Garrison Fields

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Chapter 12 - The dying room

It is strange to think with all our concepts of paying for privacy, that a side room in a general hospital in these days, was usually reserved for two types of patient; the first type being one with a contagion and the second being one preparing to die. The room affording some peace for that individual, in which to depart this mortal world, away from the hustle and bustle of the ward and also a place where the family might say goodbye.

It was to such a room that they were escorted, a sparse clinical room with the minimum required, one of everything.

‘You may stay as long as you like Mrs Burns. I shall have an extra chair brought for Mr Beech. Mr Burns will not be requiring anything for a day or two. If you have any items such as a toothbrush and tooth powder, you may bring them in. All bed shirts are provided by the hospital for hygiene. I shall leave you and inform the ward sister of your presence.’

She turned on her heel and was gone, Jane sat down and held Albert’s hand. Within a minute or two the ward sister and a nurse appeared with a chair for Derek.

‘My you look like you’ve had a shock and a hard day Mrs Burns.’ She smiled at them both.

‘Now Mr Burns is under Mr Alexander, he’s one of the finest surgeons in the country.’ She smiled at them again as she went around the bed and ensured everything was straight. Without bothering to ask them she instructed the nurse who had relinquished the chair that she had brought for Derek to sit on.

‘Nurse, I think Mrs Burns and Mr Beech might be ready for a cup of tea.’ She looked at them. ‘Sugar?’ Neither of them took sugar, the tea was gratefully received the day had been a long and arduous one, and they were both on their last legs.

The smell of the disinfectant and the buffed floors and the rooms white walls gave it a very antiseptic feel, they sat for long periods of time not saying much but just observing Albert. It was as if they were both trying to imprint every line and furrow in his face, on their memory. The bandaging around his head and the swelling and bruising were obvious, but at least he was sedated and had no pain.

This was the scene that they left that evening, there visiting times were open, such was the extent of his injuries, all of these omens prayed on their minds as they walked back.

The next day and the day after and for many days, the long walk was made and each day she sat there observing, looking for a change, each day she stood at the back of the room as the entourage of doctors and nurses swept in on their ward rounds, each day the conversation after the briefest of examinations was.

‘Mr Alexander was the surgeon and we are advised to carry on with sedation until his next visit.’

She saw Mr Alexander once or twice during this time, he smiled and stated, “I’m very happy with the progress your husband is showing.” It was on the fifth day that on entering the ward the ward sister approached her, a short stout woman with greying hair in her late fifties.

‘Good I have caught you, oh, bless you my dear, your face, I have given you an awful scare, no its good news, Mr Alexander has reduced your husband’s medication, he’s starting to regain consciousness. He’s very drowsy and will drift off every few minutes but thank the lord.’

It was indeed a time of high hopes, he opened his eyes several times that day, he was very tired but smiled when he saw Jane. He didn’t make much sense, his words did not seem connected, but she was told this was to be expected and things should get better with time. She was left a cup of light soup, in which to feed him during his conscious moments and Mr Alexander came that morning on the ward round and declared that he was more than happy with the progress made.

The next few days saw Albert, became more aware of his surroundings as the medication wore off. He was placed on morphine, to help with the intense pain he was in with both his shoulder and head; he continued to talk, he talked in a rambled and jumbled way, it was if vast swathes of his memory had been scythed away. There was no recollection of the immediate past and he would jumble items of twenty years ago with those of last year as if in the same time period.

She had mentioned this to Mr Alexander, he tried to help, but she could tell by his answers that although he had aided the physical recovery of her husband, he as much believing in faith as she was to resolve the mental fatigue which Albert was showing.

The hospitalisation went on for nearly a month at which point Albert was deemed fit enough to be discharged from the hospital and to return to Kimberley Street. It was a moment they had all longed for, a hackney carriage was ordered and Derek attended to keep Albert steady on his feet. His not being accustomed to the air for a month, he had become slightly unsteady. They packed his few belongings and Derek helped him dress while Jane waited outside the room. They looked round the room, both thankful that it had been there for Albert and at the same time glad to see the back of it, in the hope that they would never have to return to it.

They thanked the staff and a porter was summoned to wheel Albert to the front of the hospital where the cab awaited. Albert’s protest that he was fit to walk, were of no consequence to the ward sister.

‘Mr Burns you have been a most adequate patient while you have been in my care, you will however be so good as to remain so until out of my discharge.’ They smiled and acted as instructed.

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