The Hospital Series

These poems and essays were written by Lynda Hopkins, who lives near Henley-on-Thames in England. Lynda is 49 years old and was diagnosed with osteosarcoma on her left bicep. She had 50% muscle removed plus some bone taken. Surgery was followed by two months of chemotherapy, and she has recovered well. Lynda is left-handed and has managed to regain full use of her arm to play piano and guitar and paint. She says that, "Leverage is a little tricky when driving, but I can do that anyhow."

Side Room 2

Side room 2  is my special place
Built as a box with magnolia walls
And blinds of the Venetian kind
With courtyard views of an apple tree
And red brick blocks
And a garden not quite tended enough
That I would work on
If I could, but I cannot.

A very neat affair
My room, with elegant taps
An imperative washing of hands
With every visitor.
The clinical waste does mount up
But is well maintained.
I declare this room has all good features
Confinement can possibly have.

Let me explain; the upright chair
Of solid wood and vinyl,
The modern hospital bed
With its moveable parts and chrome.
The patient line razzamatazz
Is well worth it’s cost,
Fixed behind to value and rotate
Hospital radio TV or telephone.

There’s not much to complain about
With bed side table and a jug of iced water
Made at the dawn of day.
The little bedside cupboard,
So compact but good to store
My underwear and suchlike
And secret foods…shhh.

I have not been the perfect patient
Many have come before
But from my bed I have drawn
The plumbing and the floor,
The clock, pump 572 and the door.

It is open now to visitors,
No longer confined with infection.
I hope to be released soon
And it is with some affection I write this little note.
Side room 2 has me for one more day.
Before the big ward takes me away.

The Neutropaenic

All is special in the side room. 
The nurses wear fresh plastic aprons
And disposable gloves
And open, shut doors every two hours
To pull out bloods, flush lines,
Loose antibiotics and do the obs,
Slap wrists, make patchwork plaster patterns
On consenting, floppy, neutropaenic me.

Post first cycle, post migraine,
Delicately awaiting head shave
And removal of the central line,
Composing the "Side Room Special" dance in my head
For when the sun sneaks through my window
And I’ll still be there.
Ah! Do I feel it now, touching my leg?

The Wrong Time in Hospital

Never get the wrong time when you spend nights in hospital. You may be looking at the clock at regular intervals to make time pass by, sure that you have a safe view, but there is always that possibility that you might slip up, especially in the middle of the night as you peer into the murky Dickensian light of the isolation room. Of course with me it may well have been the blood transfusion doing spectacular things with my body, as it slowly eked its way in or it could have been my raised temperature that had been lurking for days that was the result of my oncoming illusion.

I had been having a difficult time that night lying there trying to sleep, with an uncomfortable body no matter which way I turned. But I had eventually got around to dreaming. The dreams were such blood thirsty adventures I could not possibly repeat though I will say I did not think that I could be such a savage. However, these dreams were eventually dispelled by a nurse slipping in to take observations and check on saline drips. And after she left I looked at the clock- 4 o’clock precisely, it said. Now that was alright, at least I had slept for a while and the promise of morning had already arrived because I was certain I could see a subtle light emanating from between the Venetian blinds.

With this optimistic thought in mind, I returned to dozing. The dreams I had from then on are repeatable, filled with crazy children’s floats, families and cakes being sliced enthusiastically, a medieval pageantry combined with a modern protest march all in darkness, if you understand what I mean! But as you can guess being on drips of one kind or another meant that the nurse had to enter again to check the line and this time take bloods too. The dreams came to a halt once more and I asked what the time was. She told me 4 o’clock, and I couldn’t believe her! Or rather I did not wish to believe her, but there was the darkness pressing in on me and no ensemble of bird song nearby what so ever to tell me other wise.

"Are you sure?" I asked pathetically.

She smiled and nodded. So I got into foetal position once more, but this time not only were my pillows made of rough coals, but the little square window in the door projected a tiny beam of smug insistence from which I could not escape and a migraine was slowly but surely on its way. For comfort I placed my new fleecy dressing gown across the pillows with calm resignation tinged with renewed hope. Daylight had to come, and this madness would disappear. It was all a matter of more waiting.

Chemotherapy - What the Doctors Should Tell You

Should you ever find yourself in the situation where you need chemotherapy, ask yourself one question. Are you happy to go with the flow? I’m not just talking about doing what the doctor says, but being plugged up to the vehicle of all your proceedings for the flow of chemicals, saline, blood transfusions and the like. And are you grateful to the discoverer of electricity without which none of this could take place? You should be, for the power supply is of utmost importance before the chemicals can do their weird and draconian things to every part.

Now as you are being prepared for your own personal cocktail let me tell you all about pump 572. It is what gets the juices flowing. It is what ticks and purrs at night like a strange wild cat stalking to your bedside.  It is what keeps you company day after day, just in case you don’t have any visitors. It is what you take with you to those private places- toilet, shower, your guardian, policeman, your soul mate. It will not leave you- cannot bear to leave you. You have much at cost. You will go through anything for the sake of your future, but at least you have good old pump 572 to help you on your way.

Now let me give you a few little tips. The pump may be close to you, but you have to treat it with due respect. It is like a master with a long, plastic lead. Always, therefore toe the line, never try to jump or dance or turn around. Keep in a sensible position at all times- or else you may end up completely bound and embarrassed as the cleaner or the trainee doctors There is nothing worse than come herding into your room. And keep your supply on at all times. Having got yourself into a cosy position and the bleep of the machine has you out of your bed yet again because the power supply has been switched off. Also, please remember not to give bear hugs and fond farewells should you ever have a loved one near by- the obstruction of the plastic tubing leading to pressure exceeded, followed by irritating bleeping will soon put pay to all that. So if you happen to need chemicals, just remember to thank pump 572 for his dedication and persistence and remember that you too will learn more than a little patience yourself.