SILIENCE n. the kind of unnoticed excellence that carries on around you every day, unremarkably—the hidden talents of friends and coworkers, the fleeting solos of subway buskers, the slapdash eloquence of anonymous users, the unseen portfolios of aspiring artists—which would be renowned as masterpieces if only they’d been appraised by the cartel of popular taste, who assume that brilliance is a rare and precious quality, accidentally overlooking buried jewels that may not be flawless but are still somehow perfect.
The nurse had just made my bed up. The blue lightweight blanket was nice and smooth. The white sheet underneath was straight and smooth. I nice straight panel of white sheet folded over the blue blanket. A nice fresh white pillowcased pillow, with no stains of purple hair dye smeared over the whiteness. It must be said the purple smears on the bright white pillowcases, looked like pretty cool modern art. I had managed to tape the two balloons my neice and nephew bought me, to the end of my bed. One balloon was in the shape of a purple monkey eating a banana. The other was a round yellow smiley face. My tiny beanie toy in the shape of wonderwoman, was sitting on the bed in between my balloons. It was looking quite festive. The nurses were always commenting on how cheerful my area looked. You stay in hospital as long as me and its not hard to make the area festive, especially if you have good friends. I even had my small collection of books set up in between bookends. I had made, using the mini cans of lemonade, I had managed to collect. I could not drink them as they tasted like death. Everything tasted like death.
I am settling onto my freshly made bed, ready to get into my reading. I am reading The Hand Maids Tale by Margaret Attwood. It is amazing and horrifying. I am still in my pajamas, there is time enough to shower later, I think. A tall Sudanese man who is wheeling a wheelchair, stops as he enters the doorway and checks my bed number. ‘’Bed 45 to nuclear medicine. Jess Knight.’’ H says.
‘’Yes that’s me but nobody told me about any test at nuclear medicine.’’ I said. ‘’Maybe it’s a mistake.’’ I went back to my book.
‘’No mistake.’’ He says.
I sit up and put my book down. ‘’Nobody has told me anything about this.’’ I am compliant but put out. It happens so often, the interruptions. They are for my own good but I resent them sometimes. Carla pops her head in and looks at me. ‘’Yes, you have to have a test today. It wont take long.’’
I sigh but get off the bed and step into my red ugg boots. I climb into the wheelchair. The porter puts the feet rests down for me and I rest my tamotoe coloured boots on them. I am handed my medical files to hold in my lap. They are heavy as there are a lot of them and each one is pretty full. I have my GROW A PAIR jacket over my singlet with the built in bra. The porter wheels me down the corridor and out to the lifts. We get to the ground floor and he wheels me down the corridor with the huge photograths of graduate nurses from the 40s and 50s. The stare out at me in their identical little whit nurses caps and starched white dresses. I am wheeled past some open doors leading out to a pop up garden with picnic tables and chairs. A cold breeze blows through me as we go past. I savour the fresh air touching my face and making goosebumps rise along my arms and legs. A glimpse of the outside world.
When we enter the double doors with the signs saying nuclear medicin. There is no sign of windows. Just artificial light and its suddenly cold. Not fresh air cold, high level of fake cold air from air conditioning. The Porter leaves me at the entrance to a room where there is a busy and cluttered desk and some people in hospital beds. I am just outside the room in a narrow hallway. Doctors and nurses have to slightly veer of their trajectory as they walk around my wheelchair. I am still unsure what I am doing here and what the test will be.
I wish I had bought along my book. It was getting boring just sitting here.
A handsome man in a white lab coat stops in front of me and smiles. ‘’Jess Knight?’’
‘’Yes, that’s me.’’ I say. He looks at his clipboard and looks at me again.
‘’Are you sure you are meant to have this test. You only had it a month ago.’’
‘’Im not sure what your talking about.’’ I say. I am just here because I was wheeled here. The nurse said I had to have a test done here. I don’t know what test.’’
‘’OK. I’m just going to double check this with someone.’’ The white coat, turns around and walks to the desk. There is a woman standing behind the desk. ‘’This patent has come in for a multi splice CT scan.’’ He tells her. ‘’But, she only just had one a month ago.’’
‘’Yes, its fine. She is meant to have it again. They want to make sure there is no more signs of infection of blockages in her lungs.’’ They were checking for consolidation on my lungs. Consolidation is a fancy way of saying gunk and stuff that should not be on your lungs or inside your lungs.
As I sit and wait, a woman whos is as big as I am small, sops and grins at me. She has blackframed glasses on her nose and a black and white bandana on her head, I think the white bits are pirate skull and crossbones. She is in dark blue scrubs. I am pretty sure I have seen her befor. She and I talked and laughed as I struggled with the peddling of the electric bike that was monitoring my heart rate as I peddled. I was meant to peddle for fifteen minutes. It was agony. That was about a year and a half ago. ‘’You look amazing.’’ She says to me. ‘’Keeping out of trouble.’’
‘’Only when it suits me.’’ He radiologist comes back to me and I am wheeled into a small windowless room that has a sink and hand sanitizer and across form the sink in a narrow bed. The small room is hotter than the hall and I shrug out of my jacket and slip out of my ugg boots. I am careful not to tug at the tube coming out of my abdomen wound from the surgery. I lifted up the hand bag sized contraption and listened for the low sound of whirring to ensure the thing was still successfully sucking out the gunk from said wound, and slowly collecting the gunk in the connister that is connected to the little rechargeable battery run machine. ‘’Can you get up to the bed?’’ The radiologist asks.
‘’Yep.’’ I get up and lay down on the bed with my feet pointing towards the door. I place my little battery run buddy on the wheelchair, the tube is long enough to reach from wheelchair to bed. The nurse with the bandanna, her name is Colleen, she wheels in a machine that resembles a robot made from plastic.
‘’Now you probabley already know how to do this as you did just a few weeks ago.’’ The radiologist says.
‘’No, I do not remember how to do this. I have no idea what ‘’this’’ is.’’ I llook at Colleen.
‘’I remember you.’’ I say to her, with relief.
‘’Good.’’ She says. ‘’I should expect so.’’
‘’Were you here the last time I did this test?’’ I ask.
‘’Yes, but, you were very sick then, sweetie. You had no idea what was going on.’ Your carer was with you.’ I got angry and I got angry fast. She meant Leong and he was not a fucking carer. He was not paid to help me wash and go to the toilet. Is that how people who worked here in the hospital, saw him? As some saintly selfless person who spent their time looking after a bundle of messiness such as myself?
‘’He is not a carer.’’ I say still lying down. ‘’He is my freaking boyfriend. Someone who I sex.’’ The thought of sex made me totally uninterested at thee moment. That was beside the point. ‘’I sleep with that person.’’ I say. ‘’He does not wipe my arse or bath me.’’
‘’He cares about you, though.’’ She says.
‘’Yes, he does, but, that is a different thing.’’
‘’I am sorry.’’ Colleen says. ‘’I need to think about my wording. You are right.’’
The medical people could have done anything to me, when I was at my sickest. I think, and I would have no recollection of any of it. How scary. What if the hospital was a dodgy one and all the doctors were like the doctors and nurses in Kill Bill? The male orderly, who was charging people to have their ways with Uma Thurman’s in a coma, character.
‘’Can you please explain what you want me to do?’’ I say to the radiologist. He is standing in front of the machine and holding an attachment that is connected to a ridged tube. The end of the tube that the radiologist is holding has what resemples a small vacuum cleaner head, without the bristles andcat hair collected in the bristles. I have a feeling I know what it is for.
‘’OK, Im going to ask you to place this nosel inside your mouth.’’ The radiologist tells me. ‘’Then we will talk you through some practice breaths so you know how to breath in for the best and easiest way for the radiation to pass through into your lungs, so we can get some good and clear 3D images of your lungs.’’
‘’Radiation? How much radiation?’’ I ask.
‘’Just a tiny bit, not enough to cause any damage. Just enough to help us see.’’ He hands me the nosel and asks me to place it inside my mouth. I do this and the taste of plastic creeps in as does a sense that I am about to gag. They have not even turned the radiation machine, on yet. ‘’Now take in a big breath and hold it.’’
I do this. There is also a small little addition to the nosel that goes over my nose. I is weird and uncomfortable.
‘’Now swallow the air.’’ Radiologist tells me. I do this and remve the nosel from inside my mouth. I am told to please and go through the motion again. I place mouth vacuum inside my mouth and breath in, hold and swallow the air.
‘’Ok, now with the machine going.’’ The radiologist says. He switched on the machine. My hands that are holding the nosel, get clammy and shaky. There is a weird smell that tastes like paint thinner and medicine and turpentine. I don’t want to put this in my mouth, its too much like all the tubes that kept getting showved down my throat and then yanked out again. Tears prick my eyes and as I put the nosel in my mouth. My breathing quickens to a rapid rhythm. It tastes so bad, this radiation, it makes me want to vomit. I take the dratted thing out of my mouth. ‘’I’m sorry.’’ I say wiping my eyes with my back hand. ‘’Im feeling quite nervy.’’
‘’Its ok, take as long as you want. Do you want to do it later? Like tomorrow? You’re a patient here?’’
Put off what can be done and over with, now? Not Likely, I think. ‘’No, its fine.’’ I say, pulling myself together and putting the nosel in my mouth again. I breath in the horrid tasting radiation. I breath it in as slow as I can handle, letting the disgusting stuff flow through the tube and down my throat where it will pass through and rush into my insides and light them up for observation. Would they provide me with copies of the 3D images? I wonder, as I start to choke.
‘’OK, That should be enough.’’ The radiologist says.
Thank goodness for that. I remove the mouth vacuum and start to breath normally. Not too fast and not too slow. I sit up and climb back into the wheel chair. I lift up my VACC machine and disentangle the tube so the machine sits in my lap and the tube is not kinked.
The radiology nurse wheels me into the giant sized room full of empty space that is broken only by the computer tomography machine. An impressive looking object that has a long narrow panel jutting out of a slightly slanted giant doughnut shaped entrance to the little space you can be entered into if the situation calls for it.
‘’Computed Tomography is of particular use in the diagnosis of chest, abdominal and pelvic disorders, including the bowel and lungs, as well as in the production of images of arteries (known as an angiogram). A CT angiogram can therefore be used to diagnose a brain aneurysm, blockage (stenosis) of an artery, including the arteries of the heart and of the legs. Importantly, the diagnosis of a life threatening blood clot to the lungs, known as a pulmonary embolus, is reliably made. Multi-slice CT is also a suitable modality for evaluating the spine. ‘’
Pretty cool and interesting, yes, but I was not in the mood as I looked around me and listened to the explanation. ‘’You will have to lay still for 15 minutes while the ex ray screens rotate around you. After that we will insert a canula and then inject some more radiation into your vein, so we can do the imaging in a second 15 minutes.’’
Rats. I think, Carla did not mention this would be uncomfortable and involve a needle. How clever. She probably figured there was no point in making me stress and get worked up about it. At least not before it was necessary. Another day another needle. It is cold in this big white walled room. Up near the ceiling are some clear glass windows. There is some computers and space age type stuff up in the room the window looks out from. That room is where the radiologists will stay so they do not get affected by the radiation that they have to work with, all day, every day. If they had to stay in the same room as the radiation emitted from the machine, they would have wrinkles up penises and distorted and shrunken ovaries.
The only part of me that will be in the tunnel as the screens rotate around my upper body, are my feet and shins. ‘’Would like a pillow under your head?’’ Colleen asks me as she makes sure I am settled on the very firm to hard foam that is padding the narrow column I am now lying on. It is curved slightly so it feels like you’re in a pristine padded pig trough. ‘’No, thanks.’’
‘’What about under your knees?’’
‘’That would be great thank you. ‘’ I say.
‘’A blanket around your legs?’’
My legs are cold, now that I think about it. I accept the offer of a blanket and moments later a warm white standard hospital blanket is being tucked around my super and scarily skinny legs. No wonder they are cold, there is no insulation of fat around the bones. Colleen tells me that a voice from the room up high will tell me when to start being still. I nod. She leaves the big room and closes the door behind her with a click. A few moments later I hear a male voice from above. The voice speaks over the sound of the Computer Tomography machine, a voice like Batman. The voice from above is less tortured and gravel tinged. ‘’OK, now breath normally but, try to not move at all.’’
As I lay there, I feel my body start to rebel in a number of different ways. My ankle becomes itchy as does my for head. There is a strand of hair in my left eye. The most painful of these discomforts it in my right shoulder blade. My singlet strap and seam of the singlet is digging into a particularly boney part of bone. The bones made more sharp as my weight had dropped to an all time low of 26kgs. There was nothing of me. No nice flesh to cushion things like this. I tried to wriggle a tiny bit, in the hopes the pressure points would shift and cause some relief. It didn’t work at all and the digging into my bone continued. I feel my coxic bone digging painfully into the hard surface. I wiggle my bottom a little and it relieves the pain as I am moving, it hurts again, as soon as I stop. As I am trying not to let the various and painful feelings, overwhelm me, the screens are slowly moving around. First the left screen and then the right screen. It becomes difficult not to start wimpering in a pathetic and forlorn way. I use my right foot to scratch at the itch on my left ankle. The voice comes into the room again, ‘’Try not to move. Three minutes left.’’ Good. That’s not long. I could try and write a song or a poem in my head in that time. What rhymes with tomography? Oh god, it feels like something sharp and mean is trying to tunnel through the jutting out bone of my right shoulder blade. ‘’Times up.’’ I sit up crying with relief and the residual pain.
Colleen comes into the room and I start explaining my predicament as she walks towards me. ‘’Is it my imagination? Or is there some redness under my singlet strap and on my shoulder blade bone?’’
Colleen looks at my back. ‘’Oh, sweetie.’’ She says. ‘’There is it looks very red and sore. There’s nothing of you!’’ Colleen gets a couple of tissues and folds them into a nice fat square. She places the tissue pillow under the singlet strap and the section where the strap connects with the rest of the garment. The tissue square provides a pillow for my extreme boniness to be cushioned by. I lay back down to test it out.
‘’There is also the issue of my tailbone or is it m coxic.’’ I say. ‘’That digs into the hard surface of this x ray bed.’’ Colleen gets me some foam shapes and places them under my bottom. They are even harder and hurt more than the actual surface im already lying on. Colleen takes them away and instead we end up placing a folded blanket, under my bony behind. It helps.
‘’Do you think that should help for the next time. Its only 12 minutes and then all done.’’
‘’I suppose so.’’ I say.
An older looking man. A man not quite handsome enough to be considered a silver fox type, but, old enough to look like he is an experienced doctor, walks into the big white room and is followed by a young lady in a green skirt and white blouse with little birds on it. Her dark hair is pulled back and she has big brown eyes. She looks16 years old. The older gentlemen starts to speak. ‘’I’m doctor Lichtenstien. And this is Beatrice, she’s a medical student. She will be observing as I put in your canula and inject the small amount of radiation. Is that ok? ‘’
I could let Beatrice do it, if you don’t mind? ‘’
I looked at Beatrice. Her eyes were big and seemed to be taking everything in. She was not saying a word. She simply stood there, waiting for my response. I wanted to be cool and say yes. I know how important it is for medical students to get practice and I love helping, usually. I just did not want to on this particular occasion. Especielly what with my veins being so destroyed by all the blood tests and needles.
‘’No thank you, Beatrice.’’ I say.
So Dr Lichtenstien, got ready to insert the canula. ‘’Where is a good spot?’’ He asked. ‘’Your rather difficult to canulate.’’
‘’I don’t know.’’ I say. ‘’You’re the doctor, I’m sure you can figure it out.’’ I hold out my left arm, there are many pin sized red marks and bruising. Doctor Lichtenstien is not visibly perturbed by my rudeness. He swabs at a place with vein and no bruising. He inserts the needle ito a vein in the side of my wrist. He tapes it up so it does not wriggle. He gets a syringe filled with saline and injects it into the blue cap that sticks out of the vein and works as the gateway to the vein. All the while Beatrice is standing very still and watching as the doctor explains what he is doing. As he pushes the saline into the canula, it washes through me like a cool breeze. A cool breeze that flows through my vein.
The doctor then takes a syringe filled with the small amount of radiation and injets it into me via the canula. I brace myself for some sort of pain or sting, but there is nothing like that. ‘’All done.’’ The doctor says. He and the medical student leave and I am alone again. The machine starts up again and I am told to put my arms and hands above my head and rest them there. This would help them get clear pictures of my lungs and chest area. As soon as the right side x ray screen, starts moving, I start to feel the pain again and the itchiness. The damn strand of hair in my eye. How? I had been so careful to brush all my hair from my face. The sceen rises up and moves until it is over my head and chest. It lowers itself down slowly, until I am sure it is going to land on top of me. It gets close and then stops. I hear the whirring and clicking sounds. I try not to focus on the discomfort. Is it nearly lunch time time? I wonder. What did I choose for lunch today? I can never remember what I ticked, the day before.
The strand of hair in my eye is unbearable. I quickly brush it away. The movement takes a nano second. ‘’Try to keep from moving, please.’’ The voice from above. Sorry, god like voice from on high. I giggle. I stop giggling when the ony coxic bone pain breaks through from a less salient part of my consciousness and reasserts itsef into the forefront. When The machine finally stops whirring and clicking, I sigh. ‘’All done.’’ I hear the voice say. I sit up and Colleen comes in help me. I feel worn out and exhausted. I put my jacket back on and leave the tissue cushion in its place between my boney shoulder blade and singlet strap. I step into my ugg boots and sit in the wheel chair. I should probably have a shower at some point today, I think,as Colleen wheels me to the place where I was left by the porter guy at the beginning of this adventure. I sit and watch the people behind the desk answer phones and sign things. There are different people lying in beds and sitting in wheel chairs. They are all waiting. We do so much waiting around here. You have no control over how your day is spent. You have to hand the control over or struggle and arm wrestle to maintain some sceric of power over your own body. Most of the control I cling to, is in my head. Even that is difficult. I am afraid that my brain has shrunk or the neurons are only firing at sub speed and if that is even happening it is being fired at a lower rate; less neurons at less power. I feel self indulgent tears start to trickle down my face. Oh sweet intellectual muscle mass, do not fail me. Simply sleep a while and return bigger and better and swifter than ever. I am broken from my reverie by the appearance of my porter friend. He wheels me away from nuclear medicine and back through the corridor where the walls are covered in giant photos of amazing and strong looking women. It is predominately the faces of young white women in the photos. I am wheeled past a black and white photo of hospital patients in hospital beds, being wheeled down the road as the hospital moved location.
When we are back on 6 south west I am very excited to get to my bed. The entrance to the ward s obstructed by a group f people and two prams. They simply standing and chatting away, completely oblivious to how much space they are taking up and the level of inconveiniance. The visitors/ waiting area is literally right there to their left as they exit the ward. The room has couches and a coffee table and a plasma screen telivition. This does not seem to enter the brains of these idiots. I hope my porter will simply let the wheelchair slam into the backs of one of these people, causing the backs of their legs a bit of pain. My driver is more polite than I and he simply says, Excuse me.’’ The ladies move and then as soon as we are through the entrance, they all reconvene in the exact same stupidly inconvenient and selfish place. Just go and sit in the goddamn waiting room, you idiots. My head and heart screams. I practically jump from the wheelchair in order to see whats under all the coverings on my lunch tray. It is sitting quietly waiting for my attention. I am stopped by the porter. ‘’Let me put the brakes on first. You may hurt yourself.’’
‘’Oh, right. Yes, sorry.’’ I say.
I wait for him to put the brakes on. I get up and go to lft the lid of my main meal. I look and see some sort of pasta thing. It is the colour of yellow and brown, with no garnish of any kind. I put the lid back over the food and see what soup I have. Its chicken and vegeatable. There is a small cup with chocolate milk shake in it, a can of lemonade, a piece of brown bread wrapped in plastic wrap. I decide to eat the bread with some butter and start to take sips of the soup. The chocolate milk shake is accompanied by another beverage. This one is in a box and you drink it througha straw. The box drink is a protein supplement beverage. I keep getting the box drink and the milkshake drink, with every meal. As I am eating the water jug guy comes to ask me. ‘’Are going to drink the milkshake?”
‘’Nope.’’ I shake my head in emphasis. ‘’You need the cup?’’
‘’Yes, we are all out again.’’ He says. He is short and has the presence of someone harmless and kind.
‘’You can take it if you like.’’ I tell him.
‘’You are my cup angel. That’s what you are.’’ He says. He takes the cup from my tray and tips the contents down the sink that is near the door to the bathroom. ‘’Thank you.’’ He says as he leaves the room. I continue to dip my half eaten bread and butter, into my chicken soup.
It is about 3pm when the Nephrology team do their rounds. Today the group of five doctors is lead by Irine. She is tall and always has her hair pulled up tight. She has a pleasing voice; stern and lilting all at once. There is a doctor who always simply stands nearest the door, says nothing and furiously writes down everything that I say and everything the head doctor says. It could be something entirely different. The silent person could be doodling. They could be writing words that come to mind to describe the characteristics of the patient in focus. I imagine the doctor with the clipboard, is writing down cute little poems about me. Maybe something like; oh! Tiny soldier/ with your eyes so blue/ how can it be? You hardy see/how we all enjoy, looking after you.
Irine pulls the blue curtain around, thus enshrouding all the doctors and myself inside the blue walls of privacy. ‘’You look so great.’’ Irine tells me. We are all so impressed by you. You maybe a bit upset about what I am about to say.’’
‘’Ok.’’ I say.
‘’The radiology team would like to have you do the ct scan again.’’
I groan in genuine distress. ‘’No way. Why?!’’
‘’They saw something in the x rays, that they need clarification on.’’
Irine gets me to lay down so she and the other doctors can look at my wound. I lift up my singlet to reveal the bandage and the base of where the tube comes out from.
Irine lifts up an edge of the bandage tape and peels it back to look. ‘’Excellent.’’ She says. As she is restoring the bandage to where it was peeled away from. It did not stick back as well as before. It rarely does. She placed her stethescope over my chest and took my heartbeat. ‘’A bit tachy.’’ She says. ‘Tachy’ is short for tachycardic, which just means abnormally high heart rate. ‘’that’s normal for you, though.’’ I nod. ‘’Do I really have to have that annoying test again?’’ I ask.
‘’Well, maybe. We will have to wait and see.’’ Irine tells me.
Another doctor comes in the room and stops outside my curtain walls.
‘’Come in.’’ I say. ‘’I’m descent.’’ The doctor finds the gap in the curtain and steps in. He is young and probabley a registra. ‘’Radiology say they don’t need to do the scan again.’’
What had happened was that the radiology people on duty today had no idea about just how extraneously variable my insides are. They saw a thing all wedged up near my pelvis and pubic bone and had no idea what it could be. What that unexplained and worrying thing or growth, is, in actual fact, my non working and stupidly placed kidney.
A weird little thing that has been in the same weird little place, since I was born.
I could not stop laughing.