Zombies, shadows and clanking contraptions


It’s 6:45 am and the hospital is starting to rev up for the day, rather thrillingly, like in a telly hospital drama but with a much nicer cast. The staff are whizzing around magnificently, clad in spotless uniforms and clutching folders; while me and the other patients snuffle and grunt, blink and mutter darkly.

I’ve been up and down and wandering the nighttime corridors: at 11:30, 2:45 and 4, with a few brief patches of sleep* in between, and quite a bit of lying down drifting about with the k-fairies while my spine rearranges itself into Maximum Insult Mode.

Last time I wrote, my ketamine levels were at four Whotsits Per Hour. Overnight they were up at 10 wph, which is just enough to induce a weird sense of everything happening just a bit in slow-mo, plus more interesting than usual dreams.

At 6 am a shadowy young man suddenly appeared in my room** and with no introduction, racked me up to 12. Which in turn racked up the k-dreams to, like wow.

Over the course of the next few days, they’ll gradually get me up to 22 Whotsits per Hour, which has been previously established as the most my brain can handle before it flings its hands into the air and starts to let bits of my body go offline.

Then I’ll stay there for a bit, tripping you-know-whats,*** before they relent and let me come back down to earth. In the meantime I will gradually decrease then cease my opiates, and bump up one of my other meds to hopefully compensate a bit.

Although my lack of sleep will not exactly help me cope with the hip, neck and back pain that this, um, ‘bed’ has created, at least I now know that I will eventually get so tired that I’ll pass out regardless of the pain, the lights, and the inevitable patient somewhere on the ward who starts yelling random stuff at the top of their voice at 1:30 am.**** So that’s okay.

From recollection today will be one of my most challenging, as my body adjusts to the hospital environment and my mind settles into k-space.

I’m really praying that there won’t be any migrainey action. So far so good.

Spoonie life is SO glam. I’ve re-entered the shadow world of pyjama-clad zombies who live in a different time zone marked out by shift changes rather than sunlight, shuffling around dark corridors dragging clanking contraptions ***** and acknowledging each other with a knowing grimace at bandages, drips, swollen and shrunken limbs, and sprouting bits of medical equipment.


The 3am selfie you didn’t know you needed







It’s a different world and I’m becoming familiar with it. I know about bringing my own pillow and how to adjust the side table. I know what garments work best to shrug on and off over an IV, and how to shower whilst hooked up to a clanking contraption. (This skill makes me very popular with the nurses.) I understand nurse-speak and how to quickly and accurately rate pain levels and, well, stonediness levels, and when to automatically recite name, rank and serial number.

And I have rediscovered very quickly the twist-and-jerk knack of unplugging an IV from the opposite side of the bed without yanking out my own cannula, and how to manoeuvre the cable out from the mass of unexplained hardware behind the bed without unhooking, um, what is that? Somebody’s life support? Ooh. Better not touch.


My (unnamed) clanking contraption at about 3:45 am

And all of this is good, really. I’m glad that I know what to expect. I admit I was feeling some trepidation before coming in. In fact I was feeling rather glum about the whole thing. But now that it’s happening I find that I can cope just fine, because it may be painful and unpleasant and exhausting, but at least it’s familiar. And I know it should help. And that’s what matters most.


Porridge, eggs and tomato, plus a banana (out of frame). Breakfast of Zombie Shadow-world Champions.

* I assume it was sleep, or just a brief Painful Bed Coma; either way it never lasted much more than an hour. Such is (spoonie) life.

** Followed breathlessly by the night nurse, who has already experienced a minor version of my suddenly-awoken yelp/shriek of surprise, and had clearly been hoping to head Shadowy Man off at the pass before I woke the entire ward. Unfortunately for her, Shadowy Man obviously gave her the slip, but luckily for the rest of the ward, I was already conscious of my surroundings when he darted in.

*** Please do feel free to imagine a scene of me as a sixties-style cartoon character flying on a giant winged dustpan through a psychedelic forest of neon-coloured shoes and clouds of buzzing handkerchiefs, while ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ plays. I fully intend to.

**** Have you noticed that this always happens? I’ve landed in hospital several times over the past few years and every single time there has been a patient somewhere on the ward who starts yelling random stuff at the top of their voice at 1:30 am. Is it something to do with the time of night? Is it a tradition? Do they actually just pipe the sound in to reassure everyone that yes, they may be sick/broken/expiring but at least they’re not that person yelling random things at the top of their voice at 1:30 am? Have you noticed this too? Ever been one of the nurses who goes running to deal with it? For that matter, has it ever been you doing the yelling? I’m very keen to know!

***** Which reminds me, my own clanking contraption is still unnamed. Come at me with your suggestions!


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