The Naughty Neighbour

While most of the stories I write about will be about me, I find it essential to give an overall picture of the hospital experience, and it is important to remember that I am neither the only person in the hospital nor the only one suffering. In this story; the night nurse, my naughty neighbour and yours truly were all experiencing a wide variety of emotions at the same time. It goes to show that life-saving medicine really takes a lot from people

One thing I regret looking back at this event now, is that I never asked how often this happens. Usually, being so talkative, I’d have no qualms about asking, but I guess there just wasn’t a right time to do so. The story begins the night after my aortic valve replacement. My neighbour in intensive care, who just like myself had been operated on that morning, was a larger than normal Asian child, especially compared to skinny weak me.

The tank
His parents were visiting as was my mother, during which they exchanged information about what our respective operations were for. He had pericarditis (wiki link) which to my knowledge is the thickening of the outer walls of the heart. The colloquial German term for this is “Panzerherz” which means as much as tank-heart and does add a more visual element to the inflammation.

I was barely conscious during the day, struggling with the pain and exhaustion of my eight hour operation, as I saw him sit up with ease and actually move his body. How could he manage this? His ribs had also been sawed in two. He was a beefier boy than myself, so maybe there was just more keeping his ribs in place than a tiny layer of skin. As I was still under the effects of a lot of medication, I am still not sure if this incident happened before or after my panic attack, but if I’d have to guess, I’d say before, hence why I couldn’t get back to sleep.

The tyrant next to me
I woke up in the middle of the night to a nurse coming in and asking what was wrong. I heard my neighbour argue with her. He wanted to get up and go to the toilet, but the nurse was not letting him as the doctors had ordered 100% bed rest. He received a bottle to relieve himself. He too was still taking some pretty powerful medicine. The side curtain was closed so I could not see his side of the room. I also have gaps in my memory as I kept on passing out for a few seconds.

I heard a thump and a whack as he yelled something at her. I saw her stumble back to the wall between our beds. I was shaken. The nurse was sitting down crying against the wall in the corner. He continued shouting at her. I heard a few things smash and get thrown around. There was a tyrant in my room, out of control, violent and mobile. I was unable to sit up, my body felt numb and I was out of my physical depth. What if he were to come over and do something to me?

Motions and emotions
I could feel my heart racing. I imagined the seams of the mechanical valve coming apart and my valve just floating around my body. Luckily, it doesn’t work like that. I felt like I was strapped to my bed like in some E. L. James novel. Heart pounding, unable to move, a ribcage that was my cage. It was survival of the fittest according to my intoxicated mind and I was not the patient who just overpowered a nurse and brought her to tears. My heart had literally been cut open that day and it felt like it was happening again that night.

I came to again later that night to the nurse still sobbing in the corner. She couldn’t handle what had happened. I didn’t really know what had happened either but it scared me. In hindsight, he had hit and kicked her a few times and thrown around some of his bedside supplies. He was asleep now, I believe, but I was frightened and found it difficult to calm myself to sleep with the daunting howl of the nurse in tears.

The effects of medicine
Due to this incident and favouritism getting the better of hospital decisions, I was moved out of intensive care to my own room the next evening, despite him already walking around and me still bedridden. I was in my own room for nearly a week when I heard the bad news, intensive care needed more space, so HE was moving to my room. Ignoring the initial jitters, he was indeed just a friendly sumo lookalike.

He had apologised for the behaviour for which he could not remember and was extremely embarrassed by what he did. The nurse also forgave him. The drugs people get given at hospital to fight the pain and prevent infections really do take their toll. Everyone reacts differently. I am very fortunate to have never, to my knowledge, reacted in such a way. Don’t judge a book by its cover! He really was a nice and funny guy once I got to know him.


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