Hospital patients

Wednesday 23rd November 2011

WERE I to be suddenly taken ill, I would order a taxi and head for Berkeley Hospital. You cannot get a nicer cup of tea anywhere. It must be something in the water.

“Ooo. I’ll have the shepherd’s pie, please. Last time it was delicious.”

“They look after you so well in here, the nurses. Nothing’s ever too much for them.”

In a few weeks time, the remaining patients will be transferred to the new Vale Community Hospital, which will offer many service improvements, while retaining the staff team responsible for the ‘one big, happy family’ atmosphere everyone mentions when talking about Berkeley.

“Gave you a dose of castor oil the moment you arrived and you’re rushing down the corridor before you’ve even changed into your nightie.”

“‘Come along now,’ Matron said. ‘You’ll have to get this done before the Co-op closes at half past five. I need to get some custard powder for a trifle for tomorrow.’ So I did as I was told and the baby popped out ten minutes later.”

It’s the third day of my inhaling such breaths of fresh air, of attending those operating this theatre of anecdotes. Here, time is a drip-feed, dispensing a safe, unhurried tranquillity.

Several nurses have gathered in one of the single-bed wards. I tiptoe to the doorway, glance quickly in, hear from the bed…

“I could tell Marcus lots of stories.”

…and discreetly depart from this all-women gathering, returning later to discover the room oddly vacant again, for I have missed a chance to pin down one of the nurses when, pinned down by a lifting contraption, she was but the volunteer ‘patient’ for a training session. They’ve taken to teasing me too: all good for the health, of course.

In reception, on my way out, I’m greeted by a woman who has often seen me pass by her husband’s room.

“Hello. I’m here while they’re busy with him. He’s dying. Cancer. Just a few more days. Brilliant, they are, these girls. Brilliant. The kindness they have shown my husband is beyond.”

I depart to the grace of her closing words.

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