Sharon’s note: One of the hardest things about being in a hospital is dealing with other patients. There are entitled, whiny jerks there just like anywhere else, but that’s not what I’m talking about. There is a worse kind of person to deal with. Sometimes they’re in a lot of pain. They are always extremely stressed/scared/temporarily mentally unwell, and the only way they know how to deal with it is to spread the misery. They will scream in the halls and verbally abuse everyone they see or beg for random passersby to help them. They only calm down once they see someone else suffering. And the worst part is that you can’t even blame them. They are going through hell, and don’t have another way to cope with it.
For the most part, I think they need someone to empathise with them. Correctly applied, company can help some misery. Sometimes, though, there is no helping, and they know it. Sometimes, it’s not ever going to be okay again, but they can’t help but grasp for someone, anyone, to make it better. Warning: At some point, everyone loses it, and screams in the hallways.
The klaxons sounded. It was the third time in two days. I frowned up at the speaker.
“I want to go back to my room,” Claira announced as loud as she could. Her wheelchair was pushed up so she could watch the television in the corner. Her wrinkled, frail hands slapped against her legs.
“Shut up!” Han-Wool shouted from the long wooden table at the center of the room. He’d been playing solitaire, and did not appreciate being interrupted. This was supposed to be the social and activity room, but none of us were very sociable. The Korean Hunter had chased one of his local boojums all the way to the US, and while he’d gotten it, he’d also gotten his leg sliced open to the bone and a nasty infection for his troubles. The whole mess had caused him to miss the birth of his first child, and that had not put him in the mood for anyone’s crap.
I was not having a good day. Every limb felt like it weighed a hundred pounds, I was so tired my head was wooly and my stomach ached. Even though I had trouble sleeping, I wanted to go back to bed. Unfortunately for me, the nurse decided that I needed to spend a little time socializing, or at least not staring at my ceiling. While listening to the other Hunter and the old witch gripe at each other might have been entertaining under other circumstances, it wasn’t doing anything for me right then.
“I want to go back to my room right now,” Claira wailed. She screwed up her eyes and made sobbing noises, but she didn’t shed a single tear. No one was fooled, especially Nora, the supervising nurse.
“You know we can’t move until the all-clear is sounded.” Nora didn’t even look up from her tablet.
“I don’t care! I’m sick of being in here. Take me back now or I’m going to call my son! He’s an important contributor to this-”
“Give it up, Claira.” I rubbed my eyes, and the effort of lifting my arms made me want to cry. “Everyone here knows you’re not that senile. If you want some attention, how about just asking someone for a game of cards or something like the rest of us.”
If I’d have slapped her I didn’t think she’d have looked more offended. Her lip started to tremble, and Han-Wool put his hands over his ears with a defeated sigh.
“I WISH I WAS DEAD!” For such a small woman, Claira could really project. She continued on about how everyone hated her because she was old, and she was useless because she was old, and on, and on, and on. With her constant caterwauling, I almost didn’t hear the high pitch trill coming from Nora’s tablet.
“Claira, shut up,” the nurse said as she moved to look out the small window in the door. When the old witch refused to be silenced, Nora hissed, “If you don’t shut up, I will shoot you full of enough lorazepam to make an elephant dopey.”
Claira shut up. In the silence, I could hear a quiet, steady thumping. The vibrations echoed up through my chest, conducted through my chair.
“Nora? Do we have a t-rex in the hospital?” I tried to smile, but it was hard when my stomach was sinking towards the floor.
“Just a VIP passing through,” she murmured. Behind her head. I saw something moving. It was big and black and took over three seconds to move clear of that little window.
“What is that?” Han-Wool’s eyes were wide, and his hand was curled at his side, probably missing his side arm as much as I was.
“Can’t say.” Nora pried herself away from the window to smile weakly at us. “Patient confidentiality.”