My personal connotations with hospital are difficult to express. A bit of trauma, a bit of melancholy, and a bit of joy. But mostly not joy. Hospitals are a weird place to spend your time.
My most vivid set of memories in hospital that weren’t traumatic were mostly from when I had infliximab infusions every 6-8 weeks sporadically from age 11 to 16. Treatments like it start as weekly, then fortnightly, then monthly, and so on until you hit 6 or 8 weeks.
The whole process became really familiar by the time I was 12 or 13. Drive to Randwick, get into the medical day unit, do a first set of observations (obs), get the cannula put in and bloods taken. Then, wait a little while before being hooked up to the IV drip and take mild painkillers. From there it’s 5-6 hours of laying down in a classic uncomfortable hospital bed.
We’d often bring entertainment with us. DVDs, my PlayStation Portable, books, and board games. This was before it was widely accepted that hospitals should have Wi-Fi and before I had an iPod. So you’d spend the majority of time waiting around for the infusion to finish and sleeping.
A major positive though, was the food. Hospitals have near endless vending machines. Randwick’s Sydney Children’s Hospital in particular had probably the best cafe I’ve ever known. Starlight Cafe. The best burgers, milkshakes, and tea I’ve known.
However, there was also just a normal free breakfast, lunch, and dinner service for those staying in hospital even just for the day. From memory they had Chicken Tuesday, Meat Monday, and my personal favourite – Fish Friday.
I just loved the fish. I’m not even sure why. It was basically just run of the mil supermarket crumbed fish. It was for some reason just incredible. I’d make sure every time I had to book in my next infusion that it came on a Friday just for the fish. For the day, you’d be put into a room with 2 beds and often there wasn’t another patient so I got their serving of the fish for lunch as well.
The nurse staff were also incredible and the best I’ve known and I’m really thankful that they were working there. When you’re an easily scared young boy seeing all the medical equipment and looking at blood and cannulas it can be really confronting – but they made me feel comfortable with it and calm. That’s an incredible talent to have.
Oh, and they also knew how mad I was about the Fish Friday. Sometimes they’d make sure to order perhaps too many servings knowing it was an empty day just so I have like 3-4 servings of it.
In a weird way, I sort of miss the whole day experience of the infusion. Don’t get me wrong – it was not a fun way to spend a day – but the sense of belonging and community and comfort you can feel from a situation like that is astounding.
Sometimes you can find community anywhere and in the most unassuming or seemingly unfriendly places.