Posts Tagged ‘hospital’

Seeing Anew

I’ve always thought that the hardest sense to lose would be sight. It’s such a difficult thing to imagine, living in a world of darkness. I love music, and not to be able to hear would be awful, but somehow loss of sight seems so much more terrifying.

I remember researching for a project in high school on “great” people in Australian history, and deciding that the work of Fred Hollows was simply incredible. It’s funny, because I’ve just started seeing all those advertisements around on the bus shelters and billboards in the city, the ones where Fred Hollows is holding this kid’s head back to show the camera where the disease has stuffed up his eyesight. I try and imagine how it must have felt to be that kid, hearing the sound of cameras and people and maybe not having a clue what was going on.

Anyway. I digress. That picture at the start of my post is one I took with my phone camera – I swear it seems to be better quality than my actual digital camera – on my way through Sydney Uni to get to the RPA. The hospital had called to say that The Girl (whose name I still don’t know, and neither do the hospital) had had extensive surgery on her foot, and they had hopes that she would recover with time and physiotherapy. I was sort of acting on a whim, feeling some sort of obligation to go and see her, though not with any real purpose in mind.

I took a seat in the waiting room while a nurse conferred with several doctors about whether I should be allowed in to see her. It seemed that something had changed since they had called me. Sitting next to me was an elderly man, wearing very dark glasses and carrying a cane. I didn’t really know what to do with myself – usually I would give a sort of friendly smile to someone I was sitting next to, but that would obviously be a useless gesture in this situation. Not to say anything seemed unfriendly or detached, but then to go out of my way to actually speak seemed a little presumptuous – we didn’t even know each other – and even condescending. With these thoughts rushing through my mind, I shifted a little in my chair, and the man turned to me.

“Who are you waiting for?” he asked.

Phenomenally relieved that the tension had been broken so easily, I responded eagerly. “A girl. Actually I don’t know her very well, but she was hurt and I brought her here on Sunday.”

He nodded. “A girl, eh. Of course. Is she beautiful?”

“Well, yes, I suppose. Probably not when you see her face for the first – ” I faltered, cursing my stupidity.

But the man only chuckled. “Ah yes, but it is not the face which is important. The girl I once loved,” he murmured confidingly, leaning towards me, “had the most exquisite voice in the world. So pure and light, it was almost like a bird – no, a butterfly, a white butterfly winging through your soul. I remember when I first heard it, I thought I had eavesdropped on an angel.” He sighed.

“How old were you?” I asked. I was entranced by his story.

“Much, much younger. Young and stupid, probably like you. I thought I was invincible, that no goal was too far for me to reach. That’s what got me into this mess.” He gestured towards his sunglasses. “She was always far too high up for me, but we loved each other. Let me tell you something, never love a girl whose parents are rich enough to cause ‘accidents’, hmm? Especially do not get her pregnant with twins. You’ll end up like this, wandering in the night desert. Sometimes those high walls are there for a reason.” He shook his head wistfully. I had no words left to speak.

We sat in silence for a few minutes, until the nurse came back to tell me I could come back tomorrow instead, but that the Girl (“your friend”) was in no state to have visitors at the moment, which I assumed meant she was still coming down off whatever she was on.

I wanted to say something to the old man before I left, but I found it too difficult to form my thoughts into speech. Instead I muttered something halfway between “thankyou” and “goodbye”, and walked away.


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Midnight Encounters

A strange and turbulent night. I’m still trying to get my head around it.

Sunday is always quiet. I could probably handle the bar on my own on Sundays, but Joanie always rosters James on as well. Actually, James is very quiet himself. It’s difficult to carry on a conversation with him, so mostly we work in a companionable silence. Last night the television was an easy distraction to break the silence – the Closing Ceremony provided plenty of noise and colour. It’s funny, but I’ve missed almost the entire Olympics – I don’t think I’ve seen a single whole event.

Anyway, I was in my usual not-quite-all-there Sunday frame of mind on my way home. Somewhere, a church bell struck twelve. Heading through Victoria Park, I was just contemplating a nice hot drink and a good night’s sleep when a figure lurched out from behind one of the benches.

Now, I know it sounds awful, but homeless people tend to freak me out. I find it unnerving when I realise someone is staring at me, and for some reason I tend to get stared at by the homeless quite frequently. It’s too piercing. Too exposing.

This girl, however, was not staring at me. If anything, she was staring around me, but to be honest I don’t think she was seeing a single thing. Her lips moved slightly as she lurched down the path towards the place where I was standing, uncertain whether to walk away or… or to wait. She was limping very badly, and as she came under a streetlight I noticed the blood. Quite a lot of blood. I don’t think she was feeling the pain, as such. Certainly if she was she wouldn’t have been able to walk. I was just staring at the mess of her right foot as she tripped, stumbled and fell against me, clutching at my shirt. I caught a whisper of the words she was mumbling, something like “prince” or “dance”. Carefully, slowly, I lowered her onto the nearest seat, and tried to look at her face. Again I had the strange feeling that she was not seeing me at all, and her eyes were bruised, with a cut running over each eyebrow. I forced myself to look down at her foot again. It seemed that in her semi-conscious state she’d stepped right into a broken glass bottle, slicing off a large chunk of her heel. Even worse, the bottle’s fragments had stuck into her sole, almost like some horrible kind of shoe. And she was losing too much blood. I hailed down the nearest taxi – even on a Sunday there are plenty heading along Parramatta Road, and it was still, I reckoned, quicker than calling an ambulance – and carried the girl to the back seat.

“RPA Hospital, please, quickly,” I gasped to the driver.

“You kidding? It’s just the other side of the University.” He moved out into the middle lane.

“Too far for her to walk like this.” I gestured to the foot, the blood. He glanced into the rearview mirror.

“… the fuck… She’s bleeding all over the fucking seat!” the driver yelled.

“Just get us there, please. I’ll give you an extra twenty bucks.”

I couldn’t wrap her foot in anything or even apply pressure to stop the bleeding, because I didn’t want to push the glass any further into her flesh. It really was only a short drive, and I thrust two tens and a five dollar note at the driver and pulled the girl out as best as I could without hurting her. She was almost unconscious at this point.

As I carried her into the emergency room – she barely weighed a thing, mostly skeleton and filthy clothes – I realised I’d been an idiot. Cases called in by ambulance were rushing through, and the room was crowded with people waiting to be seen. Wouldn’t have cost me twenty five bucks, either. I caught the attention of one of the nurses and she helped me settle the girl into one of those horrible chairs while she took a look at her foot.

“I’ll get her bumped right up the list,” the nurse told me. “She may have severed some pretty important blood vessels there. Is she a relative, a friend?”

“No,” I said, “I just found her in the park, in Victoria Park.”

“And you didn’t call an ambulance?” asked the nurse incredulously.

I shrugged, and the nurse shook her head but didn’t say anything more. It only took five minutes for them to rush the girl away, while the same nurse pulled me aside to sign a few forms. She told me it might be a while before they could remove all the glass, as it was a delicate injury. I wrote down my phone number, and asked them to call me when they knew how she was going to be.

What a tense weekend, I thought, as I made my way back home. First Joanie, now this – nothing remotely like that has ever happened to me before. It’ll go down in my own history as The Night I Took A Complete Stranger to the Hospital. I don’t think I can bear to wonder how that girl got into such a state.

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