MONDAY: Stretcher Talk

BY DON HERALD

Copyright is held by the author.

THE STRETCHERS are backing up in the Imaging area. Mine and two others. Both of these individuals are sleeping by the sound of it, making the best of a long waiting game. My situation is low priority so something more urgent could just bump in over me. I could be here awhile.

A fourth stretcher joins us. Actually this time the patient ride is a hospital bed, not simply the transport only, plain Jane type of stretcher the rest of us are on. And there’s a nurse guiding the bed. So I just got bumped again. In the hierarchy of things in hospital transpo, a hospital bed trumps a transporter stretcher, a nurse riding shotgun trumps an orderly doing the same.

She pulls then pushes the bed into a comfortable, priority position right in the narrow space between me and the wall. She stands beside the bed and its occupant. They are talking quietly, almost in whispers as often happens in hospitals.

“OK, Tim, here we are. There’s a bit of a line up but we’ll get you in pretty soon. You OK?”

Silence. Then softly, “No, not really.”

“Why? What’s up?”

“Will I ever play golf again?”

It was a male voice, rippled a bit by pain but the fear in the question is totally noticeable. Not being able to see into his bed, I imagine Tim to be in his mid-30s. Good looking. Tanned from the golf course.

“Golf?” the nurse says. “Sure you will. No doubt about it. That’s what this test is all about. Figuring out what needs to be fixed.”

Silence. To me it seems like it goes on and on. I’m thinking that Tim must be weighing carefully what he just heard.

The nurse seems uncomfortable with the awkward silence. She breaks it.

“You play golf a lot, Tim?” A heartbeat pause. “Me? I don’t play it. Never could afford it.” She coughs then follows it with an awkward, embarrassed laugh.

A soft voice. It’s Tim.

“Been playing since I was seven. Now I play three times a week. Got a game tomorrow but I guess I’ll have to cancel that one.”

“Seven? You’ve played since you were seven? You must be good, eh?”

“Yeah, you might say I’m pretty good. But now . . .” Tim leaves the words hanging unfinished. The real intent of his words sucks out all the air around us, nobody wanting to respond.

“You’ve nothing to worry about, Tim. Look. I’m holding your hand. Keeping you comfortable. Keeping you safe.”

Silence. Once again, it goes on and on. I can hear Tim breathing. Rough. Uneven.

“I can’t feel it.”

“What’s that? You can’t feel what?”

“You. You holding my hand I mean.”

“Sure you can, Tim.” A pause with a rustling sound. “Here. Can you feel that?”

“No.”

More rustling.

“What about here?”

“No.”

“Well, ah, hmm. Lemme go see what’s the hold-up getting you in there.”

She rushes off. I think she’s really missed the boat on this one.

Silence.

“Tim?” I say.

“Yeah?”

“Things will get better. Trust me. But first you really need these tests. To see what’s going on and how to fix it up.”

It’s a spur of the moment, totally stupid thing to say to Tim. The kind of words you say then immediately wish you could grab them back from the air between you.

Silence.

And then Tim answers. This time his voice is fainter. Hope is now gone from his words. Fear chews on each slowly pronounced syllable.

“Do — you — think — I’ll — ever — play — golf — again?”

I don’t want to answer him.

5 comments

  1. Connie Lynn Cook

    Great story and my sense is that there’s more subtle intent here, i.e. not sure Tim ever played golf and this banter between he and the nurse is about a more serious condition. Have I missed the boat on this?

  2. Suzanne Burchell

    a snapshot of a very believable moment when a life has been changed forever – the compassion of the care giver is so tangible as is the fear Tim has — such an effective contrast — foreboding in the fact that he cannot feel her hand, poor man. “Fear chews on each syllable ” brings all the tragedy of this situation into focus — unlikely he will ever play golf or be athletic again. What a loss.

    well done

  3. Bob Boulton

    Don, this is really good. I’m going to read your others over the next little while. Apart from my admiration for your achievement, you inspire me. Bob.

  4. Doug Brown

    I liked this one! I found pictures of Tim springing up in my head. A good read — short and to the point! What could ever be serious enough to interfere with golf? Doug

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