we must strive to treat others as we wish to be treated because sometimes the people we hurt are the ones who must give of themselves to help us in our time of need.
The woman who wanted to be discharged reminded me that though some of us may look well on the outside, we may be dying on the inside. And that sometimes when we have lost our power, and make steps to regain it, we can relapse into a state of vulnerability.
The other kidney patient on dialysis reminded me of how trying life can be, yet most of us would not opt to give up and die. We would hold on to the very end as difficult as it is – hoping by some miracle to be saved.
And the loved one’s lesson was how sometimes we ignore the warning signs, waiting sometimes until death is toying with us to realize the importance of accepting what is true and making the best of life while we are sure we can.
Hospitals humble us. Whether we recover or the beds are the last places we lie, there is no discrimination when it comes to life’s ailments; though lifestyle choices may spare some of us from some diseases, we all are vulnerable.
It made me think about how much of our time is wasted on hate. How we practice it often for no good reason. How we spend our time deciding what is righteous for our fellow human beings by passing judgement when someone may not fit into the mode we deem as normal – while we miss many opportunities to contribute positively to our journey as human beings and while life passes by and our potential to be great is overshadowed by our shortcomings.
One of the days I was on my way out of the hospital and saw a gathering. There were tears and I knew someone had died.
The people were strangers so I did not intervene. I thought it was an adult who was deceased only to learn shortly thereafter that it was a child. I believe that the death of children is something we should never experience. What should we make of the end of a life that has not quite figured its purpose or understood what this journey is? What he or she could have been and how they could have made the world a better place are questions we cannot answer.
Life is like a hospital and all of us are seeking healing in some form or the other, hoping for better days. Some find it, while some never quite find the balance and so spend their lives aimlessly wandering hoping to be rescued until it is time to go to the unknown.