During my seven day stay in hospital as I initially recovered from my second limb reconstruction surgery, I met so many people coming into and out of my small five bay ward. We were all having to stay in hospital either in preparation for
surgery, or to be looked after post-surgery. We were all being operated on for various reasons and we all responded in different ways – some angry, some very upset, some always positive, others frustrated and fearful Hospital is a leveler because suffering is universal. It did not matter that I have an OBE and they didn’t. It didn’t matter about what job we had, where we came from or where we were going. We were all broken people with broken bodies that needed fixing. Simple tasks like walking and going to the toilet were very difficult, and sometimes impossible on our own. We had to trust people and be completely vulnerable with people we didn’t know. In our hospital gowns, all egos disappeared.
Nights were the hardest. Constant beeps, the sound and pressure of the Venous Foot Pumps strapped round my right foot and left calf (to prevent DVT), and arguments between a patient and a nurse (one patient admitted the night before his operation needed a dialysis machine. He came in at 2pm but the machine didn’t arrive until midnight). I can only lay in one position and I keep suffering with restless leg syndrome which can be annoying at the best of times but it’s even worse when you can’t move.
One night was particularly bad and wanted to be anywhere but lying helplessly in a hospital bed with a metal frame on my leg. Laying there frustrated, in pain and wide awake I somehow began to reflect on the people I had met that day. First there was Henry who had been shot and mugged in Nigeria. He also had a frame on. It had been on since August last year but had recently had a fall resulting in one of his pins breaking. Every day he would phone his mum and would speak with such tenderness and gratitude for everything his mum had done for him. I found it very inspiring that despite the many setbacks he had had in life as a result of his injury including loss of work and income, he was still so positive.
Then there was Emmanuel who served our food. He was one of those people who took such pleasure in his job. He was keen to make everyone laugh to brighten up their day. At tea break time in the highest pitched voice he could muster he would walk into our bay with his trolley saying “there is tea in the house my friends”. He never failed to make people smile. One day when Diane and I were chatting with the specialist limb reconstruction nurse, she told us that Emmanuel was just as import at as the consultant. If people are hungry they will not recover. She went on to say that every person working in the hospital were all cogs in a wheel and that everyone was as important as each other. How more true could this be. All children are made in the image of a loving God. So often we put certain people on pedestals when the reality is that it is those who serve week in and week out, often doing what can be perceived as mundane tasks who deserve so much more credit. On my last night in hospital an older gentlemen came back from theatre and was put into the recently vacated bed next to me. All that day I had seen his wife waiting in the admissions lounge for news of her husband. When he finally came round he looked like he was in a very bad way. His wife was immediately by his side. I can only guess how long they had been together, it was beautiful the way they looked at each other. The next day he was much brighter and at 2pm, the start of visiting hours, his wife was there again. She looked like she had done her hair specially for the occasion. Martyn Joseph’s brilliant new album has a song on it called “I search for you”.
It has a line in it “in the broken I thought I saw your face”. In hospital I didn’t discuss Brexit, or who was going to be the next Prime Minister. Instead we shared in each other’s suffering. We shared our common humanity. For those who know me know that I have lots of questions. In fact, I am thinking of writing a book called “have I failed as Christian?”. In the difficult and extremely painful time of being in hospital recovering from surgery I discovered the beauty of humanity in the faces of the people I met. There will always be things that science can never explain. My hospital stay was not without its frustrations and mistakes (waiting times) but it did teach me about the human spirit.
I am now starting another long period of recovery and we are currently in the stage of having to take a day at a time, working out how to be a family at a time when you can’t function properly and getting the pain under control. We are extremely blessed to have kind and loving people around us helping and supporting us. It is not hard to continue to see common humanity and God’s love in the people around us. Although sometimes we have to remember to look for it, it’s always there.